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June 20, 2020

IAEA Reprimands Iran

Week of June 15th, 2020 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council

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IAEA Passes Resolution Against Iran

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Board of Governors passed a resolution reprimanding Iran. The resolution, drafted by France, Germany, and the UK, calls on Iran to “fully cooperate” with IAEA requests to visit two alleged nuclear sites in the country.

Of the IAEA’s board members, 25 voted in favor, 2 against, and 7 abstained. China and Russia strongly opposed the resolution. South Africa, India, Pakistan, Thailand, Mongolia, Niger, and Azerbaijan abstained from voting.

This is the first IAEA resolution reprimanding Iran since 2012. Rafael Grossi, the IAEA’s Director General, says the agency has requested access to two sites in Iran for four months to no avail.

However, Grossi has also said there has been “no change” in Iran’s level of cooperation with Iran. He says that since Iran began reducing compliance with the JCPOA, its level of cooperation with the IAEA has “been the same as before.”

The two facilities the IAEA seeks access to now have no role in Iran’s current nuclear program. However, the agency wants information about their past activities and to verify Iran’s reports about its nuclear program.

Iran has said claims regarding these facilities have no “credibility.” It says they are based on Israeli allegations against Iran.

Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Kazem Gharib Abadi, said the IAEA resolution was “deeply disappointing and unfortunate.” Gharib Abadi said Iran would respond “appropriately” to the resolution but did not elaborate.

Gharib Abadi also said that Iran has given the IAEA more access than any country. He said the agency conducts more than 33 “supplementary” inspections of sites in Iran annually. He said that “exaggerating the requests for access to two sides” is “totally unconstructive and political.”

Gharib Abadi said the resolution represented “maximalist” demands and is an “American and Israeli trap.” He said the aim is to destroy the JCPOA and “damage” multilateralism.

Gharib Abadi added that the resolution does not “persuade Iran to give the IAEA access based on false and baseless claims.” He said that Iran had been “talking” to the IAEA about access to the sites before the resolution, and that “efforts were being made to create an unnecessary crisis in this partnership [between Iran and the IAEA.]”

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Europe Opposes Unilateral Return of UN Sanctions

The foreign ministers of Germany, France, and the UK issued a joint statement opposing the U.S. unilaterally reimposing UN sanctions against Iran. The statement came on the same day as the European-backed IAEA resolution reprimanding Iran.

The foreign ministers’ statement read: “We firmly believe that any unilateral attempt to trigger UN sanctions snapback would have serious adverse consequences in the UNSC. We would not support such a decision which would be incompatible with our current efforts to preserve the JCPOA.”

At the same time, the European powers expressed their concern over the expiration of a UN arms embargo on Iran. The embargo is due to expire this October as per UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the JCPOA.

The statement said on the issue of the arms embargo’s looming expiration: “We wish to address the issue in close coordination with Russia and China as remaining participants to the JCPOA, as well as with all other Security Council Members, as well as other key stakeholders.’”

U.S. officials have said that if the arms embargo is not renewed “indefinitely’ by the UNSC, the U.S. will try to “snap back” past UN sanctions against Iran. The “snap back” mechanism was afforded to JCPOA “participants” by UNSC Res. 2231.

However, even though the U.S. has abandoned the deal, it will try to claim it is still a participant and reimpose the UN sanctions against the will of the rest of the UNSC.

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Hardline Outlets Rebuke Biden Advisor’s JCPOA Remarks

Recent remarks by former Obama-era Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken sparked backlash in Iran. Blinken told the American Jewish Committee regarding how a Biden administration would return to the JCPOA: “Iran would have to come back into full compliance and unless and until it did, obviously, all sanctions would remain in place.” Prior statements from Vice President Biden and his team had not elaborated on the sequence of a mutual return to the JCPOA.

Blinken added: “And then, if we come back into compliance, we would use that as a platform with our partners and allies who would be on the same side with us again to negotiate a longer and stronger deal.”

Many hardline outlets seized on Blinken’s remarks to say that Biden’s approach to Iran won’t differ drastically from the Trump administration. For instance, Fars News, a conservative outlet affiliated with the IRGC, wrote an extensive article on Blinken’s remarks.

Fars News described Blinken as a “senior advisor” to Vice-President Biden. It added that he was one of the “senior members of America’s nuclear negotiating team in the talks that led to the JCPOA.”

Fars News said Blinken’s remarks did not differ from Trump’s aims, stating: “A ‘longer’ or ‘stronger’ deal has been one of the key demands of opponents of the JCPOA in America, including Donald Trump.”

Fars News added in this regard: “Trump ended America’s participation in the JCPOA two years ago by saying that some of the JCPOA’s terms expire and said he wanted a stronger agreement with indefinite nuclear limits on Iran.”

The issue of how and if the U.S. will return to the JCPOA will decisively impact the trajectory of U.S.-Iran relations. Iran’s President Rouhani has repeatedly said that although Iran has ceased compliance with aspects of the JCPOA’s limitations on its nuclear program, it will go back into full compliance once the U.S. and other parties to the accord return to their sanctions relief obligations.

The U.S. first demanding that Iran go back into compliance, or that Iran agree to negotiations on a more stringent deal, could lead to continued escalation. There have been different alternatives provided for how the U.S. could seek to revive the JCPOA.

In a forthcoming report, NIAC addresses the issue of the sequencing of a potential JCPOA return. The report argues that the most straightforward path to reviving the JCPOA is for the next administration to immediately lift those sanctions required to restore compliance with the JCPOA.

The report suggests this can be accompanied by a declaration that Iran will have a certain number of days to restore full compliance with the accord. If Iran does not initiate steps to restore compliance in that window, the U.S. could make clear that it reserves the right to reevaluate its decision and reimpose sanctions.

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Iran & Turkey Bomb Kurdish Targets in Iraq

Iran and Turkey engaged in a rare joint operation targeting alleged PKK Kurdish militants in Iraqi Kurdistan. In a nighttime attack, Turkey bombed alleged PKK targets on the outskirts of Erbil with 15 fighter aircraft while Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) fired artillery.

Iraq’s foreign ministry condemned the attacks as violating Iraqi sovereignty and summoned the Iranian and Turkish ambassadors. The Iraqi foreign ministry said it “expects Iran to respect Iraqi sovereignty.” It added that the attacks “caused panic among the region’s residents.”

A website close to Iran’s national security apparatus wrote about the attack: “The IRGC on multiple times has warned officials in Iraqi Kurdistan to prevent the activities of terrorists in the area. But they have never stopped the activity of these groups.”

There has been an uptick in attacks in Kurdish parts of Iran in recent months, leading to the deaths of Iranian soldiers. One recent attack saw three Iranian soldiers killed near the town of Divandareh in Iran’s Kurdistan province.

The attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan were simultaneous with a visit to Turkey by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. During the trip, Zarif said that Iran’s position on the Libyan conflict is the same as Turkey. The war in Libya has seen the Russian and Emirati-backed Khalifa Haftar try to rest control from the Turkish-backed incumbent government based in Tripoli.

Zarif and his Turkish counterpart also reached agreement on resuming Iranian gas exports to Turkey and other trade. They also agreed for travel between the two countries to resume in August.

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