Tehran and Washington have agreed to restore the 2015 nuclear deal and will announce terms in two to three weeks, a former IAEA official told Iran International.

Speaking Tuesday, the once senior official at the International Atomic Energy Agency, who is close to the United States government, said President Joe Biden had resolved to take the step in advance of November’s mid-term US Congressional elections.

The official said Washington had informed Israel of the decision, and that four Arab states – Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – had been told during Biden’s July Middle East tour that the US would help them develop nuclear technology. While the Israeli leadership has consistently opposed the 2015 agreement, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), Prime Minister Yair Lapid and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu are vying over the Iranian ‘threat’ as the November 1 parliamentary election approaches.

The former IAEA official gave no indication as to how Iran and the US had resolved the differences over JCPOA restoration that have characterized 16 months of talks, both with five other world powers in Vienna, and bilaterally with European Union mediation.

Leaked information both in Iran and in Israeli media about a proposed European Union plan indicate a broad agreement on many issues, but lingering questions of Iranian demands over “guarantees”, “verification” and a lingering IAEA probe about Iran’s pre-2003 undeclared nuclear activities.

IAEA chief Rafael Grossi before a trip to Iran in early March 2022

An IAEA report leaked Monday revealed Iran’s latest breach of the JCPOA with the installation at the Natanz nuclear site of additional IR-6 centrifuges, advanced models for enriching uranium barred under the JCPOA.

There have also been consistent reports of differences over enquiries by the IAEA into unexplained uranium traces found at several sites linked to work done by Iran before 2003 but not declared as nuclear-related. While the US and European JCPOA signatories have insisted the IAEA enquiry should go on regardless of what happens with the JCPOA, President Ebrahim Raisi insisted Monday that the JCPOA could be restored only once the IAEA dropped the probe, which Tehran insists results from allegations made for ‘political’ reasons in 2018 by Israel.

Finessing the wording

Earlier Tuesday, Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, criticized “excessive” demands made by the IAEA, while Fereydoun Abbasi, a member of the parliament’s energy committee, said Iran should enrich uranium not just to 60 percent – the highest level reached – but to 90 percent “both for scientific research and for making nuclear fuel for submarines.”

Tehran has made no public response to the latest US input in the nuclear talks, submitted August 24 through the European Union. But there have been reports of efforts to finesse a wording that would postpone the IAEA probe while the JCPOA gradually comes back into play, and IAEA director-general Rafael Mariano Grossi suggested August 23 the uranium traces might be better investigated with the 2015 deal back in place.

There have also been indications of ‘principlist’ politicians in Tehran claiming the US had made significant concessions in the talks process. Real or not, such ‘concessions’ would help suggest Raisi’s government, which took office August 2021 with talks underway, had secured a more favorable outcome than would have been possible under the centrist President Hassan Rouhani, a staunch advocate of the JCPOA.

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