L’avancée inexorable du programme nucléaire iranien embarrasse les Occidentaux

The director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, however obtained commitments in principle from Iran to relaunch the monitoring of its activities.

By Piotr Smolar (Washington, correspondent)

After the Russian invasion in Ukraine, Western allies are faced with another security and diplomatic credibility test: Iranian nuclear. Since the complete judgment in September 2022 of attempts to restore the JCPOA agreement of 2015 (for understanding joint plan of action – “global joint action plan”) which aims to guarantee the civil character of the nuclear program of Iran , signed in 2015, European E3 countries (France, Germany, United Kingdom) and the United States seem to be seized with dread. Recognizing publicly the end of the JCPOA and the diplomatic impasse would mean entering the unknown and a risk of climbing, between redoubled economic sanctions and possible military operations. But during this suspension, which has stretched for months, Iran has further increased the notch of multiple offenses to its commitments, under the JCPOA.

By going to Tehran on Friday March 3, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (AIEA), Rafael Grossi, tried to preserve a discussion thread with the regime to restore control of its activities. On Saturday, he first met President Ebrahim Raïssi, a positive index. “We take steps in the right direction,” noted the director of the AIEA on Saturday, back in Vienna. The information does not appear in all letters in the common press release, but was given by Mr. Grosi: Tehran would have accepted the restoration of the cameras recording nuclear activities, disconnected by his will, as well as access to the places refused since February 2021, such as heavy water production sites or centrifugal. But in this file, Westerners are used to the gap between promises and their implementation.

Another notorious commitment, according to the director, who will have to be specified at an upcoming meeting between experts in Tehran: the Iranians would have accepted “50 % more inspections” on the Fordo strategic site. This is where traces of uranium were discovered enriched at 83.7 %, just below the fateful bar of 90 %, necessary for the production of a bomb. Buried in a mountain near Qom, the site was long underground, before the revelation of its existence in 2009. In November 2022, Iran resumed 60 %enrichment there, while the JCPO did not allow the overtaking a 3.67 %threshold.

The diet ensures that these traces at 83.7 % fall under a punctual and accidental episode. “We do not judge the intentions,” said M. Grossi, who underlines the absence of uranium accumulation at this level. Westerners hesitate between several hypotheses, not excluding a form of Iranian test of their determination. “It is highly improbable that this is the result of an accident, a change in configuration of centrifuge, explains Kelsey Davenport, of the Armed Association (Arms Control Association), one of the best nuclear experts Iranian. Perhaps the Iranians carried out an experiment, or that they wanted to assess our possible response to such a level of enrichment. In all hypotheses, Tehran must clearly understand that it is completely unacceptable. “

You have 70.12% of this article to read. The rest is reserved for subscribers.