Iran begins dismantling nuclear program cameras after Western criticism

Iran this week began dismantling the UN’s oversight system for its nuclear program, partly blinding nuclear inspectors in apparent retal...


Iran this week began dismantling the UN’s oversight system for its nuclear program, partly blinding nuclear inspectors in apparent retaliation for a resolution condemning its lack of cooperation with international inspectors, just as Tehran is again about to possess enough fuel for a bomb.

The move by Iranian leaders — along with the threat to install new equipment that would dramatically increase its ability to produce nuclear fuel — marks the sharpest confrontation between Iran and the West since President Donald J. Trump took office. is withdrawn from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Administration officials say the chances now of the deal being revived — a major foreign policy move for President Biden — are extremely slim.

The Biden administration condemned the Iranian move, as did the governments of France, Germany and the United Kingdom, which said in a statement that “there has been a viable deal on the table since March 2022.” which Iran rejected.

The escalation of tensions is worrying, according to several experts, and marks a hardening of the position of the Iranian government. He appeared to be reacting to a warning issued Wednesday by the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, that Iran was just weeks away from producing enough enriched uranium. to make a nuclear weapon. While some analysts believe Iran has already reached this stage, it would take a year or two, most experts agree, for Iran to turn this fuel into a weapon that could fit inside a missile warhead.

Thursday’s action marked a significant, and possibly final, dismantling of the Obama administration’s deal with Iran seven years ago. This agreement required Iran to ship 97% of its nuclear fuel out of the country and to dismantle most of its nuclear centrifuges, the machines that spin at supersonic speeds to enrich uranium for nuclear power plants – and, at levels of higher purity, for nuclear. weapons.

Even after Mr. Trump unilaterally abandoned the deal, Iran remained in compliance for more than a year. But he refused to allow inspectors to visit certain areas where there were suspicions of past nuclear activity. Slowly, Iran suspended inspectors’ access to some surveillance equipment, and today it disabled and removed surveillance cameras.

This is not the “definitive death knell” for reaching an agreement, said Trita Parsi, analyst and former president of the Iranian-American National Council.

“But we are extremely close,” he said. “The negotiations have been in a coma for a few months, with no real progress and no movement.”

On Wednesday, Iranian state media reported that the government had turn off two cameras monitoring “an online enrichment monitor” at an unidentified site, hours before the United States, Britain, Germany and France submitted a resolution criticizing Iran to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran, the nations said, had not explained nuclear material detected at three undeclared sites. Although opposed by Russia and China, the resolution passed on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Iran told the IAEA it would start removing 27 surveillance cameras and other surveillance equipment from several sites.

“We are in a very tense situation,” said IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi. journalists in Vienna on Thursday. He said the sites included those in Tehran and the cities of Natanz and Isfahan, and if an agreement was not reached within the next month, the latest update could be “a fatal blow” to negotiations.

Although about 40 surveillance cameras remain active in Iran under other safeguard agreements, he said, the agency will lose important details about Iran’s nuclear activities within weeks. in the field.

Dismantling cameras and sensors at the Natanz site, a major enrichment center, would prevent the IAEA from knowing how much uranium Iran is enriching, and at what rate. It would also mean the loss of information on the chain of custody of the material produced, which is the assurance that it will not be diverted to a bomb project.

Iran had previously refused access to data from certain surveillance cameras at nuclear sites. It’s unclear what would happen to the data from the cut sites now, Grossi said. Inspectors from the UN watchdog would accompany the Iranian teams during the withdrawal of surveillance equipment.

Losing the daily data “is a huge blow,” said David Albright, a longtime expert on Iran’s nuclear program. He added that Iran was already close to achieving evasion capability – the ability to quickly leap towards making a nuclear weapon before being detected. “They are trying to shake the boat but not capsize it.”

Surveillance cameras were essential from a Western perspective because they could give inspectors an understanding of Iran’s fuel production rates, even in the absence of inspectors.

“It’s the eyes and the ears,” Parsi said, adding that the instruments were able to send information to the IAEA in real time. “We’ve lost a huge amount of knowledge about what’s going on.”

The resolution that criticized Iran was not referred to the United Nations Security Council on Thursday.

Iran has long maintained that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only. A 2007 assessment of US intelligence agencies concluded that the country once had a nuclear weapons program, but stopped him in 2003.

Israeli officials have long opposed the 2015 nuclear deal, saying Iran was working to build weapons and Israel has have repeatedly carried out attacks against the programaccording to intelligence officials.

As negotiations stalled last year and after an Israeli attack on the Natanz plant, Tehran said it had started enrich uranium 60% on site. Iran also enriches uranium at Fordow, a facility embedded in a mountain.

David E. Sanger contributed report.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Iran begins dismantling nuclear program cameras after Western criticism
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