| 30 November 2023, Thursday |

EU maintains sanctions against Iran’s ballistic missiles

European Union member states maintained restrictive measures against Iran under the non-proliferation sanctions regime after a nuclear agreement Transition Day.

The EU statement said the Council’s legal acts to maintain the designations that the UN had initially imposed for individuals and entities involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities or affiliated to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).”

“The Council also agreed to maintain sectoral and individual measures, existing under the EU’s sanctions regime, notably those related to Iran nuclear proliferation, as well as arms and missile embargoes.”

Security Council Resolution 2231 includes a timetable for easing restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities and weapons if it fulfills its obligations in the nuclear agreement.

Earlier, the EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, announced he received a letter from the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, and the UK (E3) informing him about an issue concerning the implementation of Iran’s commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA).

The Foreign Ministers stated that Iran has been in non-compliance since 2019 and considered that this has not been resolved through the JCPoA’s Dispute Resolution Mechanism (DRM).

They expressed their intention not to take the steps regarding lifting further sanctions on JCPoA Transition Day on October 18, 2023.

Borrell reported that the officials reiterated their determination to find a diplomatic solution in the framework of the JCPOA.

– Long path

Last month, Borrell said that he received a report from the European trio that they were concerned about Iran not fulfilling its nuclear obligations and that it did not intend to take any step on Transition Day.

The E3 blamed Iran for missing the opportunity twice to revive the nuclear agreement last year.

Many parties, including Russia, rule out returning to the nuclear agreement before next year’s US presidential elections.

Western sources said that the Biden administration wanted to reach a formula that would deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons within a limited understanding granting it some exemptions to access oil markets.

It is unclear whether Iran will stop enriching uranium to levels close to nuclear weapons.

The “Sunset Clause” date was the focus of discussions between Iran and the EU.

Last June, diplomatic sources revealed that Borrell’s Deputy Secretary General, Enrique Mora, informed Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri-Kani during their meeting in Doha that Europe plans to maintain the missile sanctions.

In July, Tehran waved a serious response to any European move to maintain sanctions that extend to its ballistic missile program.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said at the time that Iran reserves the right to respond to any irresponsible action in a timely manner.

European diplomatic sources cited three reasons for keeping the sanctions: Russia’s use of Iranian drones against Ukraine, the possibility Iran might transfer ballistic missiles to Russia, and depriving Iran of the nuclear deal’s benefits given Tehran has violated the accord, albeit only after the United States did so first.

Resolution 2231 includes provisions calling on Iran not to take steps to design ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear weapons or that could later be developed to carry a nuclear weapon.

However, Iran did not adhere to the restrictions, maintaining activities that raised concerns among Western countries about the possibility of using them to develop intercontinental missiles.

Maintaining EU sanctions would reflect the West’s desire to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Tehran increased uranium enrichment to 20 percent, then 60 percent at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, and later at the underground Fordow facility.

It suspended the Additional Protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, closing additional surveillance cameras monitoring its sensitive activities.

– UN warning

The Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, warned on Monday that the world must not fail in efforts related to Iran, as happened with North Korea, which expelled agency inspectors and developed nuclear weapons.

According to Reuters, the IAEA has not had access to North Korea since Pyongyang expelled its inspectors in 2009, and it now observes its nuclear advances from afar, including through satellite imagery.

The IAEA has regular access to Iran’s declared nuclear facilities.

But as a 2015 deal between Tehran and major powers has eroded over the past five years, extra monitoring equipment added under the agreement has been removed at Iran’s behest, and the IAEA can no longer perform snap inspections at undeclared sites.

“We have to deploy every effort to prevent this problem [..] to prevent a country that has capabilities which could potentially lead to the development of nuclear weapons from doing it,” he added.

The IAEA is the eyes and ears and presence of the international community in Iran, Grossi told an annual US State Department arms control conference, adding he was highly concerned about Iran’s nuclear program.

“We saw the failure of this type in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea.”

Despite repeated Western accusations, Tehran denies its desire to build a nuclear bomb.
However, Grossi recently expressed his regret at the declining interest of member states in this issue and the underestimation of its importance.

Last month, Iran’s move responded to a call led by the US and three European allies at the IAEA’s Board of Governors meeting last week for Tehran to cooperate immediately with the IAEA on issues including explaining uranium traces found at undeclared sites.


  • Asharq Al-Awsat