Iran’s hard-liners decry new deal with IAEA

The IAEA and Iran have agreed to lower the temperature on the nuclear crisis, but only for three months, sparking backlash from hard-liners in parliament.

al-monitor Iran' Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) meets with the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Grossi (R) in Tehran on Feb. 21, 2021. Iran said it had held "fruitful discussions" with the UN nuclear watchdog chief ahead of a deadline when it is set to restrict the agency's inspections unless the United States lifts painful sanctions. Grossi's visit comes amid stepped-up efforts between US President Joe Biden's administration, European powers and Iran to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal that has been on the brink of collapse since Donald Trump withdrew from it.  Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images.

Feb 22, 2021

After the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief's recent trip to Iran, the two sides agreed to hold off on some of the harsh measures Iran had planned to adopt in response to the US withdrawal of the 2015 nuclear deal. Iran’s hard-liners, who had passed a bill that would reduce Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA, have cried foul.

Rafael Grossi’s announcement in Vienna after his trip to Iran has relieved many observers who closely monitor the nuclear crisis with Iran. A December 2020 bill called the Strategic Action to Remove Sanctions called on Iran to suspend their voluntary implementation of Additional Protocols of the nonproliferation treaty on Feb. 23. Iran had agreed to the Additional Protocols, which gave the IAEA broader access to Iran’s nuclear program, in 2003. The understanding between the IAEA and Iran, which was discussed with the Hassan Rouhani administration, has given the two sides a three-month window.

Mojtaba Zolnour, head of parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said in response to the decision, “The administration does not have the right to make decisions or arbitrary actions.” He said Rouhani’s promise that Iran will return to its full commitments whenever the United States reenters the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) “shows weakness.”

Zolnour said Rouhani going behind the scenes to make a deal with the IAEA is “an insult to parliament” and also “a clear violation of the bill.” He said there should be a legal case opened against the president and anyone else who was involved in the decision with the IAEA. He referred to the Rouhani administration as “servants of the West” and said parliament should not pass another bill until the current bill is fully implemented.

Members of parliament voted on a National Security and Foreign Policy four-point report, which called the IAEA and Iran joint statement a “clear violation” of parliament's bill to remove sanctions. The report called on Rouhani and all individuals involved in “violating” the parliamentary bill to be “introduced to the judiciary.” The report was approved with 221 votes in favor and six votes opposed.

Parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said additional protocols would indeed be suspended and no additional access to the IAEA would be permitted. While Ghalibaf is a conservative, his criticisms were much milder than Zolnour’s.

Kazem Gharibabadi, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, said parliament’s bill would be “fully implemented.” He also denied rumors that the joint Iran-IAEA statement would give the IAEA extra access to Iran’s nuclear program. The three-month extension was “simply monitoring the maintenance of information of some activities and equipment,” he said, adding if the sanctions are removed, Iran will hand over this information to the IAEA — but if the sanctions are not removed, Iran will delete the information.

Rouhani and his administration will be out of office in June. If reentry into the JCPOA is not negotiated, it appears unlikely the next administration will be so keen to continue searching for opportunities for compromise.

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