Argentine political scientist and diplomat, Rafael Mariano Grossi has been in charge of the International Atomic Energy Organization for a few months . On the table there is mainly one dossier, that of Iran. The nuclear pact signed between Tehran and the United States with the mediation of the diplomacy of the European Union and participation as guarantors of France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia and China, was on the ropes when former US President Donald Trumpdecided to get his country out. The other signatories remained formally inside, but the new US sanctions were followed by Iranian breaches. Grossi got the Iranians to continue accepting inspections in February, but more limited. The next steps, pushed in part by European ‘chancellor’ Josep Borrell, could see Iran and the United States taking coordinated steps to get back to the deal. From Vienna, Grossi attended ‘NIUS’ by videoconference.
Question: US and Iranian diplomacy seem to accept that a high European representative Josep Borrell act as a mediator to return in a coordinated way to the nuclear agreement. In what situation are the negotiations?
Answer: We have different actors who play different roles. Borrell has a role as coordinator of the parties that signed the nuclear agreement. We, the IAEA, are the guarantor of the agreement. We check that the agreement is being fulfilled in Iran. Or not, as it is now. Negotiations between the United States and Iran have not even started, it has not been possible to seat all the members of the agreement around a table.
Q: Is the current level of enrichment of Iranian uranium a concern?
A: The thing to keep in mind is what Iran has committed to and what is the reality. One can enrich uranium. Many countries do it, but it all depends on what legal and political mark it happens in. In the case of Iran, there is a long and controversial history through which, at different times, it was found, for example, that Iran was not reporting on activities or facilities. That reached the United Nations Security Council.The nuclear deal was a clean slate. In that framework, it was agreed that Iran should limit itself. Iran recognized that the other parties had a concern. Iran undertook to enrich a certain amount of uranium to a certain level of enrichment. But when the United States pulls out of the deal in 2018, Iran watches the deal until it says enough. When he says enough they were gradually not complying, but warning the IAEA and that the IAEA continue to inspect. Iran is getting richer and richer. And it begins to work in areas such as metallic uranium, which is politically very sensitive for the purposes to which it can be given.
Q: Notifying the IAEA of those violations.
A: That’s right. I find myself in the paradoxical situation where I verify breaches. But this is what the parties tolerate. They try to negotiate but it was very difficult with the old US Administration. Now the United States says that it wants to return the agreement and what has us occupied is how, because it is not easy. We are trying to keep the ship afloat because in addition to all the violations the Iranian Parliament passed a law in December according to which Iran will further increase its nuclear capabilities and close the door closer to the inspectors. Not completely but quite.
Q: Do you think that the current level of inspections is sufficient to control Iranian activities?
A: It would not have been enough. If Iran did what it announced and the IAEA had done nothing, it would not have been enough. That is why I went to Tehran, I sat down with them and asked them to agree because with that level of restrictions I could not guarantee what was happening in Iran. So we found an agreement that the IAEA could continue to carry out certain activities. It is an agreement that does not give us the same access that we had before, but it does give us the ability to continue verifying certain activities.