Changes seems to be about to take place on the Iranian nuclear issue. Tehran recently agreed to allow global nuclear surveillance to repair cameras and equipment used to monitor the country's nuclear facilities.
With this, Western countries will no longer be able to use the argument that the Iranian government prevents the monitoring of its nuclear program, which tends to make evident the dishonesty of rumors such as the alleged intention of the Persian country to build an atomic bomb.
In a recent Iranian government’s decision, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) were allowed to carry out various maintenance activities on equipment used for monitoring nuclear facilities on the Iranian soil. Among the activities, memory cards exchanges, and camera repairs will be carried out. With this, it will be possible for the international society to partially regain control over the country's nuclear program, which would obstruct alleged Tehran's intentions to violate international norms on the use of nuclear technology. IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi already traveled to Iran last week. He met with the new head of the Energy Organization of Iran, Mohammad Eslami, to negotiate the terms of operation of the international agents at the Iranian facilities.
The decision eases recent tensions between Iran and the IAEA. The Agency accused the Persian country of blocking international monitoring due to the fact that Tehran had not previously authorized the renovation of the equipment. The Iranian objective, however, was not to impede monitoring but to speed up negotiations for a new nuclear deal with the US. In previous statements, Tehran officials have made it clear that international agents would only be able to carry out operations at the country's nuclear facilities if Washington agreed to suspend all international sanctions imposed on Iran.
However, Western countries took advantage of the Iranian maneuver to pressure Washington in order to create arguments in favor of the thesis that the Shiite government was building nuclear weapons, which had an adverse effect on that previously planned by Tehran. For this reason, Iran allowed the arrival in the country of foreign agents to carry out the monitoring program.
From a strictly technical point of view, the monitoring should serve for Washington to speed up negotiations, as Iran is opening the doors of its facilities so that international agents can see that in fact there is no nuclear bomb being built in the country. However, when we look at the situation from a realistic perspective, monitoring is unlikely to bring real effects to current tensions. For Washington, it doesn't really matter what is happening at the facilities, as the nuclear issue is just a mechanism by which the US manages to impose sanctions on Iran. These countries’ rivalry takes place in the geopolitical sphere, as Iran is a counterpoint to American interests in the Middle East. The nuclear factor has never been at the center of tensions, just a justification for coercive measures aimed simply at harming Iran.
For the rest of international society, however, peace seems to be more interesting than conflicts. The European Union has traditionally supported American speeches on Iran, but the European bloc is more interested in promoting real denuclearization than in imposing sanctions. Therefore, European countries have increasingly encouraged dialogue between the new Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, and Joe Biden. But Raisi is not willing to negotiate in a subordinate position: for the new leader it is essential that the sanctions be suspended, otherwise there can be no dialogue.
If monitoring proves that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful, there is no reason for sanctions, then Washington should come under pressure from the IAEA to suspend coercive measures and negotiate with Tehran. This appears to be Iran's new tactic: to demonstrate that its nuclear program is not military and use monitoring as an argument against sanctions. The Iranian government wants to inhibit any form of argument in favor of the thesis that nuclear weapons are being built in the country.
For the Iranian government, the Western accusations may sound even offensive, as there is a Shiite clerical-theocratic regime in the country, and for Islam building nuclear bombs is so far considered to be sinful and unacceptable. And the Persian country wants to make it clear that nuclear bombs are not in its plans, although the development of nuclear technology for peaceful, non-military purposes is a strategic priority.
If future monitoring reports are honest, it will prove the country's peaceful intentions with nuclear technology, and then the US will have no more arguments in favor of the sanctions - which, unfortunately, does not mean that these sanctions will be suspended anytime soon.
Lucas Leiroz is a research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.