US-IAEA Negotiations Detrimental to JCPOA

The US envoy to the UN was in Vienna on Wednesday to hold talks with IAEA officials about the scope and effectiveness of inspections and monitoring of Iran’s nuclear activities
Mohammad Javad Zarif
Mohammad Javad Zarif
The US administration says it is not looking for a pretext to junk the nuclear deal, and is only trying to find out as much information as possible about the IAEA's policing of the accord

Iran's foreign minister complained to the UN atomic agency's director general, Yukiya Amano, about the adverse consequences of the Wednesday meeting of the agency's officials with Washington's UN envoy for the Iran nuclear accord.

"Even before the visit takes place, the way it is planned and publicized and the signal that it sends have notable detrimental consequences for the successful implementation of the JCPOA," Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote in a letter to Amano, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley dismissed Iran's suggestion that she is searching for ammunition.

"I find it interesting that Iran is so worried about me going to Vienna," she said. "If they don't have anything to hide, they shouldn't be concerned about me asking questions of [the International Atomic Energy Agency]."

Iran warned on Tuesday that it needs only five days to ramp up uranium enrichment to pre-deal levels.

"If [the Americans] harm the JCPOA, we will surprise them," said Iran's nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, using an abbreviation that stands for the formal name of the deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

"If we want, we can resume 20% enrichment … within a maximum of five days."

As a candidate, US President Donald Trump called the 2015 agreement brokered with Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany "the dumbest deal perhaps I've ever seen in the history of deal-making".

He threatened to tear it up but was vague about whether he planned to renegotiate it.

Haley claimed the Trump administration is not looking for a pretext to junk the international deal, despite the president's sharp criticism of the agreement and reports that he has been reluctant to certify that Tehran is meeting its obligations.

***No US Decision Yet

"We have no decision made. The president doesn't have a decision made," Haley said in an interview with the Post. "What we are doing is trying to find out as much information as we can."

Haley was in Vienna on Wednesday for meetings with IAEA, the UN nuclear watchdog overseeing JCPOA, that she said are meant to answer US questions about the scope and effectiveness of inspections and monitoring.

"That does not mean the United States has prejudged whether Iran is complying with the terms of the landmark nuclear deal," Haley said.

"What I think is very important to this administration is facts … This is not a country that can be trusted. This is not a country that has given us a reason to trust them," she alleged.

Iran flatly denies western allegations that there has been any military aspect to its nuclear activities.

At issue is an upcoming White House decision on whether to certify that Iran is meeting its end of the bargain. Congress mandated such checkups every 90 days and the next deadline is in October.

Trump has twice signed off on such certifications, but did so grudgingly in July. He then told the Wall Street Journal that he "would be surprised if they were in compliance".

Haley's trip comes amid escalating threats lobbed by both the United States and Iran over which nation is undermining the nuclear agreement.

President Hassan Rouhani warned last week that Iran could walk away "within hours" if the United States slaps more sanctions on Iran.

A day later, Haley responded with a warning of her own.

"Iran cannot be allowed to use the nuclear deal to hold the world hostage," she said in a statement. "The nuclear deal must not become 'too big to fail'."

That brought a rebuke from Haley's UN counterpart, Iranian Ambassador Gholamali Khoshroo, who said her remarks were "devoid of any shred of truth" and part of a US campaign bent on "demonizing Iran and undermining the JCPOA inconsistent with the US commitments".

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