Iran Hints at Rift With Atomic Agency if U.S. Quits Nuclear Deal

Iran’s top nuclear official said Monday that his country might rethink its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency if President Trump scrapped American participation in the 2015 agreement limiting Iranian nuclear activities, The New York Times reports.

The warning, from Ali Akbar Salehi, president of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, went beyond generic threats of unspecified Iranian reprisals if Trump reneges on the accord, reached with Iran and six world powers, including the United States.

The International Atomic Energy Agency is the nuclear nonproliferation monitoring arm of the United Nations. It polices Iran’s compliance with the accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The agency’s ability to ensure that compliance, through a strict regimen of inspections, is considered critical to the survival of the accord, which is intended to ensure that Iran’s nuclear activities remain peaceful. The agency’s periodic reports since the accord took effect have shown that Iran is complying with its terms.

Iran has repeatedly asserted that it will never develop nuclear weapons. The country’s official Islamic Republic News Agency said in a brief report that Salehi had made the threat of rethinking compliance in a telephone call with Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is based in Vienna.

“Salehi said that in case the U.S. fails to honor its commitments under the Iran nuclear deal, Iran will adopt measures that can affect the current trend of Iran’s cooperation with the agency,” the Iranian report said.

Fredrik Dahl, a spokesman for Amano, confirmed that Amano and Salehi had had a telephone conversation but he declined to comment on the contents.

The call came days before Trump must decide whether to continue waiving American nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, as required by the agreement. Under an American law, Trump must make that decision every three months. Trump has described the agreement, negotiated under his predecessor, President Barack Obama, as the “worst deal” ever. He has repeatedly threatened to renounce it if Iran does not agree to more stringent conditions.

Iranian officials have ruled out a renegotiation, and all other parties to the accord, as well as many disarmament advocates and nuclear scientists, have reiterated their support for it. Salehi’s warning came as at least two other high-ranking Iranian government officials admonished the United States and warned of consequences if the nuclear sanctions are reimposed.

Kamal Kharrazi, the chairman of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, said that if the Americans did not continue to waive the sanctions, “It will be tantamount to their walking out from the treaty,” the Islamic Republic News Agency reported. According to its account, Kharrazi also said that if the accord “fails to produce any tangible results in line with Iran’s interests, the country will walk out.”

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bahram Qassemi, said at a weekly news conference in Tehran on Monday that if the Trump administration restored the sanctions, “all options for any situation are on the table for Iran,” according to an account by the semiofficial Tasnim News Agency. It said Qassemi had warned that “the U.S. administration would definitely regret making any blatant mistake in its decision about the JCPOA.”

American analysts who have followed the nuclear agreement’s path said Iran’s escalating warnings to the United States were partly aimed at the other parties to the agreement — Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia — in the hope that they would convince Trump that an American pullout could cause enormous harm.

“Salehi has put on the table cooperation with the IAEA- a ‘must have’ for Western eyes on the nuclear program. Iranians are clearly worried that this time Trump will pull the plug on the JCPOA. I don’t think he will, but Iran sure has cause to worry,” said Cliff Kupchan, chairman of the Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy in Washington.