Speaking to reporters in New York on Thursday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Tehran had reached out to Washington with a “substantial” offer that would see it agree to robust nuclear inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) four years ahead of schedule.
Such in-depth inspections are envisioned by the Additional Protocol to the 2015 nuclear deal, a supplementary agreement Iran was supposed to ratify in 2023. The protocol guarantees the IAEA “expanded rights of access to information and locations,” thus providing “additional tools for verification” of the state’s compliance with the deal.
Specifically, it allows the watchdog to “obtain a much fuller picture” of the state’s nuclear programs, stockpiles, plans and trade.
The verification of the protocol by the Iranian parliament, the Majlis, should have coincided with the US lifting all sanctions against Tehran – which is unlikely to happen after the US withdrew from the agreement last May. In spite of Washington’s demarche, Iran has kept its end of the bargain, and has observed the Additional Protocol, albeit without ratifying it.
Zarif dismissed the notion that the offer was more of a symbolic nature.
US President Donald Trump has repeatedly indicated that it’s up to Iran to make the first step in reconciliation, saying in May that “if they call, we will negotiate.” But almost in the same breath, he spouted threats of “obliteration like you’ve never seen before” and “strong sanctions” – and now that a way forward has been suggested by Tehran, the hopes that Washington will consider it remain slim.
In the absence of official reaction from Washington, anonymous US officials have confirmed it, telling Reuters that Iran’s proposal is a ploy to secure sanctions relief while at the same time still planning to produce a nuclear weapon.
On the ground, the US strategy has been more consistent than Trump’s bait-and-switch rhetoric. Thousands of extra troops, a carrier strike group, a missile battery and strategic bombers have been deployed to the region, while Iran is being accused of bombing oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, allegations that Tehran denies.
In another flare-up on Thursday, the US claimed to have shot down an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz, which, according to Trump, approached a US Navy vessel. It came a month after Iran shot down a US drone in the same waterway.