Britain, France, and Germany on February 23 criticized Iran’s decision to abandon a snap-inspections regime and reduce transparency as part of a mounting standoff over the fate of a 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers.
Iran confirmed a day earlier that it had ended its implementation of the Additional Protocol allowing for surprise inspections of nuclear-related sites.
That move signaled a further disintegration of the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) among Iran and world powers that the previous U.S. administration abandoned in 2018.
“We…deeply regret that Iran has started, as of today, to suspend the Additional Protocol and the transparency measures under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” the British, French, and German foreign ministers said in a joint statement.
“We urge Iran to stop and reverse all measures that reduce transparency and to ensure full and timely cooperation with the IAEA,” they added.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also vowed “not to back down on the nuclear issue” and floated the possibility of dramatically escalating uranium enrichment.
Washington and its Western partners have been scrambling to salvage the JCPOA since U.S. President Joe Biden took office in January vowing a return to the deal while preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapons capability.
Meanwhile, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on February 23 laid out details of a deal he worked out with Iranian officials last weekend to preserve some monitoring for up to three months beyond Tehran’s deadline for nixing the snap inspections.
Rafael Grossi described a system whereby data and “key activities” would be monitored and stored but not made available until after the period in question.
“In other words, we will know exactly what happened, exactly how many components were fabricated, exactly how much material was processed or treated or enriched and so on and so forth,” Grossi told an event hosted by the U.S. think tank called the Nuclear Threat Initiative.
In a sign that the nuclear issue is further pitting hard-liners against President Hassan Rohani’s administration, lawmakers in Iran’s parliament on February 22 objected to the government’s decision to allow the continued IAEA monitoring.
The state-run newspaper Iran countered on February 23 by suggesting that the parliamentarians’ tough line could leave Iran “alone as in the past” on the international stage.
The White House has said that its European allies are awaiting a response from Iran on an offer to host an informal meeting of current members of the JCPOA.
The United States and other governments have accused Iran of secretly trying to build a nuclear-weapons capability, a charge that Tehran has consistently rejected despite years of what the IAEA said was obfuscation and deception.