Tehran will not “shy away from any action aimed at removing sanctions” and has “no reason” to abide by the 2015 nuclear deal, its atomic chief said Wednesday.

Mohammad Eslami, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told a cabinet meeting that June’s removal of some cameras of the International Atomic Energy Agency was in line with the parliament decision, taken in December 2020 , to reduce agency monitoring to that required by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) rather than the extensive monitoring required under the 2015 nuclear deal, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).

“When the other side is not in JCPOA, we have no reason to abide by a quasi-obsolete commitment,” Eslami said. “The cameras will not go back until they return to JCPOA and stop making false accusations.”

The United States – which left the JCPOA in 2018, imposing ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions – and three European states successfully moved a resolution at the IAEA board in June censuring Iran over what the agency regards as unsatisfactory explanations of pre-2003 nuclear work.

Eslami stressed that following legislation passed in December 2020, Iran had begun using “advanced centrifuges,” devices used for uranium enrichment barred under the JCPOA. “We will not shy away from any action aimed at removing sanctions,” Eslami said.

Agency informed on nuclear expansion

During a press briefing in New York Tuesday evening, Rafael Mariano Grossi, the IAEA director-general, was asked by Iran International’s Maryam Rahmati about Eslami’s statement earlier Tuesday that Iran was preparing new centrifuges, including relatively advanced IR-6s.

Grossi confirmed Iran had briefed the IAEA. “Our inspectors are mobilized and they are going to be looking into this when this happens,” he said. “Not all of them have been prepared – just part of them – and we are going to be informing the Board of Governors soon about this.”

Grossi reiterated that the agency’s “visibility” had been “significantly reduced” by Iran’s decision in June to remove 27 cameras in “certain facilities.” He expressed particular concern over the agency’s lack of knowledge of Iran’s manufacturing activities – where access is not required under the JCPOA. “We will have to come to terms with Iran to account for them when, if and when, they agree on reviving the JCPOA,” Grossi said.

Knowledge of the amount and kinds of centrifuges manufactured, even if not in use, is seen by the agency as important part in assessing the nuclear program, particularly with Iran enriching to 60 percent, close to 90 percent ‘weapons grade’ and far above the 3.67 percent JCPOA limit.

IRGC designation

In Washington Tuesday, John Kirby, the National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications, in a press briefing largely about the US drone strike killing Ayman al-Zawahiri, the al-Qaeda leader, in Afghanistan, reiterated President Joe Biden’s commitment not to lift the US Foreign Terrorist Organization’ (FTO) designation of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as part of negotiations to restore the JCPOA.

Eslami said at the cabinet meeting that the designation had “not been the main issue in the talks.” Disagreements between Iran and the US over JCPOA restoration – both in year-long talks in Vienna paused in March, and in the June round in Qatar – have centered on which US sanctions violate the 2015 agreement. Tehran argues that the administration of President Donald Trump introduced sanctions under various rubrics, including the IRGC designation. as part of its ‘maximum pressure.’

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