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Iran says it’ll cut off snap UN nuke inspections if US doesn’t return to nuke deal by Feb 21

IAEA's Safeguard inspectors. (Dean Calma, IAEA photo/Released)
February 16, 2021

Iran threatened on Monday to block U.N. inspectors from performing random nuclear inspections if the U.S. does not return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal.

In statements reported by the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that Iran would stop allowing inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a nuclear inspection agency that reports to the U.N. Khatibzadeh reiterated a Feb. 21 deadline for the U.S. to return to the 2015 nuclear deal.

If the deadline is not met, Khatibzadeh said Iran would only comply with the minimal “safeguards” inspection requirements of the U.N. Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but would not comply with additional inspection protocols, which include random IAEA inspections, including potential inspections at undeclared nuclear sites.

Limiting nuclear inspections to typical “safeguards” inspections potentially leave Iran’s undisclosed nuclear sites to continue to work outside the lens of international scrutiny. Outside of regular “safeguards” inspections, the IAEA performs more randomized special inspections.

“All these measures will be reversible provided the other parties adhere to their obligations,” Khatibzadeh said.

While not specifically naming the U.S. this time, Khatibzadeh’s “other parties” comments refer to the U.S., who withdrew from the agreement in 2018 under President Donald Trump. All other original JCPOA signatories remain.

Last year, Iranian lawmakers set a Feb. 21 deadline for the U.S. to return to the Iran nuclear deal. Iran has increasingly called on President Joe Biden to “act quickly” and return to the 2015 deal. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said Biden should return to the 2015 deal as is and not make Iran’s missile program a part of negotiations for the U.S. return.

Since the U.S. withdrew from the agreement, Iran has increased its uranium enrichment and stockpiling in violation of its commitments under the deal. In November, the IAEA reported Iran has stockpiled 12 times the limit of uranium allowed under the 2015 deal and has enriched uranium to a purity of 4.5 percent, higher than the 3.67 percent allowed under the deal. Iran’s enrichment has since reached 20 percent, and 90 percent uranium enrichment is needed for a nuclear weapon.

Iran has said that if the U.S. fails to meet its Feb. 21 deadline to return to the nuclear deal, it will also continue to boost its uranium enrichment efforts.

Khatibzadeh also said sanctions enacted against Iran by the Trump administration have continued since Biden took office on Jan. 20.

“Unfortunately the U.S. is still acting based on the wrong procedure left for the previous administration. What is seen today is not different from those prior to January 20; the same maximum pressure and crime against the Iranian nation with the same approach.” Khatibzadeh said, referring to continued U.S. sanctions on Iran under Biden.