(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz will head to Washington early this week with a high-level Israeli delegation to hold a strategic discussion with the US that will focus on halting Iran’s nuclear program.
Representatives from Israel’s intelligence community and the Foreign Ministry will be part of the delegation.
The meeting comes in advance of the next round of six-party talks to be held later this month in New York between Iran and the US, Russia, China, France, Great Britain and Germany.
On Friday, the United Nation’s International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran has failed to address concerns about atomic bomb research by an agreed deadline.
The lack of movement in an inquiry by the IAEA will disappoint the West and could further complicate efforts by the six world powers to negotiate a resolution to the dispute with Iran over its nuclear ambitions.
Israel said it was not surprised that a report by the IAEA showed that Iran had not fulfilled its international obligations with respect to its nuclear program.
Iran’s behavior toward the IAEA cast doubt on the possibility that the world powers could achieve a comprehensive and satisfactory agreement with regard to its nuclear program, Steinitz said.
“Iran’s lack of response to the IAEA’s question is clear evidence of its contrived nuclear antics. Iran has not yet made a decision to open a new page with respect to its relations to the world,” Steinitz said.
An Israeli official added that, “anyone who believes the Iranians have abandoned their quest for a nuclear weapon and suddenly come clean is deluding themselves.”
An IAEA report obtained by Reuters showed that little substantive headway has been made in the UN agency’s long-running investigation into the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.
The Islamic Republic has implemented just three of five nuclear transparency steps that it committed to do by August 25 under a confidence-building deal it reached with the IAEA in November, according to the quarterly report.
Crucially, it has not provided information on the two issues that are part of the IAEA’s investigation: alleged experiments on explosives that could be used for an atomic device, and studies related to calculating nuclear explosive yields.
The report said Iran told the IAEA last week that most suspicions over its program were “mere allegations and do not merit consideration.” A Vienna-based diplomat called that statement worrying.
The IAEA observed via satellite imagery “ongoing construction activity” at Iran’s Parchin military base, the report said. Western officials believe Iran once conducted explosive tests there of relevance in developing a nuclear weapon and has sought to cleanse it of evidence since then.
Iran has long denied UN nuclear inspectors access to the base.
As part of the cooperation accord struck between the IAEA and Iran in November 2013 to try to revive the stalled investigation, Tehran agreed in May to carry out five specific steps by late August to help allay international concerns.
But so far, the report said, Iran had not implemented those dealing with the inquiry, adding that discussions on the two issues only began at an August 31 meeting in Tehran.
The IAEA said one member of its team had not received an Iranian visa for that visit, the third time it happened to this individual, and that it was “important that any staff member identified by the agency... is able to participate in the agency’s technical activities in Iran.” It did not elaborate.
Marie Harf, a spokeswoman for the US State Department, told a regular news briefing she could not comment on the substance of the report as it had yet to be officially released.
She said, however, Washington looked at the Iran issue in “a comprehensive way,” while adding: “In general... we’ve continued to call on Iran to cooperate fully without delay in working with the IAEA... It’s something we’re very concerned about.”
After years of stonewalling, as a first step Iran gave the IAEA information in May about why it was developing bridgewire detonators, which can be used to set off atomic explosive devices.
Iran says they are for civilian use and wants this topic in the investigation closed.
A senior diplomat familiar with the Iran file said the IAEA’s inquiry would not be an “endless process,” suggesting that it would at some point present an assessment to its 35-nation governing board based on the available information.
“I think it would not be realistic to assume that there is going to be a black and white solution to this. This is a very complicated issue,” the diplomat said.