The US State Department expressed its support on Tuesday for the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency in a statement backing the agency’s “essential mission” of safeguarding nuclear material to prevent nuclear proliferation, particularly in the case of Iran.
As part of that support, the US is still holding out hope that Iran will return to the table to close a new nuclear deal with the six world powers who signed the failed JCPOA agreement in 2015 — but is clear that Iran has to first comply with the IAEA.
“Iran must cooperate with the IAEA and provide technically credible information in response to the IAEA’s questions, which is the only way to remove these safeguards issues from the Board’s agenda,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in the statement.
“The resolution is at the heart of the IAEA’s mandate and Iran’s core obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, not about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),” Blinken pointed out.
The Secretary added that the US remains committed to a “mutual return to full implementation” of the failed 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, including the United States.
“We are prepared to conclude a deal on the basis of the understandings we negotiated with our European Allies in Vienna over many months,” Blinken said.
“Such a deal has been available since March, but we can only conclude negotiations and implement it if Iran drops its additional demands that are extraneous to the JCPOA.”
Iran continues to defy the IAEA demand for an explanation about the traces of radioactive material discovered at three undeclared sites in the Islamic Republic. That lack of cooperation and transparency has prompted a negative report from IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi and strong concern from the Board.
In response, Iran threatened further nuclear provocations and further reductions of transparency, Blinken noted.
“Such steps would be counterproductive and would further complicate our efforts to return to full implementation of the JCPOA,” the Secretary said.
“The only outcome of such a path will be a deepening nuclear crisis and further economic and political isolation for Iran. We continue to press Iran to choose diplomacy and de-escalation instead.”
Earlier this year, Iran’s intransigence was made even more obvious after IAEA inspectors discovered particles of uranium that were enriched to 83.7 percent purity — a bare breath away from weapons-grade purity (90 percent) at which the uranium can be used to create an atomic weapon. At the time, Iran denied having deliberately enriched uranium to the nearly 84-percent purity mark, saying the particles were a simply a random byproduct of processing.
But Iran has not denied — and has even boasted in recent months — that its centrifuges are now enriching uranium to 60-percent purity, way over the 3.76-percent level set by the JCPOA nearly eight years ago, and a level at which it is much easier to further enrich the uranium to the 90-percent weapons-grade level.
Under the JCPOA, Iran agreed to eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium, cut its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98 percent and reduce by about two-thirds the number of its gas centrifuges for 13 years. At the time, Iran also agreed to enrich the uranium to a maximum of 3.67-percent purity, used for civilian purposes. Soon after the deal was signed, Iran began to violate the terms of the agreement and ultimately, the United States withdrew its participation under the administration of then-President Donald Trump.