From “Nuclear Crisis” to “Nuclear Agreement”

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Reza Nasri
Member of Geneva's Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies

During recent years, the case of the Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) to Iran's nuclear program served as a factor that paved the way for all kinds of pressures, threats and sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Last Tuesday (December 15, 2015), the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) adopted a resolution in which it closed this case once and for all as a result of which, the juncture that had come to be known in the world political literature as the period of “nuclear crisis” has officially come to an end. In fact, as the method of formulation and explicit text of the resolution presage, from now on, Iran has entered the phase of “agreement” – or period of normalization of its relations – with IAEA and, perhaps, this has been one of the most important functions and achievements of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

But what are the signs of this new chapter in Iran-IAEA relations?

1. The first sign of normalization of Iran's relations with IAEA is the way the draft resolution was drawn up. Up to this resolution, Iran was merely the addressee of obligatory resolutions, which were dictated and formulated by others, who showed no consideration for Iran's demands and positions. Now, for the first time, a resolution has been adopted by the IAEA Board of Governors to whose formulation, Iran, which is not even a member of the Board of Governors, has contributed. This issue shows elevation of Iran's standing within IAEA and its increased influence on international mechanisms and processes, on the one hand, while on the other hand, being a telltale sign of JCPOA’s impact on the conduct of international actors. As for the process that led to the formulation of the draft of this resolution, Iran's deputy foreign minister and senior nuclear negotiator, Abbas Araqchi, has said, “We engaged in consultation on some parts [of the resolution], [because] amendments were needed; [and] some parts were needed to be added or removed.” Perhaps, up to a few months ago, few people would believe that these remarks were not made by a politician affiliated with one of the world powers, but were made by an Iranian official.

2. The second sign of détente between Iran and IAEA has come in Paragraph 9 of the resolution in which the Board of Governors “notes that all the activities in the Road-map for the clarification of past and present outstanding issues regarding Iran's nuclear program were implemented in accordance with the agreed schedule and further notes that this closes the Board's consideration of this item.” In other words, from the viewpoint of Board of Governors, Iran has no more “obligation to cooperate” with IAEA with regard to the issue of PMD and the Board of Governors considers this a closed case. In simpler terms, those activities and cooperation that had made Iran's relations with IAEA to be looked upon as a “special case” have now come to an end.

3. The third sign of improvement of relations between Tehran and IAEA has come in Paragraph 11 of the resolution where the Board of Governors has decided that all previous resolutions of IAEA – including two resolutions known as PMD, which were adopted in November 2011 and September 2012 – “shall be terminated.” In fact, by termination of these resolutions – which from the viewpoint of most legal experts were adopted beyond conventional and legal powers of IAEA's director general with regard to Iran – all past expectations from Iran and all “additional” (and controversial) powers delegated to the director general have been rendered null and void. In fact, from now on, when it comes to inspection and reporting on Iran's nuclear program, IAEA has no more power beyond what has been given to it within framework of the Safeguards Agreement and JCPOA.

4. The fourth sign of improved relations between the two sides can be seen in Paragraph 13 of the resolution in which the Board of Governors – whose focus was merely on Iran's past activities up to the present time – has changed its focus, announcing that from now on it will “become seized of a separate agenda item covering JCPOA implementation and verification and monitoring in Iran in light of United Nations Security Council resolution 2231.” In other words, from now on, the agenda of IAEA with regard to Iran will be based on two documents in whose drawing up and formulation, Iran has played a prominent part and with which Iran has been satisfied. This means that henceforth, the legal basis for IAEA's mission with regard to Iran is not past resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, nor past resolutions adopted by the Board of Governors in a unilateral manner and without regard for Iran's stances. Henceforth, however, the main basis for Iran's relations with IAEA will be merely legal agreements that Iran has accepted on its own free volition.

As a result, one can claim that “JCPOA” has been a legal tool or a “plumb,” by the use of which Iran has been able to regulate and modify the behavior of this international organization.

In other words, this document has not only been very effective in changing the behavior of the UN Security Council and getting it back on the “legal” track – as the Security Council has owned up to the change in the nature of its relation with Iran in Resolution 2213 – but has also played a considerable role in adapting IAEA's behavior to legal norms. This is important because before this resolution, IAEA had at times drawn fire from many legal experts through its extralegal and unconventional behavior.

Therefore, through further strengthening of JCPOA, we must not allow bilateral relations between Iran and IAEA get out of their new track.

Key Wods: Nuclear Crisis, Nuclear Agreement, Possible Military Dimensions (PMD), Iran's Nuclear Program, Sanctions, Board of Governors, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Resolution, Political Literature, Normalization of Relations, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Nasri

Source: Iran Newspaper
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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*Photo Credit: D. Calma/IAEA

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