Grossi’s track record impedes improvement of ties

Going nowhere

February 20, 2021 - 22:22

TEHRAN – The UN nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi was expected to arrive in Tehran on Saturday night ahead of Iran’s important deadline for the White House to lift all sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

The visit comes against a backdrop of heightened tensions between Iran and the West over who should make the first move to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

While the U.S. says it will not lift sanctions before Iran fully implements the JCPOA, Iran has insisted that the U.S. must lift all of sanctions if it really wants to revive the deal.

Iran has also made it clear that it will not take the first action to revive the JCPOA and it expects the U.S. to do so. Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, has recently said that Iran will act only after it sees actions from the U.S. on lifting the sanctions.

“We have heard many nice words and promises, but in practice, they have not been honored and on the contrary, they have acted against those promises. It is no use talking. It is no use giving promises. This time, only actions matter! If we see actions on the part of the other side, we will take action too. This time, the Islamic Republic will not be satisfied with hearing such and such words and promises. Things will not be like the past,” the Leader said in a speech on Wednesday.

With the U.S. stubbornly insisting on keeping the sanctions in place, Iran set a deadline of February 23 for Joe Biden to lift sanctions reimposed by former U.S. President Donald Trump, or it will halt snap international inspections under the JCPOA.

Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Grossi is visiting Iran for the second time in six months to discuss technical issues related to Iran’s plan to stop the implementation of the Additional Protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Iran will implement a nuclear law on 23 February obligating the government to stop implementing the Additional Protocol, according to Kazem Gharibabadi, Iran's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to international organizations in Vienna.

“IAEA DG travels to Tehran on Saturday for technical discussions with the Atomic Energy Organization on how to continue cooperation in the light of new arrangements and development. As already announced, article 6 of the new law will be implemented as of February 23,” Gharibabadi said in a tweet.
The nuclear law, officially called “Strategic Action to Lift Sanctions and Protect the Nation’s Rights,” stipulates that the Iranian government should take certain nuclear measures such as raising the level of uranium enrichment to 20% and suspending the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol in few months if the Western parties failed to honor their obligations under the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The sixth article of the law clearly stipulates that if the remaining parties to the JCPOA – Germany, France, China, Russia and the UK- failed to facilitate Iran’s oil exports and the return of Iranian oil revenues in two months, the Iranian government would be obligated to stop inspections beyond the IAEA safeguards, including the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol, which allows unannounced and intensive inspections of nuclear sites.

Grossi requested a visit to Iran immediately after the country announced that it will implement this law. Iran accepted the request although Grossi has been criticized by Iranian officials for his weak leadership during his tenure as the head of the IAEA.

In Tehran, Grossi will meet with Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOA), and other Iranian officials.

During the visit, the UN nuclear chief will discuss technical issues and arrangements that will be undertaken by Iran to halt inspections beyond the IAEA safeguards.

The IAEA has said that Grossi will seek to find a solution for the UN nuclear watchdog to continue verification activities in Iran.

“Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi will visit Tehran on Saturday for discussions with senior Iranian officials in order to find a mutually agreeable solution for the IAEA to continue essential verification activities in the country,” the IAEA said in a statement.

But Grossi is unlikely to find such a solution given his track record of clumsily handling the IAEA relations with Iran. In fact, Iran is not satisfied with what Grossi has been doing over the past months.

Iran has recently criticized the Agency for failing to protect the confidentiality of information.

Gharibabadi has recently sent the IAEA a lengthy letter of complaint expressing concern about the leakage of the information that Iran provided to international inspectors in good-will.

“Disclosure of confidential information, especially regarding Iran’s nuclear activities and facilities, which has been provided to the Agency’s inspectors in good-will and as a transparency and confidence-building measure, is of serious concern,” the Iranian ambassador wrote.

Garibabadi added, “The boundaries between the principles of confidentiality and transparency have been blurred, thus misunderstood. Transparency requires States to provide the Agency with required information and cooperation regarding their nuclear activities. Nevertheless, relying on this principle, the Agency cannot and should not shoulder off its responsibility regarding the protection of the confidentiality principle, because transparency does not mean divulging confidential information. Else, it would lead to damages on the concerned State Party, either commercial or security, which may invoke the Agency's legal responsibility.”

This letter was not the first time that Iran criticized the IAEA for leaking confidential information.

In early December, Gharibabadi criticized the leaking of a report on Iran’s nuclear development by the IAEA, saying the IAEA shall ensure confidentiality of safeguards information.

“@iaeaorg confidential report, based on Iran's confidential letter, appeared in Media immediately even before the BoG Members could track it down. Agency is not merely responsible to update the development, but shall ensure confidentiality of safeguards information,” Gharibabadi said in a tweet at that time.

But Grossi did nothing to stop the leakage of Iran-related information. He continued to let the IAEA be exploited by some Western countries.

Reuters, which has a long history of leaking Iran-related IAEA information, leaked another confidential information about Iran just hours before Grossi start his trip to Iran.

Citing unidentified diplomats, Reuters claimed that the UN nuclear watchdog found uranium particles at two Iranian sites it inspected after months of stonewalling. The British news agency went further to say that the IAEA is preparing to rebuke Tehran for failing to explain.

Seven diplomats told Reuters the agency will use that opportunity to rebuke Iran for failing to explain to its satisfaction how the uranium particles wound up at two undeclared sites. The rebuke could come either in the quarterly report or in an additional report released the same day, Reuters continued.

The head of the AEOI hit back at both the IAEA and Reuters, saying that the Reuters report was published to achieve a certain political goal.

“There is no doubt that publishing such reports is aimed at achieving political goals,” Salehi told Fars News on Saturday.

The Iranian nuclear chief said the IAEA mechanisms should be reconsidered to prevent the leakage of confidential information.

“For the Agency to arrive at this mechanism, it should professionally prevent the leakage of such information while preserving impartiality,” Salehi noted.

Salehi’s remarks were another indication that the IAEA under Grossi failed to build confidence with Iran. But Grossi can restore the broken trust by distancing himself and the Agency from the political games being played by the West against Iran. This is no easy task and he will likely face pressure from the U.S. and Europe. But this is a task worth doing.