Russia’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told Iran International on Friday that there was “still time” to salvage the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
“It’s doable, it’s doable,” said Mikhail Ulyanov. The ambassador claimed that agreement between Iran and world powers was “99.9%” reached when talks broke down on March 10.
“We were five minutes from the finish line,” he told Iran International Fardad Farahzad in a video interview.
After a year of negotiations to relaunch the 2015 agreement, known as the JCPOA, which was agreed in Vienna, it became clear that Iran and the United States had significant differences over the sanctions that would be lifted once the ‘signed agreement. Iran has insisted that its Revolutionary Guards be removed from the US list of terrorist organizations, a request that Washington has refused.
Ulyanov condemned the IAEA board’s resolution adopted on Wednesday criticizing Iran, which he called “counterproductive” and “illogical at a very delicate moment in the Vienna talks where the final outcome is in question”. On Thursday, Ulyanov had called the Western move “stupid”, but he told Iran International he should not have strayed from diplomatic language.
The resolution tabled by the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany passed massivelyleaving only China and Russia as countries voting against.
The resolutions were passed by the 35-member board, Ulyanov argued only “on rare occasions and is generally seen as something extraordinary.”
Ulyanov holding a meeting in Vienna with the Iranian delegation. February 13, 2022
The ambassador denied that the situation with Iran – including its growing stockpile of 60% enriched uranium and its continued restrictions on IAEA surveillance – was extraordinary.
“It’s not urgent,” he said. “We are talking about uranium particles that belong to the beginning of this millennium [work carried out by Iran before 2003]… no one can insist that these particles pose a proliferation risk. Tehran has provided information to the IAEA, he added, including on uranium metal, so “the progress is there”.
But the IAEA thought otherwise when, on June 6, its director Rafael Grossi presented his report to the board of directors saying“Iran has not provided technically credible explanations for the Agency’s findings at three undeclared sites in Iran.”
Iran and the IAEA had agreed in March that Tehran would fully respond to questions about its past nuclear work by mid-June, and the UN’s nuclear watchdog concluded there was little progress. in this regard.
Ulyanov insisted that the resolution’s passage led to “retaliatory action” from Iran by informing the IAEA that it would withdraw further monitoring equipment. This, he said, confirmed his assessment expressed before the resolution was raised.
Ulyanov’s meeting with US envoy Rob Malley in Vienna, December 29, 2022
“I could not understand the logic behind this initiative of my Western counterparts. I have to tell you that last year they tried to do something like this three times – in which case the Russian Federation managed to convince them not to take this step.
Such persuasion was more difficult in the current climate, Ulyanov conceded, referring obliquely to tensions over Ukraine.
Moscow remains committed, he insisted, to the 2015 nuclear deal (the JCPOA, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) as a “great achievement in the field of ‘non-proliferation.'” He said that the current state of Iran’s nuclear program did not bring Tehran closer to nuclear weapons as some suggested.
“Russia is the staunchest supporter of the nuclear non-proliferation regime…we don’t want the so-called ‘nuclear club’ [those states possessing nuclear weapons] to extend… Speculation on the so-called “break out time” [the time it would take Iran to develop a bomb]…are not useful… If Tehran gets enough nuclear material – if they don’t have it at this point – then they will [still] produce a nuclear warhead, which will take a long time, even if a political decision is made in this regard.
However, not all Iranian research and military sites are under international scrutiny, and no one can be sure how quickly they can assemble a weapon once they have enough fissile material. By most accounts, Iran already has or will soon amass enough enriched uranium for one or possibly two bombs.
The ambassador noted that while some aspects of Iran’s nuclear program were “rather sensitive”, “at this stage, we have no reason to believe that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons…at least no one has proved such an allegation”.
Ulyanov argued that Iran, while enriching uranium to 60%, was not enriching in “military grade” [90 percent]”As far as I know, at this point they’re not going to do that unless someone outside urges them to take risky action.”
But critics of the talks say that while Iran has dragged out talks, it has walked a nuclear tightrope, advancing its agenda, while pretending it is not after weapons.