UN nuclear watchdog works to end Iran nuclear standoff

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The 63rd General Conference of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) meets in Vienna to look for ways to rescue the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers. The risk of war in the Persian Gulf grows all the while the deal is in limbo.

The IAEA Board of Governors will meet before and after the main conference, Sep 9-13 and Sep 23, to review nominations for a successor to Director-General Yukiya Amano, who died in July. Amano oversaw the signing of the 2015 Iran deal. If the present schedule holds, the nominations will be reviewed and the new chief will be chosen in October. Cornel Feruta, a Romanian, was named as interim Director General several days after Amano’s death. A professional diplomat who had previously served as IAEA chief coordinator, Feruta worked closely with Amano and was a strong backer of the Iran deal. Argentina’s ambassador to the IAEA, Rafael Grossi, is among the anticipated contenders for Amano’s job.

The deal provided Iran with relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program. Following the United States withdrawal from the JCPOA in May 2018 and its resumptions of sanctions against Iran, Tehran has started exceeding JCPOA curbs and is making its presence felt in the vital Persian Gulf to pressure the other partners in the deal to provide relief from U.S. sanctions.

North Korea is always near the top of the IAEA agenda at IAEA meetings. Pyongyang discontinued the IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities 10 years ago, and the agency wants to have its inspectors back on site there.

Cancer will be the subject of the 2019 IAEA Scientific Forum from Sep 17-18, held in conjunction with the General Conference. The agency is helping many countries to establish or strengthen radiotherapy and nuclear medicine services and train specialists, including radiation oncologists and medical physicists.


What Is the Status of the Iran Nuclear Agreement? (Council on Foreign Relations Jul 2019)

Date written/update: 2019-08-15