IAEA Chief Visits Israel to Discuss Iran

July/August 2022

The director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) visited Israel for talks with the prime minister on June 3 as international tensions rose over Iran’s accelerating nuclear program.

In a statement issued by his office, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned that Iran’s uranium-enrichment activities were approaching dangerous levels and called for an international mobilization against Iran. He said Iran was “deceiving the international community by using false information and lies.”

Although Israel “prefers diplomacy in order to deny Iran the possibility of developing nuclear weapons, it reserves the right to self-defense and to take action against Iran in order to block its nuclear program should the international community not succeed in the relevant timeframe,” the statement added.

IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi made the trip ahead of a June 8 meeting in which the IAEA Board of Governors censured Iran, which is continuing to ratchet up its nuclear program, for failing to provide technically credible answers for the presence of undeclared uranium at three locations in Iran. Tehran responded by disconnecting cameras used by the IAEA to monitor Iranian nuclear activities.

These developments occurred in the context of stalled efforts to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, under which Iran accepted limits on its nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief. Israel has long opposed the deal and reserved the right to respond militarily to perceived Iranian threats. Israel is suspected of assassinating a number of Iranian nuclear scientists and conducting other attacks on Iranian facilities.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry on June 13 criticized Grossi’s trip as showing bias toward Israel. Grossi, in a tweet, said he discussed important issues with Bennett, including the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Iran, which has no nuclear weapons, is a treaty member while Israel, widely accepted as possessing as many as 90 nuclear weapons, is not.—MICHELLE LIU