Unpacking the new IAEA pressure campaign

The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, pointed out that the Agency lacks information regarding the production and inventory of centrifuges, rotors, heavy water, and uranium ore concentrate in Iran

The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, pointed out that the Agency lacks information regarding the production and inventory of centrifuges, rotors, heavy water, and uranium ore concentrate in Iran.
During a session with the Board of Governors of the IAEA, Grossi stated, “The public statements made in Iran regarding its technical capabilities to produce nuclear weapons and potential changes in its nuclear doctrine only heighten my concerns about the accuracy and integrity of Iran’s safeguards declarations.”

The Director General of the IAEA also noted that more than three years have passed since Iran ceased applying its Additional Protocol, which has limited the Agency’s ability to conduct comprehensive inspections. “There has been no progress in resolving the outstanding safeguards issues,” he stated, mentioning the unanswered questions about traces of uranium found at allegedly undeclared sites in Varamin and Turquzabad.
Rafael Grossi’s statements were followed by the approval of a resolution, proposed by Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, which strongly criticized the Islamic Republic for “deviating from its commitments to the JCPOA.” Furthermore, this resolution urges Iran to “immediately cease its nuclear escalation and comply with the limits established by the JCPOA.”

In this regard, it is important to remember that the previous nuclear agreement, known as the JCPOA and signed in 2015, was unilaterally abandoned by the United States under the Trump administration, thus violating the terms of the agreement itself. This pact was ratified by Iran, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and the European Union.

This unilateral rupture was perceived by the Iranian government, led by the late President Raisi, as a political confirmation of the lack of honesty and commitment from the Western countries. Distrust towards the West and the belief that it never acts in good faith in its relations with the Islamic Republic are fundamental elements of their ideological vision. The unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear agreement not only reinforced that political perspective but also held the Rouhani administration, responsible for reaching the agreement in 2015, accountable for allowing such rupture by not taking a firmer stance during the negotiations and failing to include clauses in the agreement that would sanction such possibility.

The Raisi administration considered one of Rouhani’s mistakes to be allowing the U.S. government to violate the agreement from the outset. Since its inception, the Obama administration made every effort to not fulfill its part of the agreement, particularly the obligation to facilitate and assist the Iranian banking sector in reconnecting with the global financial system. There were also mentions of pressures on financial organizations, insurers, oil companies, among others, by the Obama administration, to refrain from signing contracts with Iran.

If we analyze the language used by the West to emphasize the differences between the Rouhani and Raisi administrations, there is a clear iteration between the concepts of “good” and “bad” Muslim. This language is employed to sanction certain forms of Muslim identity, or what we could call “Muslimness,” as acceptable, while rejecting those considered a threat. In general terms, the “good Muslim,” associated with Rouhani and his negotiating team, is one who follows the logic of liberalism, modernity, and views the West as a universal paradigm. Conversely, the Raisi administration would be labeled as “bad Muslim,” given its rejection of the liberal project and belief that Western influence poses a political threat to the Islamic Republic.

On the other hand, it is important to note that for the Islamic Republic, the nuclear issue is constrained by a fatwa, or Islamic decree, issued in 2003 by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution of Iran. This fatwa explicitly prohibits the production and use of nuclear and biological weapons.

Several representatives of the Islamic Republic have made it clear that if the country has not developed nuclear weapons, it is not due to a lack of technical-scientific competence, but rather because of the explicit prohibition of the fatwa. Its importance is such that in 2021, the then Minister of Intelligence, Mahmoud Alavi, faced harsh criticism from prominent Islamic jurists after suggesting that, if cornered, the country should have nuclear weapons to defend itself. From a legal-political standpoint, therefore, the nuclear issue is limited to a civilian nuclear program. This does not mean that there is not a growing public opinion advocating for the country to possess nuclear weapons as a protective measure against Western threats.

The negotiating team, led by the current Acting Foreign Minister, Ali Bagheri, made efforts to avoid repeating past mistakes when engaging with the West, particularly the United States. The unilateral withdrawal from the agreement by the U.S., as mentioned earlier, is politically perceived as an act of oppression, or “zulm” in Quranic terms, where the U.S. does not respect the boundaries of negotiation. This political narrative of the U.S. as the oppressive party resonates with the traditional representation of the United States in revolutionary Iran as the “Great Satan.” However, it is important to understand this label in terms of a lack of political justice, rather than from a theological perspective. It is this absence of political justice that has prompted the current Iranian negotiating team to articulate their conditions clearly in these negotiations.

It’s worth noting that the Leader, during the negotiations of the 2015 nuclear agreement, made it clear in a public appearance that if the agreement were to be fully implemented and with good faith from the United States, it would be possible to discuss and reach agreements on other issues. However, the repeated lack of political goodwill from the United States underscores that the West, as an ideology, remains an oppressive force, one that transgresses the boundaries of justice through dominance and oppression of others. Therefore, the Islamic Republic has demanded from the outset a set of essential conditions to ensure the presence of justice within the nuclear agreement.

In addition to all of the above, it is crucial to analyze the relationship between Iran and the IAEA. The Raisi government accused this organization of overstepping its technical functions, which Iran had made clear it would continue to respect, to transform into a political entity with a clearly “anti-Iranian” agenda. Rafael Grossi’s trip, the Director General of the IAEA, to Israel, just one day after the Organization met in Vienna to discuss the nuclear agreement, was interpreted by Tehran as a lack of tact and respect.

Several local media outlets even hinted at the possibility of covert collaboration between the IAEA and the Israeli government. Publications like Nour News, which have close ties to the Supreme National Security Council, suggested the possibility that IAEA inspectors shared confidential information with Israel, which could have been used by Israeli intelligence services to attack Iranian nuclear facilities.

The recent statements by Grossi, along with the resolution supported by France, the United Kingdom, and Germany, arise in the context of an electoral campaign in Iran. Some voices in the Islamic Republic view this as interference by the IAEA in the electoral process, with the potential intention of disadvantaging political options that do not seek rapprochement with the West.