Ali Akbar Salehi, Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (Photo: Alexandros Michailidis via shutterstock.com)
Iranian activists slam Natanz attack, call for diplomatic response

Nearly 300 Iranian artists, authors, and academics urged their government to stay on course for JCPOA reimplementation.

Hundreds of Iranian civility society activists have condemned the recent attack on the country’s nuclear facility, which they say was aimed at derailing talks in Vienna on reviving the Iran nuclear deal, or JCPOA.

Diplomats from Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran, and Russia are currently meeting in Vienna to reach an agreement on the necessary steps for bring the United States and Iran into compliance with the 2015 accord. A U.S. delegation is also in Vienna but not talking directly to Iranian diplomats.

In a collective statement, nearly 300 prominent Iranian academics, artists, authors, and pro-democracy activists described the recent sabotage at the country’s Natanz nuclear enrichment facility as “nuclear terrorism.”

Accusing Israel of being behind the attack, the activists say that the operation’s ultimate goal was to scuttle diplomacy between Iran and world powers on how to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement, which former President Trump unilaterally abandoned in 2018. After withdrawing from the deal, the United States reimposed stringent economic sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the JCPOA in return for the country scaling back its nuclear program.

Many in Iran’s pro-democracy movement believe that U.S. sanctions have taken a particularly heavy toll on the country.

Both before and after the JCPOA’s finalization in July 2015, many leading Iranian dissidents, activists, and political prisoners wrote letters to former President Obama and Congress expressing their support for diplomacy and the removal of U.S. sanctions on Iran.

According to the recent civil society statement, there are strong signs that the recent attack on the Natanz facility may have been an attempt to provoke Iran into withdrawing from the talks in Vienna. The activists urged their government to exercise caution in response to the attack on the Natanz facility and to pursue the matter through the U.N. Security Council. The “most logical and powerful response” to such an attack, they insist, is progress in talks on the JCPOA’s revival. They also call on the United Nations to launch a probe in order to prevent similar attacks from taking place in the future.

Despite the support of prominent civil society groups for the lifting of sanctions and the revival of the JCPOA, proponents of hawkish policies continue to point to Iran’s human rights record and democratic deficit as justification for more sanctions on Iran.

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