Rafael Grossi’s remarks appeared after an emergency trip to Iran in which he announced the International Atomic Energy Agency reached a “technical understanding” with Tehran to proceed to permit monitoring of its nuclear program for up to three months.
Though his comments to journalists underlined a narrowing window for the U.S. and others to get to terms with Iran, which is already enhancing and stockpiling uranium at levels far beyond those permitted by its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
“The hope of the IAEA has been to stabilize a situation which was very unstable,” Grossi announced at the airport after his arrival back in Vienna, where the agency is located. “I think this technical understanding does it so that other political consultations at other levels can take place and most importantly we can avoid a situation in which we would have been, in practical terms, flying blind.”
Grossi, the IAEA’s director-general, submitted few specifics of the agreement he had gotten to with Iranian leaders. He explained that the number of inspectors on the ground would stay the same though that “what changes is the type of activity” the agency was able to carry out, without elaborating further. He stressed monitoring would continue “in a satisfactory manner.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who under President Hassan Rouhani helped establish the atomic agreement, said the IAEA would be blocked from accessing footage from their cameras at nuclear sites. That was issued throughout a state TV interview Sunday even before his meeting with Grossi.
“This is not a deadline for the world. This is not an ultimatum,” Zarif told the government-run, English-language broadcaster Press TV. “This is an internal domestic issue between the parliament and the government.”
“We have a democracy. We are supposed to implement the laws of the country. And the parliament adopted legislation — whether we like it or not.”
Zarif’s remarks marked the highest-level acknowledgment thus far of what Iran intended to do when it stopped obeying the so-called “Additional Protocol,” a confidential agreement between Tehran and the IAEA established as part of the landmark 2015 nuclear agreement. The IAEA has added protocols with a number of nations it monitors.
Under the protocol with Iran, the IAEA “collects and analyzes hundreds of thousands of images captured daily by its sophisticated surveillance cameras,” the agency said in 2017. The agency also said then that it had placed “2,000 tamper-proof seals on nuclear material and equipment.”