What IAEAs Cameras Cannot tell us about the Iranian nuclear deal


    Iranian nuclear deal
    Inspection of IAEA’s cameras without data storage during new Iranian nuclear deal talks. [source]

    Negotiators engaged in indirect discussions between Iran and the United States to save the Iranian nuclear deal. They have only a few weeks left to try to reach an agreement and avoid a military escalation. However, the actors at the table changed from 2015. The recent election of Ebrahim Raïssi and the rapprochement of Iran and China do not seem to promise a (new) successful nuclear deal.

    Key Assessment 1

    Iran has likely improved its nuclear capability in the 4 last years, breaching the limits imposed by the JCPOA.

    • The United States withdrew from the JCPOA deal in 2018 under Trump governance. Since then, Iran has violated several of the sanctions aimed to extend the time required to manufacture enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon’s breakout time.
    • Since the nuclear deal fell apart, Iran has begun enriching uranium to 60% purity, rather than the 3.67 percent authorized by the deal. On a scale of order, the percent authorized by the JCPOA would be sufficient for a power plant, whereas military grade requirements require 90 percent purity.
    • Iran also started using increasingly sophisticated centrifuges, which were banned under the agreement. [source]

    Key Assessment 2

    Regional tensions are likely to lead more countries to develop nuclear options

    • While the United Arab Emirates has a strong deal with the US guaranteeing they will not enrich their uranium, Saudi Arabia claims it wants a centrifuge program. It is also ready to hurry for a nuclear weapon if Iran has one, very likely raising the possibility of nuclear proliferation. 
    • Despite its opaque nuclear policy, Israel is almost certainly a nuclear-weapons state. It is highly likely developing a large-scale construction project in its secret nuclear reactor near Dimona. Its nuclear program is not subject to IAEA monitoring, and it never signed the NPT. Iran frequently refers to Israel’s weapons program as a double international standard. [source]
    • Several sabotages targeted at Iran’s nuclear program were recorded in the last decade. Iran’s nuclear plants in Natanz and Karaj were the main targets.
    • Some of the country’s best nuclear scientists were killed. The Stuxnet virus used against Iran’s enrichment program a decade ago blamed Israel and the United States.
    • Iran is investigating the possibility that the IAES’s cameras helped in the last purported Israeli attacks. Iran has since refused IAEA access to replace the cameras damaged during the incident. [source]
    Iranian nuclear deal
    Memorial of Iranian murdered scientists [source]

    Key Assessment 3

    Laying the groundwork for a new agreement is highly unlikely in the next 12 months.

    • Iran adopted the IAEA’s Additional Protocol in 2015, which allows for inspections of undeclared facilities using IAEA cameras.
    • After the sabotage in June 2021, critical footage from a surveillance camera at the Iranian centrifuge-parts workshop in Karaj went missing. Iran removed the cameras and showed them to the IAEA. But the data storage device from the destroyed cameras wasn’t inside.
    • The Karaj workshop includes sophisticated centrifuges, required to make enriched uranium. Therefore the IAEA and western nations have demanded that Iran replace the video equipment on the site.
    • Relocation of cameras and other relevant technical activities will take place before the end of the year. The recent agreement with the IAEA represents a questionable concession. The IAEA will not be able to view the content of the cameras without lifting the sanctions. [source]
    Sofia Staderini
    Sofia Staderini
    Post-graduate student in International Affairs at Hertie School with a particular focus in International Security. She graduated cum laude in July 2021 in Philosophy, International and Economic Studies at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice with a dissertation on post-truth politics. She took part in several conferences and study projects in Europe such as the Global Studies at the Institute of Maritime Military Studies of Venice, the Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung’s "War or Peace" program in Berlin, yet ensued by Scuola di Politiche and the Académie Notre Europe. Fluent in Italian, French, English, and Spanish. Currently studying German and Russian.

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