The head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog says his monitoring program in Iran has been restricted at a key facility, raising concern that it will not be possible for world powers that are party to a 2015 nuclear deal to “reconstruct the picture” of Iran’s nuclear program down the road.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi made the comments in an interview with NBC News broadcast on October 23. Grossi is currently visiting Washington as the countries that are party to the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) urge Iran to return to negotiations to restore the deal.
Earlier this year, after Iran stopped allowing IAEA inspectors conduct snap inspections required under the agreement, Grossi brokered an arrangement in which Iran would allow IAEA cameras inside nuclear facilities to keep running.
Grossi said Iran has allowed the IAEA to access most of its cameras except for those at a facility in the Tehran suburbs that makes centrifuge parts.
The facility was damaged in June in what Iran says was an act of sabotage by Israel and, Grossi said, Iran has cited an ongoing investigation into the attack in refusing IAEA access to the site.
Without that access the IAEA’s monitoring and verification program in Iran is “no longer intact,” Grossi said.
“It hasn’t paralyzed what we are doing there, but damage...has been done, with a potential of us not being able to reconstruct the picture, the jigsaw puzzle,” Grossi told NBC News in the interview.
“If and when the JCPOA will be restarted, I know that for the JCPOA partners to go back to an agreement, they will have to know where they are putting their feet,” Grossi said.
Iran has called on the IAEA to clarify its position regarding an alleged Israeli attack on the centrifuge-component manufacturing workshop.
Speaking to journalists on October 3, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy organization, Mohammad Eslami, deplored that the IAEA and Western powers had not condemned the "terrorist act" in which the TESA Karaj facility was “severely destroyed.”
The JCPOA imposed significant restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from sanctions. Then-President Donald Trump withdrew the United States unilaterally from the pact in 2018 and started reimposing crippling sanctions on Iran. In response, Tehran has progressively rolled back its own commitments to the deal.
The Biden administration and European partners want to restore the deal, and Iranian officials have repeatedly said they were ready to resume talks, but no date has yet been announced.
Indirect negotiations on both sides returning to compliance with the deal, via intermediaries from other parties to the accord -- Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia -- were launched in Vienna in April, but the talks were suspended following the June election of hard-line Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
UN Nuclear Chief Says Restrictions On Access To Iranian Facility Threaten Work Of Monitoring Program