Laura Holgate, US representative to the IAEA at the governors' meeting, while Iranian delegation is seen in the background. June 6, 2022

Laura Holgate, US representative to the IAEA at the governors' meeting, while the Iranian delegation is seen in the background. June 6, 2022

Nuclear Resolution Set To Widen Divisions Over Iran


A US and European draft resolution at the UN nuclear watchdog is mildly critical of Tehran but may further sour talks on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

A vote is expected at the 35-member board of the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), meeting in Vienna, Wednesday evening or Thursday morning. The resolution from the United States, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom does not seek to refer Iran to the UN Security Council over its failure to satisfy the agency over uranium traces found at three sites.

Reuters news agency reported that the draft resolution said the board "expresses profound concern that the safeguards issues related to these three undeclared locations remain outstanding due to insufficient substantive cooperation by Iran…[and] calls upon Iran to act on an urgent basis to fulfil its legal obligations and, without delay, take up the (IAEA) director general’s offer of further engagement to clarify and resolve all outstanding safeguards issues."

Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s ambassador to the IAEA, tweeted that “for unknown reasons” the US and ‘E3’ “believe that a resolution is the best way to address outstanding safeguards issues,” which Ulyanov called “extremely doubtful.”

As a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty (NPT), Iran is required to satisfy the IAEA though ‘safeguards’ that its nuclear work is peaceful. Rafael Mariano Grossi, IAEA director general, told the agency’s quarterly board meeting Monday that he was unable to certify this after what he regards as unsatisfactory answers from Iran over uranium traces found by inspectors.

Grossi meeting the head of Iran's nuclear program, Eslami in Tehran on March 5, 2022

Tehran has downplayed the significance of the uranium traces, which relate to work carried out before 2003, and insisted it has given complete answers. Iran – backed by Russia and China – has argued that ‘technical’ issues of nuclear monitoring, including the ‘safeguards’ issues of pre-2003 work, should be kept distinct from the ‘political’ task of negotiating revival of the 2015 nuclear deal, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).

Reacting to news of the resolution, Vahid Jalalzadeh, chairman of the Iranian parliament’s foreign policy committee, reportedly said the passing of the resolution would lead Iran to reconsider its role in the JCPOA talks.

This followed Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian tweeting Sunday: "Those who push for anti-Iran resolution at IAEA will be responsible for all the consequences.”

‘Insignificant’ uranium traces

Kazem Gharibabadi, Iran’s IAEA ambassador 2018-21, told state broadcaster IRIB Monday that the agency had established that the “insignificant” traces had come from “one of the countries with nuclear weapons.”

“The agency itself informed us that this uranium was of the type…is from one of the counties with nuclear weapons, not because it is used in nuclear weapons, but because of its origin,” he said.

The IAEA has long investigated Iran’s nuclear work before 2003, when many analysts believed it imported equipment from Pakistani nuclear scientist AQ Khan that might previously have been used to enrich uranium.

But Gharibabadi added to the mystery with a suggestion that “when Esfahan steel was commissioned before the [1979] Revolution, one of these countries was active there.”

While the pre-2003 IAEA probes were given less prominence after the JCPOA, they have re-emerged in part because of documents from 2004-5 released by Israel purporting to show Iran using purloined IAEA files to hoodwink nuclear inspectors.

With Tehran since 2021 restricting its cooperation with the agency to little more than the basic level required under safeguards, the US and the ‘E3’ have increasingly treated the matter as an important issue of transparency.

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