Rafael Grossi during his visit to Tehran in March 2023, with Iranian nuclear chief Mohammad Eslami.

Iran 'Not Entirely Transparent', UN Nuclear Chief Says

Tuesday, 02/13/2024

Rafael Grossi, the Director-General of the UN nuclear watchdog said Iran is “not entirely transparent," following worrying remarks by Iran's former nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi.

In a televised interview, Salehi, who was also foreign minister (2010-2013), was asked if Iran has achieved the capability of developing a nuclear bomb. Avoiding a direct answer he stated, "We have [crossed] all the thresholds of nuclear science and technology."

Grossi addressed Salehi's warnings directly on Tuesday at Dubai’s World Government Summit. “There’s loose talk about nuclear weapons more and more, including in Iran recently. A very high official said, in fact, we have everything, it’s disassembled. Well, please let me know what you have,” he said.

To say that Iran is “presenting a face which is not entirely transparent when it comes to its nuclear activities”, as Grossi called it, will come as no surprise to the international community as Iran has repeatedly obstructed inspectors of the IAEA in their work to assess Iran’s nuclear enrichment.

In October, Iran branded IAEA inspectors political "extremists" as it tried to justify its standing in the way of vital work.

The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), Mohammad Eslami, justified Tehran's decision to ban what Grossi said was around one third of the international inspection team, claiming those expelled had a history of "extremist political behavior”.

At the time, Eslami downplayed the scale of the ban, saying instead that it was an "insignificant" number expelled, contradicting the statement by Grossi in which he made a rare public criticism of the regime for its obstructive behavior in September.

An exasperated Grossi said in September: “With today’s decision, Iran has effectively removed about one third of the core group of the Agency’s most experienced inspectors designated for Iran,” adding that the move "affects in a direct and severe way the ability of the IAEA to effectively conduct its inspections in Iran.”

Just days ago, weapons expert David Albright told Iran International: “The transparency of the nuclear program has decreased significantly. Their [Iran’s] nuclear weapons capabilities have grown over the last several years … And it's also a point in time where people's attention is elsewhere. The Iran nuclear issue barely makes the newspapers these days.”

Amid a regional proxy-war led by Iran’s militias around the Middle East, the nuclear issue has taken a back seat as Iran's proxy groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen have wreaked havoc in the wake of the Hamas invasion of Israel on October 7.

Hamas, the Iran-backed Palestinian group which controls Gaza, killed 1,200 mostly civilians and kidnapped at least 250 more, sparking a conflict with proxies attacking both Israel and US targets around the region.

Speaking of the current geopolitical crisis, Grossi warned: ”Of course this increases dangers.”

Salehi, who served as the head of the civilian Atomic Energy Organization of Iran under then-President Hassan Rouhani, is seen as a relative moderate within Iran and was one of the team who reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

But with a bubbling war boiling in the Middle East, orchestrated from Tehran, Grossi noted “an accumulation of complexities” is now erupting in the wake of the Gaza war.

In an article entitled ‘How Quickly Could Iran Make Nuclear Weapons Today?’, Albright recently wrote that it could be as little as a week.

“The long pole in the tent of building nuclear weapons is essentially complete,” he said. “Iran can quickly make enough weapon-grade uranium for many nuclear weapons, something it could not do in 2003. Today, it would need only about a week to produce enough for its first nuclear weapon. It could have enough weapon-grade uranium for six weapons in one month, and after five months of producing weapon-grade uranium, it could have enough for twelve.”

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), reached by Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the US and the European Union, had set out rigorous mechanisms for monitoring restrictions placed on Iran’s nuclear program, while paving the way for the lifting of UN sanctions.

However, as the regime is going full steam ahead, there seems to be neither hope for reviving the agreement which collapsed under the Trump administration, nor hope for Iran’s slowing down.

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