New IAEA chief candidates could be in conflict with US, Israel on Tehran

Sudden death of Yukiya Amano leaves question mark: Who will take over and will this person carryout policies that put the IAEA at odds with the Jewish State?

The Iranian flag flutters in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna last March (photo credit: REUTERS/LEONHARD FOEGER)
The Iranian flag flutters in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna last March
The fate of the nuclear standoff with Iran may be shaped by two leading candidates to take over the International Atomic Energy Agency following the death of IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano on Monday.
Pending the selection of a permanent successor, Mary Alice Hayward, deputy director-general and head of the Department of Management, will be acting director-general.
While the Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the two likely candidates and experts were still working on forming their own opinions, The Jerusalem Post studied some of the limited public materials available about the two.
Argentina’s ambassador to the IAEA, Rafael Grossi, is running to succeed Amano, and diplomats say the agency’s chief coordinator, Cornel Feruta of Romania, effectively Amano’s chief of staff, is likely to run.
Feruta is on record as a strong supporter of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which could put him in conflict with the US and Israel.
In 2016, Feruta declared that, “I think the JCPOA represents in itself a real success from a nuclear verification point of view.”
He also said the JCPOA has changed the context and has improved the interaction between the sides. “And the fact that we got here shows that very complicated and sensitive situations, very complex situations, can be overcome through dialogue.”
Further, Feruta rattled off a list of technical issues for which Iran was complying with the nuclear deal at the time.
Significantly, he appeared to support Amano’s consistent position of giving Iran a pass on its past military dimensions based on the idea that, “Iran had conducted a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device before the end of 2003. However, these activities did not advance beyond scientific studies and the acquisition of certain relevant technical competencies and capabilities.”
He indicated similar sentiments in a speech in 2017, and a November 2018 EU press release noted Feruta and the IAEA’s continued citation of Iran following the JCPOA declaring that, “The JCPOA remains a cornerstone of the global nuclear nonproliferation regime, crucial for the security of the region, Europe, and the world.”
Feruta was appointed IAEA chief coordinator in 2013.
He was Romania’s ambassador and resident representative to the IAEA and UN organizations in Vienna from 2007 to 2012.
Feruta has served in a number of senior diplomatic positions for Romania’s foreign service.
Amano’s position on Iran’s past military nuclear dimensions had not changed since the Mossad’s disclosure of the Islamic Republic’s secret nuclear archives in April 2018, including that it was specifically seeking to develop five nuclear weapons.
He and the IAEA had been criticized for both being to slow to investigate materials uncovered by the Mossad and for keeping under wraps the alleged discovery of the radioactive materials Tehran was concealing.
It is unknown if Feruta’s position on these issues has shifted since April 2018.
Less is known about Grossi, the other supposed leading candidate, regarding US-Israel-Iran nuclear issues.
In a June interview with the Arms Control Association, he was asked about the impact of the Iran nuclear standoff, the JCPOA and how Tehran pulling out of any of the agreements it has signed on to would impact broader efforts to promote nuclear disarmament.
Grossi was circumspect.
“That would have a huge impact, of course. The so-called regional, or nonproliferation, cases or crises, however we wish to describe them, always influence discussions a lot. But it is too soon to assess them, again because situations can change,” he said.
“In 2016... you would have had a... relatively optimistic atmosphere on the JCPOA and a pessimistic one on North Korea perhaps. Now how do you see it? It’s different, isn’t it? In 2018, it would have been less positive with the JCPOA, better with North Korea,” he continued.
“Now, it’s a bit uncertain with North Korea, but still with some hope, and the JCPOA seems to be suddenly deteriorating. In just two-and-a-half years, it’s been a bit kaleidoscopic the way in which each of these individual, singular situations have presented themselves in front of our eyes. So to start speculating about these things is to me a bit pointless.”
Mainly, Grossi’s Twitter feed showcases his broad support for the nuclear nonproliferation treaty and for holding conferences relating to that treaty in a wider number of locations beyond the traditional US and European sites.
Acting chief Hayward has not been mentioned in media accounts as a leading candidate, though reports have said that others will likely throw in their hats besides the two supposed leading candidates.
A Reuters report contended that while each candidate will have their own management style, it is widely expected that there will be no major change in the agency’s handling of its most high-profile issues, including Iran and a potential return to North Korea, which expelled IAEA inspectors in 2009.
Last week, INSS Arms Control director Emily Landau made a similar observation to the Post, expressing overall pessimism about the IAEA policing Iran due to structural holes beyond the ability of any particular leader to fix.
The IAEA announced in September that Amano had undergone an unspecified medical procedure. The specific nature of his illness has remained a taboo subject within the agency, diplomats said, but with each public appearance he had appeared increasingly frail.
Monday’s statement did not lay out a time frame for naming a successor, though the race to succeed him had been taking shape since last week when it became clear he would step down early.
The 72-year-old Japanese diplomat had held the position of director-general since 2009, taking over from Mohamed ElBaradei and steering the UN agency through a period of intense diplomacy over Iran’s nuclear program while seeking in vain to return to North Korea.
He had been preparing to leave his position in March, well before the end of his third four-year term, which would have run until November 30, 2021.