New Iran deal with UN watchdog allows cameras at nuclear site, but footage limited

“This is important for verification under the Iran nuclear deal, and work will continue to address other outstanding safeguards issues.”

By Amir Vahdat and Jon Gambrell,  Associated Press

The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog and Iran reached a deal Wednesday to reinstall cameras damaged at an Iranian site that manufactures centrifuge parts, though inspectors remain limited on what footage they can access.

The agreement will see cameras put back at Karaj, which came under what Iran describes as a sabotage attack in June. Iran had since refused the International Atomic Energy Agency access to replace cameras damaged in the incident, part of an ongoing hard-line tact taken by Tehran at negotiations underway in Vienna over its tattered 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Iranian media first reported the deal without citing a source. IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi later tweeted out a statement detailing the arrangement.

“This is important for verification under the Iran nuclear deal, and work will continue to address other outstanding safeguards issues,” Grossi wrote.

The IAEA said the cameras would be reinstalled at Karaj in the “coming days.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian reportedly said earlier Wednesday that Iran had “reached a good agreement” with the IAEA.

Tehran blamed the Karaj assault on Israel amid a widening regional shadow war since former President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Iran’s landmark nuclear accord with world powers.

In an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, Grossi warned that limited access to Karaj hurt international efforts to monitor Iran’s program.

“If the international community through us, through the IAEA, is not seeing clearly how many centrifuges or what is the capacity that they may have … what you have is a very blurred image,” Grossi said. “It will give you the illusion of the real image. But not the real image. This is why this is so important.”

Grossi also dismissed as “simply absurd” an Iranian allegation that saboteurs used the IAEA’s cameras in the attack on the Karaj centrifuge site. Tehran has offered no evidence to support the claim, though it’s another sign of the friction between inspectors and Iran.

As part of Wednesday’s deal, the IAEA said it would “make available a sample camera and related technical information to Iran for analysis by its relevant security and judiciary officials, in the presence of the agency inspectors.”

However, Iran still will keep all recordings from the cameras — part of another ongoing dispute between the agency and Tehran sparked by the nuclear deal’s collapse.

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“The agency and Iran will continue to work on remaining outstanding safeguards issues with the aim of resolving them,” the IAEA said.

In an analysis, the Eurasia Group described Wednesday’s development as Tehran agreeing “to the bare minimum to avoid escalating the monitoring crisis.”

“A number of questions remain unanswered, including how the IAEA will account for advanced centrifuge components produced during the monitoring gap,” the political-risk consultancy group said.

Negotiations continue in Vienna over trying to restore the nuclear deal. However, Iran under hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi has taken a maximalist position in negotiations.

Anxiety is growing among European nations at the negotiating table.

“Without swift progress, in light of Iran’s fast-forwarding of its nuclear program, the (deal) will very soon become an empty shell,” they recently warned.

The U.S. has remained outside of direct talks since abandoning the accord.