IAEA Chief Supports Iran Censure

November 2021

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) voiced support for censuring Iran during the agency’s Board of Governors meeting in November, although he acknowledged that the situation could change as the agency works to resolve the “most immediate challenges” with Iran.

IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi spoke at an Oct. 21 event hosted by the Stimson Center during his trip to Washington to meet Biden administration officials and members of Congress. He said the trip came at a “difficult juncture” in the IAEA efforts to monitor Iran’s nuclear program and hoped he would travel to Tehran soon to discuss these issues.

France, Germany, and the United Kingdom considered pursuing a resolution censuring Iran for failing to cooperate with IAEA requests at the September Board of Governors meeting, but suspended the effort after Grossi reached an agreement with Tehran to stave off a monitoring crisis. (See ACT, October 2021.)

That Sept. 12 agreement allowed inspectors to service remote surveillance cameras at sites that inspectors have not accessed since February, when Iran reduced compliance with agency monitoring. (See ACT, March 2021.) But Iran blocked inspectors from installing new cameras at a centrifuge component manufacturing site at Karaj during an IAEA visit to the site on Sept. 26. Iran removed the surveillance equipment from that facility after the equipment was sabotaged in June and said the Sept. 12 agreement does not cover that location.

Grossi told The Washington Post on Oct. 20 that if the monitoring dispute and other issues are not resolved, it will be “extremely difficult” to restore the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Although he said the IAEA is not a “main actor” in efforts to restore the JCPOA, the agency is an “essential element,” given its verification role. He said on Oct. 21 that the IAEA is doing what it can to ensure a baseline of information about Iran’s nuclear program, which is “indispensable” for any future negotiation.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said Grossi and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed during their Oct. 19 meeting “the need for Iran to meet its nuclear verification obligations and commitments, cease its nuclear provocations, and return to the diplomacy it says it seeks.”

Several members of Congress, including Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, were more explicit in supporting censure. After meeting Grossi on Oct. 19, Risch called for “strong U.S. leadership in seeking accountability for Iran’s nuclear activities and pressuring Iran to fulfill its obligations to the international community.”

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said in September that action by the IAEA board would negatively impact negotiations to restore the JCPOA.—KELSEY DAVENPORT