Iran’s radical parliament approved a bill in December that would suspend part of UN inspections of its nuclear facilities if European signatories did not grant relief from oil and banking sanctions by February. The IAEA struck a three-month deal with Iran in February to allow it to keep the surveillance footage, with Tehran threatening to remove it later if no deal was reached.
This three-month period expired on Friday under the Gregorian calendar. According to the Persian calendar, however, the three-month deadline arrives on Monday.
On Sunday morning, during a parliamentary session, President Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf announced that the agreement had expired. He said Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, backed the decision to consider the deal void.
“After these three months, the International Atomic Energy Agency will certainly not have the right to access or transfer the images from the camera,” he said.
Qalibaf, a member of Iran’s top Supreme National Security Council, also anticipated another nuclear program announcement in April.
Hours later, however, a website called Nournews, which is said to be close to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, quoted an anonymous official as suggesting that Tehran’s agreement with the IAEA could be extended “for another month. “.
The nuclear negotiations were plagued by conflicting and anonymously disclosed information from Iran. This is likely a sign of the conflict between the administration of outgoing President Hassan Rouhani, the relatively moderate cleric who signed the 2015 accord, and extremists now seeking to replace him.
In Vienna, the IAEA announced that its director general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, would brief journalists on Iran on Sunday afternoon. The agency said on Sunday evening that the briefing would be delayed as consultations between the IAEA and Iran continued.
It was not immediately clear whether the footage from February through Saturday had been removed. Before Qalibaf’s remarks, lawmaker Ali Reza Salimi called for an open public session of parliament to ensure Iran’s civilian nuclear arm “erases” the footage. Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, the country’s civilian atomic agency, did not immediately comment on the decision.
“Order the head of the Atomic Energy Organization to avoid delays,” said Salimi, a cleric from the central city of Delijan in Iran. “Images recorded in cameras must be discarded.”
Under a confidential agreement called an “additional protocol” with Iran, the IAEA “collects and analyzes hundreds of thousands of images captured daily by its sophisticated surveillance cameras,” the agency said in 2017.
It was also unclear what this meant for in-person inspections by the IAEA. There are 18 nuclear facilities and nine other sites in Iran under IAEA safeguards.
In 2018, then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. A series of escalating incidents since Trump’s withdrawal have threatened the wider Middle East.
More than a year ago, an American drone strike killed a senior Iranian general, forcing Tehran to later launch ballistic missiles that injured dozens of American soldiers in Iraq.
A mysterious explosion also hit the Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz, which Iran has called sabotage. In November, Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who had founded the country’s military nuclear program some 20 years earlier, was killed in an attack Tehran attributes to Israel.
President Joe Biden has said he is ready for the United States to return to the nuclear deal. Weeks of negotiations in Vienna were described as positive, although no draft agreement has been released. The United States also does not speak directly to Iran during the sessions.
Speaking Sunday to ABC “This Week With George Stephanopoulos. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken described Iran as taking “destabilizing measures across the Middle East.” However, he said, to counter this, “the first thing we have to do is put the nuclear problem back in the box.”
“What we haven’t seen yet is whether Iran is ready and willing to make a decision to do what it needs to do,” Blinken said. “This is the test and we don’t have an answer yet.”