IAEA to address Iran's nuclear violations Monday

Bennett to IAEA Director-General: World must work together against Iran.

European External Action Service (EEAS) Deputy Secretary General Enrique Mora and Iranian Deputy at Ministry of Foreign Affairs Abbas Araghchi wait for the start of talks on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in Vienna, Austria June 20, 2021. (photo credit: EU DELEGATION IN VIENNA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
European External Action Service (EEAS) Deputy Secretary General Enrique Mora and Iranian Deputy at Ministry of Foreign Affairs Abbas Araghchi wait for the start of talks on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in Vienna, Austria June 20, 2021.
(photo credit: EU DELEGATION IN VIENNA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

The International Atomic Energy Agency's Board of Governors is expected to address Iran's nuclear violations in a meeting in Vienna on Monday.

IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi is expected to address Iran's violations of its nonproliferation safeguards agreement, and the US, France, Great Britain and Germany plan to push for the Board of Governors to censure the Islamic Republic for refusing to provide answers about uranium traces found at undeclared sites.

Israel on Iran's nuclear operations

Grossi met with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Jerusalem on Friday, days after the IAEA released a report stating that Iran has enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon and has not provided credible explanations for the IAEA's findings of violations.

Bennett also released a Google Drive folder of documents soon after, showing that Iran stole IAEA documents in 2004 and 2005 in order to lie to the organization and cover up its nuclear activities. The documents come from the nuclear archive Israel smuggled out of Iran in 2018.

 One of the IAEA documents stolen by Iran released by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (credit: Naftali Bennett) One of the IAEA documents stolen by Iran released by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (credit: Naftali Bennett)

Bennett described to Grossi on Friday “the depth of the danger of Iran continuing to advance towards attaining a nuclear weapon while misleading the international community by using false information and lies.”

“The prime minister emphasized the urgent need to enlist the international community for action against Iran, using all means to stop it from attaining a nuclear weapon,” the Israeli readout of the meeting stated.

“Israel prefers the diplomatic route to rule out any possibility of Iran developing a nuclear weapon,” Bennett said, “but maintains the right to act against Iran to defend itself and stop its nuclear program, if the international community fails to do so within a relevant amount of time.”

"Israel prefers the diplomatic route to rule out any possibility of Iran developing a nuclear weapon"

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett

Bennett said he supports IAEA fulfilling its mission as a professional and independent body and said it is important for the Board of Governors to send Iran a sharp and clear message in its meeting.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said on Friday that "any political action by the United States and the three European countries in the agency (IAEA) will undoubtedly be met with a proportionate, effective and immediate response from Iran."

China's mission to international organizations in Vienna tweeted that it "opposes relevant countries’ moves to pressure Iran by pushing a resolution at the June [Board of Governors] of IAEA. The talks on restoration of JCPOA are at a crucial juncture. Confrontational approach...will only undermine cooperation [between Iran and the] IAEA and disrupt negotiation process."

The Western powers had hesitated to promote resolutions against Iran at the IAEA in recent years, in order to continue negotiations to have the US and Iran return to the 2015 nuclear deal. The only time the IAEA Board of Governors approved a resolution condemning Iran since the 2015 nuclear deal was reached was in June 2020; Iran made concessions to the nuclear agency weeks later.

Benham Ben Taleblu, a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said that "while a resolution of censure against Tehran at the IAEA is long-overdue, [Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei is still hoping that Iranian nuclear escalation is sufficient to spook the international community from following through with actions beyond censure, such as Security Council referral, more sanctions, or abandoning JCPOA talks. The IAEA board members, and the US in particular, now have an opportunity to course-correct on Iran and prove Khamenei wrong.”

“The regime has never been forced to admit that its nuclear program isn't a science fair project," Ben Taleblu added. "While the IAEA bent over backwards in the past year and a half trying to give Iran every possible opportunity to signal that it can be a good-faith actor, the Islamic Republic has pocketed concessions, dodged censure, and avoided pressure for too long.”

What would Israel hope to see from any future deal? 

Despite significant progress, talks to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action were derailed after Russia invaded Ukraine. They remained on hold in recent months, in part due to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s success in their effort to convince US President Joe Biden not to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations. US President Joe Biden informed Bennett of the decision a month ago, but it became public last week.

Israel has presented the Biden administration an alternative path forward in nuclear talks with Iran. The proposal entails a deal without the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’s “sunset clauses,” which gradually lift restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program.

Under the newly-proposed Israeli plan, the Iranians would receive sanctions relief as stipulated in the 2015 deal, if they accept the new version without a sunset clause.

The plan would include a “tripwire” in the event that Iran would enrich uranium to 90 percent, the level needed for a nuclear weapon, after which the US would immediately impose even more sanctions on Iran than it has on Russia in the wake of the war in Ukraine.

National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata raised the idea in his meetings with his American counterpart Jake Sullivan in Washington DC last week.

The Prime Minister’s Office denied the proposal.

“The Iranians are weaker than they seem,” a senior Israeli defense official explained this week. “They are more vulnerable than they are made out to be.”

The Islamic Republic has been hit with countrywide riots in recent weeks over rising food prices. In addition, protests broke out in southwest Iran after a building collapsed there, killing 31 people. An emissary sent to the site by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was shouted down by local protestors.

Khamenei on Saturday blamed recent protests in Iran on foreign “enemies” seeking to overthrow the Islamic Republic and said the United States and its allies were waging a “psychological war” against Iran by accusing it of piracy for seizing two Greek ships after the United States confiscated Iranian oil from a tanker. 

"Today, the enemies’ most important hope for striking a blow at the country is based on popular protests,” Khamenei said, referring to week-long protests over the collapse of a building in southwestern Iran last month that killed 37 people. "They hope to turn the people against the Islamic establishment and the Islamic Republic through psychological work, activities on the internet and cyberspace ... and by spending money and recruiting mercenaries."

"But the enemies’ calculation is as wrong as many earlier ones," he said in a televised speech on the 33rd anniversary of the death of the leader of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Reuters and Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.