2021-April-21 17:49
2021-February-15  19:24

Iran Preparing to Stop Voluntary Implementation of Additional Protocol

TEHRAN (FNA)- The US and European states now just have one week to stop the sanctions against Iran to convince the country not to stop its voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that entails decreasing the UN nuclear watchdog’s inspection of its nuclear program.

Tehran has never been duty-bound by international law to implement the Additional Protocol and undertook its implementation on a voluntary basis under the nuclear deal and in return for the removal of sanctions.

The Additional Protocol substantially expands the IAEA's ability to check nuclear facilities to investigate questions about or inconsistencies in a state's nuclear declarations. States party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) are not required to adopt an Additional Protocol, although the IAEA is urging all to do so.

Iran, a signatory of the NPT, voluntarily implemented the protocol between 2003 and 2005 -- its parliament never ratified it -- but ceased to apply it after its nuclear case was sent to the United Nations Security Council. After the 2015 nuclear deal Iran again started voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol.

To officially come into practice, the Additional Protocol needs to be approved by both the government and parliament of any given state, according to the NPT and IAEA rules and regulations.

Faced with the US maximum pressures and sanctions, the Iranian parliamentarians in a meeting on December 1, 2020 ratified the generalities of a bill to adopt strategic measures to remove sanctions against the country and defend the nation’s interests.

The lawmakers, in November, had given the green light to the single-urgency of the strategic motion, but the plan turned into a double-urgency after the assassination of the Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh's car was targeted by an explosion and machinegun fire in Damavand's Absard 40 kilometers to the East of Tehran on Friday November 27, 2020.

Under the bill, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) is required to start in two months after the approval of the present bill to produce at least 120 kg of 20%-enriched uranium annually at Fordow nuclear site and store it inside the country, increase the enrichment capacity and production of enriched uranium to at least 500 kg per month, start the installation of centrifuges, gas injection, enrichment, and storage of materials up to proper purity levels within 3 months, via at least 1000 IR-2m centrifuges in the underground part of Shahid Ahmadi Roshan facility in Natanz, transfer any enrichment, research, and development operations of IR-6 centrifuges to the nuclear site of Shahid Ali Mohammadi in Fordow, and start enrichment operation via at least 164 centrifuges and expand it to 1000 by the end of 20 March 2021 (end of the Iranian calendar year) and return the 40 megawatts Arak heavy water reactor to its pre-JCPOA condition by reviving the heart (calandria) of the reactor within 4 months from the date of the adoption of this law.

Also, the government is required to suspend the nuclear deal-based regulatory access beyond the Additional Protocol as well as the Additional Protocol itself within 2 months after the adoption of the law based on the articles 36 and 37 of the nuclear deal if Iran's banking relations in Europe and the amount of oil purchases by them from Iran is not back to normal and to satisfactory conditions.

Meantime, if after 3 months from the adoption of the law, the nuclear deal parties return to fulfill their undertakings, the government is required to submit a proposal to the parliament for Iran's reciprocal action to return to the nuclear deal undertakings, the bill said.

Iranian First Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri communicated the law to the executive departments after being approved by the Guardians Council.

Late in January, Iran's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to Vienna-based International Organizations Kazzem Qaribabadi said that a letter has been sent to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its member-states on the backgrounds of the Iranian parliament's recent approval on countering the US unilateral measures pertaining to the nuclear deal.

Qaribabadi said that he has written a letter to the IAEA and member states of the body to once again clarify the reasons for Iran’s parliament’s law known as ‘Strategic Counteractive Plan for Lifting Sanctions and Safeguarding Rights of Iranian People’, stressing the government’s resolve to act according to the law.

Also last month, Spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Behrouz Kamalvandi underlined the organization's full implementation of the parliament's recent approval - that entails removal of restrictions on Iran's nuclear industries imposed under the nuclear deal - and warned that Tehran is resolved to stop the voluntary implementation of the additional protocol to the NPT if sanctions remain in place.

"The Atomic Energy Organization [of Iran] is fully implementing the legal requirements [of the parliamentarian law] technically," Kamalvandi said, referring to the contents of the Iranian parliament's recent approval titled, “Strategic Counteractive Plan for Lifting Sanctions and Safeguarding Iranian People’s Rights”.

"According to the law, if the sanctions are not lifted, the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol to the NPT will be suspended on the specified date," he added.

"Part of the IAEA inspections are carried out under the safeguard agreement and another part pertains to the Additional Protocol,” the spokesman said, reminding that the halt of Iran's voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol would mean a stop of relevant, and not all, inspections.

Former US President Donald Trump, a stern critic of the historic deal, unilaterally pulled Washington out of the JCPOA in May 2018, and unleashed the “toughest ever” sanctions against the Islamic Republic in defiance of global criticism in an attempt to strangle the Iranian oil trade, but to no avail since its "so-called maximum pressure policy" has failed to push Tehran to the negotiating table.

In response to the US’ unilateral move, Tehran has so far rowed back on its nuclear commitments four times in compliance with Articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA, but stressed that its retaliatory measures will be reversible as soon as Europe finds practical ways to shield the mutual trade from the US sanctions.

Tehran has particularly been disappointed with failure of the three European signatories to the JCPOA -- Britain, France and Germany -- to protect its business interests under the deal after the US' withdrawal.

On January 5, 2020, Iran took a final step in reducing its commitments, and said it would no longer observe any operational limitations on its nuclear industry, whether concerning the capacity and level of uranium enrichment, the volume of stockpiled uranium or research and development.

On February 2, Qaribabadi announced that the country’s nuclear experts have installed new centrifuges at Natanz and Fordow sites in Central Iran.

“Thanks to our diligent nuclear scientists, two cascades of 348 IR2m centrifuges with almost 4 times the capacity of IR1 are now running with UF6 successfully in Natanz. Installation of 2 cascades of IR6 centrifuges has also started in Fordow,” Qaribabadi wrote on his twitter page.

He added that more new centrifuges are due to be installed at the two nuclear facilities “soon”.

Faced with Iran’s insistence to continue decreasing nuclear deal undertakings, the three European states which have failed in implementation of their nuclear deal have now resorted to criticism of the country’s nuclear program.

Britain, France and Germany issued a statement on Friday, part of which reads, "We, the governments of France, Germany and the United Kingdom, note with “grave concern” the recent confirmation by the IAEA that Iran is producing uranium metal in “violation of the JCPoA”. Under the JCPOA, Iran committed not to engage in producing or acquiring uranium metal or to conduct research and development on uranium metallurgy for 15 years."

They claimed that Iran has no “credible civilian justification” for these activities, which are a “key step” in the development of a “nuclear weapon”.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blasted UK, France and Germany for imposing false purports on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, advising them to read paragraph 36 of the deal which clarifies retaliatory moves for non-compliance of either member.

"Have our E3 partners ever read para 36 of JCPOA & Iran's many letters on that basis?” Zarif wrote on his Twitter account on Friday.

"By what logic is the onus on IRAN to stop its remedial measures undertaken a full year after the US withdrew from—and continues to violate—the JCPOA? What have E3 done to fulfill their duties?" he added.

Meantime, Kamalvandi announced late last month that the country plans to install 1,000 new IR2M centrifuge machines at Natanz nuclear site in 3 months.

1,000 IR2M centrifuges will be installed at Natanz nuclear facility within three months, Kamalvandi told reporters on the sidelines of Parliament Speaker Qalibaf’s visit to Fordow plant.

He said that the AEOI is making great achievements in line with the guidelines of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, stressing that Iran is enriching uranium using 100% indigenous technology.

"It’s not only the enrichment. We have achieved a lot in the field of radiopharmaceuticals, yellowcake production, and oxygen," the spokesman said.

With regard to other parties’ commitments to the JCPOA and the US return to the nuclear deal, the nuclear official highlighted that the Iranian nuclear organization will wait for the decisions of the top Iranian authorities.

In response to a question about the possibility of Iran’s halting voluntarily implementation of the Additional Protocol in due time, the spokesman said that "we will abide by the law completely and the parliament and the government will make decisions on the issue".

Tehran said on Monday it will end its voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Safeguards Agreement should the other parties to the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement fail to honor their commitments by the deadline of February 21.

“This measure means an end to inspections beyond the Safeguards Agreement, but does not mean an end to all inspections. In fact, Iran is a member of the Safeguards Agreement and the NPT, but the implementation of the Additional Protocol will be halted,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said at a weekly press conference on Monday.

Early in February, Zarif said in an exclusive interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour that the Biden administration has a "limited window of opportunity" to re-enter the 2015 nuclear agreement.

"The time for the United States to come back to the nuclear agreement is not unlimited," he said. "The United States has a limited window of opportunity, because President Biden does not want to portray himself as trying to take advantage of the failed policies of the former Trump administration."

Also, earlier this month, Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action will have no value if the sanctions against Tehran are not lifted.

Araqchi said the sanctions that have been imposed on Iran stay there, it will be of no use to keep the JCPOA as it loses its value and use.

“For Iran removal of sanctions entails all the sanctions that are envisaged, firstly, the JCPOA sanctions, secondly, the ones imposed after the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal, and thirdly, those which were imposed under new labels through legal tricks,” he added.

He went on to say, “If either of these two pillars does not exist, the nuclear deal will lose its relevance. Therefore, the US’ return to the JCPOA is important only when it leads to the lifting of sanctions.”

The official stressed that Iran’s reduction of its commitments is a natural reaction to what the US’ violation of its commitments, and added, “Therefore, if the United States wants to return to the JCPOA and the nuclear deal regains its original form, it is natural that they should go back and lift their own sanctions.”

“As the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution said, if we verify the truth of their acts, then we will return to our commitments,” Araqchi said.

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei said on February 7 that his country will not take steps to return to its nuclear deal undertakings unless it will be able to verify the US practical measures in removing the sanctions against Tehran.

"Iran has fulfilled all its obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal, not the US and the three European countries ... If they want Iran to return to its commitments, the US must lift all sanctions first," Ayatollah Khamenei said, addressing the Iranian Army Air Force commanders and staff on the anniversary of the historical pledging allegiance of Air Force commanders with late Imam Khomeini on February 8, 1979.

He underlined that the side with the right to set conditions to return to the JCPOA undertakings is Iran since it abided by all its commitments, not the US or the 3 European countries which breached theirs, adding, “If they want Iran to return, the US should lift all sanctions. We'll verify and if it's done properly, we’ll return to our undertakings."

“This is the definite policy of the Islamic Republic and it is also agreed upon by the officials of the country and we will not return from this policy,” Ayatollah Khamenei said, stressing that no one in Iran listens to what the US and European officials say about preconditions for lifting sanctions.

Meantime, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said Thursday that Russia hopes that there may be a compromise on JCPOA before February 21, when Tehran is expected to further ease restrictions on its nuclear program.

"There isn't a lot of time, considering that on February 21, in accordance with the law adopted by Iran, the country will take the next step toward reducing its obligations, which were accepted voluntarily. It would be good to find some compromise that would help avoid further escalation before that deadline," Ryabkov told a press conference.

The priority is to reverse US withdrawal from the JCPOA as well as US sanctions against Iran, the deputy minister said.

"It is probably impossible to do it all at once, but it would be wrong to delay. We are openly telling this to Americans," Ryabkov said.

Senior analyst Foad Izadi believes that there is no sign to indicate that the other parties to the nuclear deal want to implement their undertakings before Iran’s deadline.

“Given its experiences and regardless of the US and Europe’s pressures, Iran should return its nuclear program to its normal situation and the parliament’s bill should be implemented,” Izadi underlined.