IAEA chief shows off Iran-style nuke monitoring camera

The director-general pushed back on questions that he had not achieved sufficient restoration of monitoring of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

Surveillance, illustrative (photo credit: WALLPAPER FLARE)
Surveillance, illustrative
(photo credit: WALLPAPER FLARE)

International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Grossi displayed in detail for the first time a sample camera similar to those his agency is using for monitoring Iran’s nuclear program.

The media session on Friday – almost like a “How do IAEA cameras work and look 101?” – appeared directed at Iranian claims that the cameras can be hacked and used to spy on them.

“Cyberattack is not possible,” he said, noting that the camera is “not connected” to a general network or computer.

Pointing out where the data storage and batteries are housed, Grossi said the cameras cannot be hacked or tampered with, showing how any physical tampering would leave a trace.

He said the cameras are standard IAEA-issue, and that there are 1,000-2,000 such cameras being used by the agency worldwide.

 IAEA DIRECTOR-GENERAL Rafael Grossi speaks at a news conference during a Board of Governors meeting in Vienna in September. (credit: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters) IAEA DIRECTOR-GENERAL Rafael Grossi speaks at a news conference during a Board of Governors meeting in Vienna in September. (credit: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters)

The director-general pushed back on questions that he had not achieved sufficient restoration of monitoring of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

One journalist noted that Tehran has still not agreed to allow inspectors to watch the footage of cameras that will be reinstalled at the Karaj nuclear facility, and that it was unclear how Grossi would be able to decipher what progress Iran might have made during the last several months since Iran removed the IAEA’s Karaj monitoring cameras.

Grossi responded that the focus should be on the positive movement – that Iran has agreed to allow restoring camera monitoring at Karaj.

At the same time, he acknowledged the pieces missing from his new deal with Tehran, and said he was working on resolving those issues.

In addition, he said his inspectors are very familiar with Karaj, its equipment, and production lines, and that they had strategies for discerning what nuclear developments occurred while IAEA access was cut off.

He said “we have doubts” about Iran’s explanations in blaming Mossad sabotage for losing footage that it had taken out of an allegedly destroyed camera that it refused to turn over to the IAEA.

The news conference came two days after Iran and the IAEA reached a partial deal on nuclear issues in dispute, while leaving other disputed issues open.

Some of the disputes involve evidence the Mossad found of undeclared illicit nuclear activities dating back to the disclosure of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear archive in April 2018.

Grossi announced in September that he had reached a deal on many of the disputed issues, but less than two weeks later he said Tehran had reneged on the deal.

Since then, the IAEA board of directors has threatened twice to condemn Iran and potentially to refer it to the UN Security Council, but each time it has decided to give the regime more time due to potential broader nuclear talks in Vienna with the world powers.

THE DEAL comes two weeks before a deadline the US imposed for the issue being resolved, and in parallel to ongoing shaky talks between Iran and the world powers about a return to the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal.

“Due to the completion of judicial and security checks on the affected cameras, as well as the IAEA’s steps to condemn the act of vandalism against the Tessa complex, Iran has voluntarily authorized the agency to replace the damaged cameras with new ones,” Nournews said in an initial vague announcement on Wednesday from the Iranian side.

Hours later, the IAEA elaborated on the deal saying it would soon install new surveillance cameras at Iran’s Karaj centrifuge component manufacturing workshop, under an agreement between Grossi and the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Mohammad Eslami.

“The cameras, to be installed in the coming days, will replace those that were removed from the Karaj facility earlier this year,” said the statement. “In addition, the agency and Iran will continue to work on remaining outstanding safeguards issues with the aim of resolving them.”

Grossi said that the agreement with Iran to replace surveillance cameras at the Karaj facility “is an important development for the IAEA’s verification and monitoring activities in Iran. It will enable us to resume necessary continuity of knowledge at this facility. I sincerely hope that we can continue our constructive discussions to also address and resolve all outstanding safeguards issues in Iran.”

According to the IAEA, the agreement between the two sides includes the following elements:

• The agency and Iran will continue to work on remaining outstanding safeguards issues with the aim of resolving them. To this end, Iran and the agency will conduct a series of exchanges of information and assessments including through meetings of experts.

• The agency will make available a sample camera and related technical information to Iran for analysis by its relevant security and judiciary officials, in the presence of the Agency inspectors, on December 19.

• The agency will reinstall cameras to replace those removed from the workshop at Karaj and perform other related technical activities before the end of this month on a date agreed between the Agency and Iran.

Iran has shown the IAEA the prior three of four cameras it had removed from Karaj and “data storage media” containing its footage, except for the one containing a destroyed camera’s footage.

The Islamic Republic has claimed it did not destroy the camera, but rather that it was destroyed by a Mossad sabotage operation in June. Tehran has used the excuse of the alleged Israeli attack as its reason for delaying the IAEA’s returning to monitoring the site until now.

It appeared that Iran was still going to withhold some access from the IAEA regarding viewing the camera footage in real-time, and it was unclear if the IAEA had regained full access to prior footage.

Some defense and intelligence officials have alleged that Iran has used the period of shutting out the IAEA since June to smuggle portions of its 60% enriched uranium to clandestine sites, to either covertly proceed forward immediately toward a nuclear weapon, or preserve the option.