IAEA reports on continued progress in Iran

A new report from the IAEA, the latest in a series of monthly reports on Iran’s progress under the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), confirms that Iran has continued to comply with its obligations under the agreement. In addition, Iran has completed six initial practical measures agreed to with the IAEA in November 2013, along with seven additional measures agreed to in February 2014. Under these steps, the IAEA has gained access to more of Iran’s nuclear sites and received further explanation as to Iran’s past military nuclear activity, including Iran’s development of Exploding Bridge Wire detonators (EBW).

These positive steps are encouraging as negotiations continue to move forward on a final deal between world powers and Iran.

With regard to Iran’s work on EBW, the IAEA reports that Iran provided information showing that the system was tested for a civilian application. The IAEA has not yet come to a conclusion on the information provided, but reports that this is significant nonetheless, given that it is the first time Iran has engaged in a technical exchange with the IAEA on any issue relating to possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program after 2008.

In addition to these completed steps, as of its latest meetings with the IAEA in late April and early May, Iran has agreed to implement five additional steps.

These include addressing allegations related to high explosives experimentation, along with neutron transport and associated modelling and calculations. Additionally, the IAEA will arrange a technical visit to a centrifuge research and development center and be given additional access to centrifuge assembly workshops, centrifuge rotor production workshops and storage facilities. Finally, the new agreement would address safeguards for the IR-40 reactor.

Importantly, the IAEA also reports that since the implementation of the interim agreement, Iran has not produced uranium enriched above 5 percent, and has decreased its stock of 20 percent enriched uranium by more than 80 percent. Additionally, Iran has commissioned a facility that will convert its stockpile of 3.5 percent enriched uranium to a less proliferation-sensitive powder form. Though a final deal has yet to be inked between the P5+1 and Iran, Iran continues to make major strides toward fully implementing the JPOA and addressing concerns over its nuclear program.

The news from the IAEA comes after a recent meeting with world powers about a final deal reportedly failed to produce meaningful results. Both sides continue to speak optimistically about a deal, however, and hardliners in Iran have begun to throw their weight behind the Iranian negotiating team.

Recently, former presidential candidate and nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili spoke in support of a deal.

“All must support the negotiating team to reach our aim” of securing Iran’s nuclear rights, said Jalili. “The nuclear discussions are above and beyond narrow political and factional debates.”

World powers will meet with Iran once more next month, with the possibility of a six month extension of the negotiations still on the table.

Despite recent roadblocks in the P5+1 track, the IAEA’s good news makes it all the more clear that even without a final deal signed and sealed, the existence of an interim deal and Iran’s continued cooperation has significantly slowed Iran’s nuclear program. Should world powers agree to a six month extension of talks next month, these steps will continue to keep diplomacy alive and meaningfully and verifiably constrain Iran’s nuclear program as negotiations continue on a final deal.