US calls emergency nuclear watchdog meeting over Iran – after spurning it for 3 years
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The US has called an emergency meeting of the UN nuclear watchdog after Iran’s uranium stockpile exceeded the 2015 nuclear deal’s limits. That’s the same body whose reports of Iran’s compliance Washington has ignored for years.
“The international community must hold Iran’s regime accountable,” US Ambassador to International Organizations Jackie Wolcott said in a statement calling for a special meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Board of Governors to discuss what it calls the group’s “latest, concerning report” on the Iranian nuclear program. “The United States strongly supports the IAEA and its verification efforts in Iran,” the statement continued.
Such support is new for the US, which ignored years of IAEA reports certifying the Iranian government was compliant with the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal in order to pull out of that deal unilaterally last May, reimposing sanctions while declaring Iran was violating it. Back then, the US scorned the IAEA, which has confirmed Iran’s compliance with the deal quarterly under what it calls the “world’s most robust nuclear verification regime,” in favor of Israel, whose PM Benjamin Netanyahu has been claiming Iran was months away from a nuclear weapon since the early 1990s. Netanyahu, whom Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif called “the boy who cries wolf,” declared he had proof Iran was lying about building nuclear weapons when it entered the deal, even though the IAEA had already seen and discounted a lot of the “proof.”
The IAEA has announced to its member states that a meeting will be held on Wednesday. While Wolcott implored the group to “exercise its authority to accurately assess Iran’s implementation of its safeguards obligations and nuclear commitments,” the IAEA is merely tasked with issuing quarterly reports – only the deal’s signatories can actually rule that it has been breached, and they meet separately in a forum called the Joint Commission. This presents a problem for the US, since it pulled out of the deal last year.
Iran declared on Monday it had exceeded its allotted 300kg limit of enriched uranium under the deal and that its next step would be to enrich uranium above the allowed 3.67 percent fissile purity by Sunday, and the IAEA confirmed that same day that the stockpile had exceeded the terms set out under the deal. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif pledged to continue casting off those terms until Iran’s partners in the accord hold up their end of the bargain. While the UK, Germany and France launched the INSTEX payment system last week, allowing trade in food and medicine with Iran while circumventing the US sanctions choking the Iranian economy, Tehran denounced the special purpose vehicle as insufficient because it does not include oil sales.
The Trump administration has historically had a hard time dealing rationally with Iran’s nuclear program, declaring earlier this week that Tehran had violated the nuclear agreement’s terms “even before the deal’s existence.” Before exiting the deal, he routinely condemned it as the “worst deal ever,” while international opinion considered it one of the top achievements of his predecessor Barack Obama’s foreign policy.
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