The build-up to a final nuclear deal in Iran

This week, U.N. atomic agency officials held talks with Iranian authorities to negotiate the process through which the Islamic Republic is supposed to provide transparency on its nuclear research program. The six world powers and Iranian authorities, led by prime minister Javid Zarif, will also meet in the Austrian capital of Vienna on May 13 for the next crucial round of high-level nuclear negotiations.

The West appears to be moving quickly into a comprehensive nuclear deal due to the convergence of interests between the Rowhani’s government and the primary Western powers.

According to Iran’s official news agency IRNA, international nuclear inspectors are planning to visit two sites, a Saghand uranium mine and uranium-thickening facility as well as an Ardakan ore processing plant in the coming days.

Iranian leaders are confident that they will fulfill the seven agreed-to measures, which were reached between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), by the deadline. Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman of Iran’s atomic department, stated, “Following the visit, Iran will be able to say that the seven-agreed measures between Iran and the agency have fulfilled,” adding, ”Already six steps have been taken.”

Initial measures

Six out of the seven steps, fundamentally and generally, focus on the notion that Iranian authorities are required to provide information about nuclear enrichment and permit access to nuclear sites, particularly the Fordow nuclear site.

The West appears to be moving quickly into a comprehensive nuclear deal due to the convergence of interests between the Rowhani’s government and the primary Western powers

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

One of the critical measures is linked to Iran’s efforts to develop explosive detonators. Almost three years ago, a report by the U.N. atomic agency indicated that Iran has secretly pursued nuclear research and technology that had finite civilian purposes.According to the IAEA, the research and technology possessed ”limited civilian and conventional military applications… given their possible application in a nuclear explosive device… Iran’s development of such detonators and equipment is a matter of concern.”

The mid-May deadline is crucial due to the fact that Iranian authorities have to provide information about their attempts to create explosive detonators and elements that can be used for developing nuclear weapons.

The West’s Political Leverage Over the IAEA and the Two-Track Process of Diplomatic and Inspectional Paths

Meeting the mid-may deadline, as well as reaching a historic permanent nuclear deal before the expiration of the interim nuclear deal in less than three months, will follow two interrelated and distinct process.

First of all, the IAEA’s expert inspections are different from the negotiations that Iran’s foreign minister Zavad Zarif and his nuclear team and the G5+1 (six world powers including the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia) are resuming.

The prospects of the recent talks between the six world powers and the Islamic Republic appear to be more promising in comparison to the IAEA’s inspection path.

Nevertheless, the destiny of the Arak site, the IR-40 and 40-megawatt (thermal) heavy water reactor, will continue to be one of the key points in talks between the G5+1 and Iranian authorities. Natural uranium-fueled heavy water reactors such as the Arak reactor (which yields plutonium) are generally utilized to develop weapons-grade plutonium. The plutonium can then be used for producing nuclear weapons. Yet, Iranian leaders still insist that the Arak reactor is solely a research reactor.

Due to the recent convergence of some political and economic interest between Iran and six world powers, particularly the West, It is more likely that a compromise on Arak reactor will be reached. This move will be crucial in pushing the final nuclear deal beyond the finish line.

The potential hurdle

While the diplomatic negotiation track between the six world powers and Iranian authorities is encouraging, and while both sides have frequently revealed their strongwill to resolve the decade-long nuclear issue through spending significant political capital, the measures have been easy for Iran to comply with, so far.

If the IAEA experts delve into more complicated and nuanced questions in the next phase of Iran-IAEA negotiations, particularly regarding the fast-functioning detonators that can be utilized to develop an atomic bomb or set off an explosive atomic device, the difficult steps will likely to emerge.

In the next phase of Iran-IAEA cooperation, for which the time has not yet been, IAEA experts must raise more sensitive and detailed questions on alleged atomic bomb research. In addition, the IAEA inspectors will need to make sure that the measures reached between the G5+1 and Iran considering its heavy-water plutonium reactor is implemented.

The U.N. atomic agency and the IAEA’s inspections seem to operate independently from the G5+1 diplomatic negotiation. The convergence of interests between Rowhani’s government and the six world powers will eclipse some of the barriers that will rise from Iran-IAEA negotiations.

Potential impact

Four Western state members of the G5+1 have significant political ladder over the IAEA decisions.

Due to economic and geopolitical factors, the West, specifically the United States, Germany, and Britain (who appear to be bound to strike a final nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic), they can have an impact on easing the IAEA’s strict measures and inspections.

One of the key differences between this round of cooperation among the Islamic Republic, the U.N. Atomic agency, and the six world powers is that there is a strongpolitical will between the West and Rowhani’s government to reach a historic final nuclear deal through diplomatic venues.

While the West is rushing into a comprehensive nuclear deal before the July 20thdeadline, the most effective policies that the West should look into are providing a keyplatform for the IAEA inspectors to carry out intrusive inspections and to re-impose the sanctions in case the Islamic Republic defied the IAEA’s standards in the future.

Currently, the best political and diplomatic approach should be extending the temporary nuclear deal rather than rushing into a premature comprehensive one, hurriedly removing sanctions without the necessary safeguards taken into consideration.


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Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is an Iranian-American scholar, author and U.S. foreign policy specialist. Rafizadeh is the president of the International American Council. He serves on the board of Harvard International Review at Harvard University and Harvard International Relations Council. He is a member of the Gulf 2000 Project at Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs. Previously he served as ambassador to the National Iranian-American Council based in Washington DC.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:42 - GMT 06:42
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