Iran’s Nuclear Program & Western Sanctions

Iran deal could be rescued by the IAEA


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: JCPOA

Mains level: Paper 2- Role IAEA can play in rescuing JCPOA

The article explains how IAEA could play an important role in finding a solution to the stalemate between the U.S. and Iran on JCPOA.

Issue of Iran’s return to JCPOA

  • There is uncertainty between the U.S. and Iran on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as to whether Iranian compliance comes first or the lifting of sanctions by the U.S.
  • In this context, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is back on the stage to rescue the JCPOA.
  • The U.S. tried to pressurise Iran by proposing a resolution in the IAEA Board of Governors meeting criticising Iranian non-compliance with the JCPOA and its alleged IAEA safeguards violations.
  • This comes amidst rumours that Iran might withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Iran may follow Indian model on creating a deterrent

  • Foreign Policy recently noted that Iranian society increasingly see the weapon not just as an ultimate deterrent but as a panacea for Iran’s chronic security problems and challenges to its sovereignty by foreign powers.
  • If the stalemate continues on JCPOA, because of the U.S. pressure, public opinion may shift towards the Indian model of creating a deterrent and then seeking a special dispensation to avoid severe sanctions.
  • But the risks involved in such a policy will be grave, including the possibility of military action by Israel.

Relation between IAEA and NPT

  • The IAEA is neither the Secretariat of the NPT nor is it empowered to request States to adhere to it.
  • . It does, however, have formal responsibility in the context of implementing Article III of the Treaty.
  • At the broadest level, the IAEA provides two service functions under the NPT.
  • 1) It facilitates and provides a channel for endeavours aimed at further development of the applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
  • 2) It administer international nuclear safeguards, in accordance with Article III of the Treaty, to verify fulfilment of the non-proliferation commitment assumed by non-nuclear-weapon States party to the Treaty.
  • The NPT assigns to the IAEA the responsibility for verifying, at the global level, through its safeguards system, that non-nuclear weapon States fulfil their obligations not to use their peaceful nuclear activities to develop any nuclear explosive devices of any kind.

How IAEA could play role in JCPOA

  • Accordingly, the Iranian file could go back to the IAEA to start fresh negotiations to restrain Iran to remain within the permissible level of enrichment of uranium.
  • This may mean going back to the pre-six nation initiative, when the IAEA could not certify that Iran was not engaged in weapon activities.
  • With the experience of the JCPOA, any new arrangement has to ensure the following:
  • 1) Iran must have sanctions relief.
  • 2) The stockpile of enriched uranium should not exceed the limits established.
  • 3) There should be guarantees that Iran will not violate the safeguards agreement.
  • The test is whether these can be accomplished within the framework of the IAEA.

Way forward

  • Since the IAEA is a technical body, its deliberations may be kept at the technical level.
  • At the same time, since it is open for the IAEA to report to the Security Council for necessary action, the IAEA will have the necessary clout to insist on the implementation of the NPT and its additional protocol.
  • A new avenue may open for Iran to continue its peaceful nuclear activities as permitted in the NPT.

Consider the question “Examine the role played by IAEA under NPT. How this role can help IAEA in breaking the ice between Iran and the U.S. on JCPOA?” 


Thus, IAEA can play an important role in ending the statement JCPOA finds itself in and ensure compliance from Iran on JCPOA and lifting sanctions by the U.S.

Back2Basics: Article III of NPT

  • This article provides for the application of safeguards to ensure that nuclear material in non-nuclear weapon states (NNWS) isn’t diverted to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.
  •  NNWS must place all nuclear materials in all peaceful nuclear activities under IAEA safeguards.
  • Each nuclear weapon state (NWS) will not provide nuclear materials or equipment to a NNWS without an IAEA safeguards agreement.
  • The safeguards should comply with Article IV of the NPT, and should not hamper peaceful uses of nuclear technology or economic/technical development in general.
  • Safeguards agreements can be concluded on an individual or group basis.
  • After the entry into force of the NPT, state parties had 180 days to commence negotiation of a safeguards agreement. Currently, state parties must begin negotiations by the date they deposit their instruments of ratification or accession.

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