A last-minute deal between Iran and the UN atomic watchdog over snap inspections has opened a narrow diplomatic window to revive the landmark nuclear treaty between international powers and Tehran. The Islamic republic had planned to stop snap inspections of its nuclear sites from Tuesday but an agreement announced late on Sunday allows some
“verification and monitoring”, reducing tensions. While the International Atomic Energy Agency’s access will still be more limited than previously, the UN body welcomed the three-month compromise as a “good result”. This agreement leaves room for face-to-face talks between Washington and Tehran over the revival of an accord that former president Donald Trump’s administration abandoned in 2018. The US last week made clear its willingness to sit down with Iran and other signatories to the deal to discuss re-entry to the pact. Iran, which has made an escalating series of breaches of the accord since 2019, has yet to say yes.
Diplomats and analysts warn that such negotiations are still far from guaranteed and big disputes remain over the sequencing of a possible US return to the agreement and the scope of what the refreshed pact would demand of Iran. The picture is complicated by pressure from hardliners in Washington, Tehran and some other Middle Eastern capitals, as well as looming elections in Iran. Still, Sunday night’s deal between the IAEA and Tehran appeared a “major diplomatic win” that made precious room for talks, said Ellie Geranmayeh, an Iran expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
“It should preserve the political space in the coming weeks and months for getting some sort of real track in motion for the US to rejoin the nuclear deal and for Iran to reverse its steps,” she said. “It’s an important opening — but to make it sustainable will take time and a lot of effort.” The past week’s compromises by the US and Iran present the first indications that both sides might be prepared to soften absolutist positions on re-entry to the 2015 nuclear accord, which lifted some sanctions in exchange for limits on Iran’s nuclear programme. But both sides have said the other must first return to compliance with the deal before it does the same, and Tehran does not want to discuss three changes that US secretary of state Antony Blinken has promised Congress he will purvand lengthening the deal, curtailing Iran’s missile