BERLIN (Dispatches) -- The head of Iran’s nuclear agency said Monday that the landmark 2015 deal between Tehran and world powers on his country’s nuclear energy program is struggling since the unilateral U.S. withdrawal, but is still worth preserving.
Ali Akbar Salehi told delegates at a conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna that the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, has been "caught in a quasi-stalemate situation” since President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out in 2018.
The deal promises Iran economic incentives in exchange for limits on its nuclear program. The remaining world powers in the deal – France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia – have been claiming to offset reimposed American sanctions.
Iran has been steadily breaking restrictions outlined in the deal on the amount of uranium it can enrich, the purity it can enrich it to, and other limitations in order to pressure those countries to do more.
Salehi, speaking in a video address, said it’s of the "utmost importance” that those countries find a solution to resolve "the difficulties caused by the illegal withdrawal of the U.S. from the deal.”
"There is still a broad agreement among the international community that the JCPOA should be preserved,” he said.
Speaking after Salehi, U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette made no reference to the deal, saying only that the "United States remains committed to addressing the threats posed by the nuclear programs of both North Korea and Iran.”
Iran has continued to allow IAEA inspectors full access to its nuclear facilities, which the world powers still in the deal maintain is reason enough to try and keep it in place.
Iran recently granted the IAEA access to two sites dating from before the deal, which Director General Rafael Grossi said he hoped "will reinforce cooperation and enhance mutual trust.”
Nevertheless, Salehi said Monday, "It is no secret that international organizations are under political pressures from certain states, and the IAEA is of no exception.
"At this critical point in time for multilateralism, on the one hand, the raison d’être of the United Nations system has come under serious question; and on the other hand, the International Atomic Energy Agency is facing a very serious challenge of its kind since its inception.”
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council on Saturday he cannot take any action on a U.S. declaration that all UN sanctions on Iran had been reimposed.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month that he triggered a 30-day process at the council leading to the return of UN sanctions on Iran on Saturday evening that would also stop a conventional arms embargo on Tehran from expiring on Oct. 18.
But 13 of the 15 Security Council members say Washington’s move is void because Pompeo used a mechanism agreed under a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, which the United States quit in 2018.
"There would appear to be uncertainty whether or not the process ... was indeed initiated and concomitantly whether or not the (sanctions) terminations ... continue in effect,” Guterres wrote in a letter to the council.
"It is not for the Secretary-General to proceed as if no such uncertainty exists,” he said.
UN officials provide administrative and technical support to the Security Council to implement its sanctions regimes and Guterres appoints independent experts to monitor implementation. He said that "pending clarification” of the status of the Iran sanctions, he would not take any action to provide that support.
Washington argues it triggered the return of sanctions - known as "snapback” - because a UN resolution that enshrines the pact still names it as a participant. Diplomats say few countries are likely to reimpose the measures lifted under the 2015 deal that aimed to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.