The monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program is “no longer intact,” IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi told NBC News in an interview over the weekend.
Grossi did not mean that the Islamic Republic has completely boycotted his agency’s nuclear inspectors, but that its continued refusal to grant access to cameras at the key facility of Karaj means that the world may never be “able to reconstruct the picture” of what Iran is doing in there.
Perhaps just as crucial, the IAEA chief said that Tehran has thrown up roadblocks in developing basic communications with the nuclear watchdog.
Although in mid-September he had first meetings with lower-level representatives of the new Iranian government put in place by new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi – elected in June – Grossi revealed in the interview that he still has had no contact with new Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.
“I have never spoken to the new foreign minister,” Grossi says. “I hope to be able to have the opportunity to meet with him soon because it’s very important … so when there is a problem, when there is a misunderstanding, when there is a disagreement, we can talk about it. I used to have it before, and I would assume” that that would be the case with the current administration.
Grossi’s public airing of grievances with Tehran is significant because normally the IAEA tries to keep any conflicts under wraps so as not to rock the diplomatic boat.
However, with more than four months passed since the last round of nuclear negotiations and continuous signs from the Raisi government that it will drag out restarting talks for months for an even much longer period, Grossi’s patience appeared to start running thin.
Trying to present additional nuanced messages, he said he had “no indication” that Iran is currently racing forward to a bomb, but rather that the world should beware of the North Korean (DPRK) nuclear scenario.
“The case of the DPRK should remind us of what may happen if diplomatic efforts go wrong,” Grossi says. “It’s a clear example, it’s an indication, it’s a beacon. If diplomacy fails, you may be confronted with a situation that would have an enormous political impact in the Middle East and beyond.”
While Israeli officials have sounded the alarm more impatiently than American officials, they have also refrained from imposing any deadline.
EU officials have shown the most patience, some explicitly indicating that they have no “plan B” if Iran refuses to return to the JCPOA or drags out the process while continuing its escalating nuclear violations.