Grossi faces a litmus test in Tehran

TEHRAN, Nov. 23 (MNA) – Chief of the United Nations nuclear watchdog is again traveling to Iran after months-long hiatus in high-level contacts between Tehran and the UN body.

Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), confirmed on Monday that he will travel to Iran for high-level talks on the current state of play between the IAEA and Iran.

“I'm travelling to Tehran today for meetings with Iranian officials to address outstanding questions in #Iran. I hope to establish a fruitful and cooperative channel of direct dialogue so the @IAEAorg can resume essential verification activities in the country,” he said on Twitter. 

In addition to a meeting with Mohammad Eslami, head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), Grossi will meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, a meeting for which Grossi has long been badgering. 

The director-general’s visit comes at a time when Iranian officials are complaining about outside political influence over what is supposed to be a mere technical body. 

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh underlined the need for the IAEA to remain solely technical and avoid being used as a tool by some parties to advance their interests. 

Speaking at a weekly press conference on Monday, Khatibzadeh commented on Grossi’s visit and hoped for the IAEA to remain professional.

“We hope this trip would be as constructive as previous trips. We have always advised the Agency to stay on the path of technical cooperation and not allow some countries to advance their political intentions in the name of the Agency. We make our decision within the framework of developments and circumstances,” Khatibzadeh said. 

Iranian officials have long complained about the way the IAEA handles its relations with Tehran, saying that the UN body has failed to act professionally on various issues, ranging from leaking confidential Iranian-supplied documents to putting on agenda unsubstantiated allegations made by hostile third parties. 

And there is the issue of the director-general’s ingratitude toward Iran’s remarkable cooperation with the IAEA in the past. Over the past few weeks, Grossi has been pressing for a meeting with Iranian officials, particularly the new Iranian foreign minister, in light of restrictions on the Agency’s ability to monitor some Iranian nuclear sites. TESA Karaj Complex stood out as a major point of contention. 

The IAEA lost complete access to the centrifuge component manufacturing factory largely due to an act of sabotage unofficially attributed to Israel. Despite suffering from Israeli sabotage, the Agency has refrained from putting the blame on Israel, arguing that it is not in a position to make political announcements.

This behavior created a sense of resentment among Iranian officials, prompting them to relatively curtail cooperation with the IAEA, and believing that, when it comes to Iran, the IAEA unabashedly makes politically-motivated statements all while ignoring conspicuous, politically-motivated acts of sabotage by other parties.
 
And all this happened after Iran rewarded Grossi twice during his recent visits to Iran with technical agreements ensuring the continuation of the IAEA’s monitoring of Iranian nuclear facilities. 

Every time Grossi paid a visit to Iran, he is able to reach understandings with the Iranian side at a critical juncture in terms of cooperation between Iran and the IAEA. But every time the flexibility of Iran resulted in politically-motivated statements from the IAEA and subsequent bullying by the West.
 
The current visit of Grossi, therefore, would be a litmus test of change in the director-general’s modus operandi toward Iran. Less than a week from now, Iran and the P4+1 group of countries (China, Russia, France, and the UK plus Germany) will be gathering in Vienna again later this month to resume the stalled talks. 

In addition, the IAEA’s Board of Governors is expected to convene a meeting in the coming days with the possibility of censuring Iran at the urging of France.

Grossi’s assessment of his trip to Iran is likely to determine the trajectory of events at both meetings. 

First published in Tehran Times

News Code 181008

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