The Secretary-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, did not succeed at calming the fears of Western countries about the continued progress of Iran’s nuclear program, although he has informed the Board of Governors, during its quarterly meeting held this week in Vienna, about some progress in the dealings with Iran.
Western countries have conveyed their concerns to the council, pointing to the increasing risk of a nuclear proliferation crisis in the Middle East as a result of Iran’s escalation of its nuclear program.
In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, a senior European diplomat said that Iran constituted a major problem due to its escalation on more than one side, as Tehran revealed that it had tested a hypersonic ballistic missile on Tuesday morning.
The diplomat, who is well-informed of the course of the nuclear negotiations, concluded that returning to the agreement in the form that was proposed a year ago was “no longer possible” due to “the change of facts” since then. He stressed that any nuclear deal “must be negotiated from the outset.”
Nuclear negotiations with Iran stopped almost completely 9 months ago with the eruption of the protests across the country and Tehran’s suppressive policies. Western countries also affirmed that any negotiation to return to the agreement was not possible, in light of Iran’s support for Russia in its war with Ukraine.
Nonetheless, Washington has recently opened new channels of communication with Tehran, including a mediation by the Sultanate of Oman. US reports revealed two weeks ago that high-ranking US officials had visited Muscat for consultations on Iran.
Oman had played a pivotal role in negotiations between the Americans and the Iranians in the track that led to the 2015 nuclear deal.
However, two European diplomatic sources confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the Omani mediation was related to issues outside the nuclear agreement. One of the diplomats said that the Americans have “other outstanding issues” that they are discussing with Tehran through Omani officials.
The IAEA Board of Governors continued on Wednesday its discussions over Grossi’s report on the investigation into secret nuclear sites in Iran. Although the ambassadors of Western countries accepted the report, they warned Iran against its continued lack of cooperation.
US Ambassador Laura Holgate told the Board of Governors: “After three years of engagement by the Agency and repeated Iranian delays, Iran has at long last provided a possible explanation for the presence of uranium particles detected at one of these undeclared locations, called Marivan, such that the Director General reports that questions about that site are considered no longer outstanding at this stage.”
Iran had informed the agency that the traces of enriched uranium found by inspectors at the Marivan site belong to a mine and a factory that was run by the Soviet Union.
The US ambassador added: “While the report characterizes Iran’s explanation as possible, Iran has not provided any evidence to support this explanation... The Agency now says it has no further questions related to two of the four sites at this stage, but this does not constitute “closure” of these files, as some have inaccurately claimed.”