September 13, 2021 | Institute for Science and International Security

Analysis of IAEA Iran Verification and Monitoring Report – September 2021

September 13, 2021 | Institute for Science and International Security

Analysis of IAEA Iran Verification and Monitoring Report – September 2021

Excerpt

This report summarizes and assesses information in the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA’s) quarterly safeguards report for September 7, 2021, Verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in light of United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 (2015), including Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Overall, the IAEA’s latest report shows Iran’s rapidly advancing nuclear activities and steps to limit IAEA monitoring, while inspectors have a diminishing ability to detect Iranian diversion of assets to undeclared facilities.  The IAEA is sounding an alarm to the international community accordingly.

Preface

The IAEA report is the first update on the status of Iran’s uranium enrichment program since a one-month extension of a limited monitoring and verification agreement between the IAEA and Iran ended on June 24, 2021.  Iran agreed to continue operating IAEA monitoring equipment and video surveillance at nuclear and nuclear-related sites but provide the data to the IAEA at a later, unspecified date.  The agreement was intended to preserve IAEA “continuity of knowledge” of Iran’s nuclear program after Tehran halted implementation of the Additional Protocol and JCPOA monitoring arrangements in February 2021.  According to the IAEA Director General, “Iran’s failure to continue implementing the [extended] agreement of 24 May 2021 is preventing the Agency from servicing the [IAEA’s monitoring] equipment and replacing the storage media.  This is seriously compromising the Agency’s technical capability to maintain continuity of knowledge, which is necessary for the Agency to resume its verification and monitoring of Iran’s nuclear-related commitments in the future.”

During this reporting period, a key date, August 24, 2021, passed for the IAEA to carry out the required maintenance of agency monitoring equipment.  Memory cards and batteries must be replaced at least every three months to ensure continued collection of data.  According to the Director General, “the Agency’s confidence that it can maintain continuity of knowledge at remaining facilities and locations in Iran pertinent to the technical understanding, which was already declining prior to 24 August 2021, has significantly further declined since that date.”

Shortly before the IAEA’s latest report, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi attempted to arrange a visit to Iran to discuss the monitoring issues and address longstanding concerns with respect to Iran’s Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA).  Iran did not accept the invitation, but did ask Mr. Grossi to come to Tehran after the distribution of two IAEA safeguards reports and growing concern among member states about Iran’s steps to limit IAEA oversight while augmenting its nuclear program.  Mr. Grossi went to Tehran on September 11, finalizing a last-minute deal arranged by the Russians, with U.S. blessing, for Iran to allow the IAEA to service its cameras and monitoring instruments and continue recording data.1  At a press conference on September 12, Grossi stated that the servicing will occur during the next few days and was intended to stop “the imminent loss of knowledge.”2

However, Iran will not provide the IAEA with data collected since February.  The IAEA/Iran agreement also does not stipulate that Tehran will engage the IAEA further in resolving the agency’s outstanding concerns related to Iran’s CSA.3 Mr. Grossi stated during the press conference that he needs to consult with Iran’s new government on the way forward with regard to NPT compliance issues.  The latter are discussed in a separate IAEA report, issued also on September 7, titled NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) Safeguards Agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran.  The Institute has analyzed this report separately.4

While the agreement on the surveillance equipment is welcome, it is only one of many serious safeguards and verification issues.  Iran’s agreement to the monitoring measure appears to be intended to ward off a resolution at the September 13-17 IAEA Board of Governors meeting, a resolution that is long overdue because of Iran’s other major, long-standing incomplete declarations, safeguards violations, and other types of noncooperation that the IAEA reports have detailed.

Despite recent shortcomings, the IAEA still managed to create a detailed picture of Iran’s nuclear advancements during the last three months – a picture that demonstrates a rapidly advancing program with waning oversight.

Andrea Stricker is a research fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD). Follow Andrea on Twitter @StrickerNonpro. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focused on national security and foreign policy.

  1. Steven Erlanger, “Iran and I.A.E.A. Reach Last-Minute Deal on Nuclear Monitoring,” The New York Times, September 12, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/12/world/europe/iran-iaea-nuclear-deal.html
  2. “Press Conference with IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi,” September 12, 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgcFMzWkGjk.
  3. “Joint Statement by the Vice-President and the Head of Atomic Energy Organization of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency,” September 12, 2021, https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/pressreleases/joint-statement-by-the-vice-president-and-the-head-of-atomic-energy-organization-of-the-islamic-republic-of-iran-and-the-director-general-of-the-international-atomic-energy-agency.
  4. David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, and Andrea Stricker, “The IAEA’s Iran NPT Safeguards Report – September 2021,” Institute for Science and International Security, September 9, 2021, https://isis-online.org/isis-reports/detail/the-iaeas-iran-npt-safeguards-report-september-2021.
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Issues:

Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran Nuclear Military and Political Power