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UN atomic watchdog confirms Iran is complying with nuclear deal

© Atta Kenare, AFP archives

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-06-02

Iran is sticking to the 2015 nuclear deal with major world powers, the UN atomic watchdog reported Friday, as the CIA named a new hardline chief to lead its Iran operations, according to a US media report.

The report was the second since the January inauguration of US President Donald Trump, who has called the pact between six powers and Iran "the worst deal ever negotiated" and in contrast with his predecessor, Barack Obama, branded Tehran an enemy.

Trump has vowed to dismantle the "disastrous" deal and has ratcheted up US sanctions, calling for Iran to be isolated and throwing his weight behind Tehran's arch- rival Saudi Arabia.

But the latest report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) showed Iran's nuclear activities remain reduced, making any push to an atomic bomb much harder than before the agreement.

Iran's stock of low-enriched uranium -- used for peaceful purposes, but when further processed for a weapon -- remained below the agreed limit of 300 kilogrammes (661 pounds), the report said.

The quarterly assessment said Iran "has not pursued the construction of the Arak... reactor" -- which could give it weapons-grade plutonium -- and has not enriched uranium above low-purity levels.

Iran's stock of heavy water, used as a reactor coolant, was 128.2 tonnes. Iran has previously inched above an agreed ceiling of 130 tonnes a number of times and has shipped the excess abroad.

The agreement between Iran and the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany was agreed in Vienna in July 2015, after years of negotiations. It came into force in January 2016.

‘Ayatollah Mike’ leads CIA’s Iran operations

The new IAEA report is unlikely to sway the Trump administration as it continues to voice concern about other Iranian actions, including ballistic-missile testing and what it calls Tehran's role as a "state sponsor of terrorism".

In a sign of Washington’s toughened stance, the CIA has named the hardline chief of its hunt for Osama bin Laden and head of its lethal drone program to lead Iran operations, the New York Times reported Friday.

Michael D'Andrea, a 60-year-old seasoned intelligence official, has been put in charge of the CIA’s Iran operations, current and former intelligence officials told the US daily.

Although officially undercover and not acknowledged by the CIA, D'Andrea has been a key figure in the fight against jihadist groups.

A convert to Islam who is known as the Dark Prince or Ayatollah Mike, D'Andrea was chief of the agency's Counter-Terrorism Center during the 2000s, during which he oversaw the hunt for al Qaeda chief bin Laden, who was killed in a 2011 US commando raid in Pakistan.

He also led the Obama administration's controversial "targeted killing" programme using drones that left thousands of militants and civilians dead, mainly in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The choice of D'Andrea to run the CIA's Iran operations was made by Mike Pompeo, who took a hard line against Iran and the Iran nuclear deal as a Republican congressman before Trump appointed him to be CIA director in January.

Pompeo and D'Andrea could be key to administration attempts to ensure Iran is sticking to its commitments under the nuclear deal, or find violations that would support Trump's campaign pledge to tear up the agreement.

Tehran seeks to boost trade

The accord saw Iran substantially reduce its nuclear programme and submit to ultra-close IAEA oversight, making much tougher any "breakout" attempt to make a bomb before the world can react.

In return, UN and Western sanctions related to the nuclear standoff were lifted -- in particular on Tehran's oil exports --- thus unlocking billions of dollars in funds frozen overseas.

However, other sanctions related to human rights and Iran's missile activities have remained in place, frustrating Tehran's efforts to boost trade.

On May 17, Trump renewed a waiver of nuclear-related US sanctions on Iran but he has ordered a review of the main nuclear deal.

Last month, Trump chose Saudi Arabia for his first foreign trip, announcing $110 billion in arms deals and saying Iran "funds, arms and trains terrorists, militias and other extremist groups... across the region".

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has also expressed misgivings about time periods in the Iran deal, which will allow the Islamic republic to increase its enrichment capacity again starting in 2026.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)



Date created : 2017-06-02

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