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U.N. Nuclear Watchdog Trip to Iran Ends Without Results, What to Do Now?

U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi ended his travel to Iran, without this time striking any deal with Tehran over its clandestine nuclear program or holding a press conference after his visit to Iran.  

The IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi traveled to Iran as part of an effort to resolve some of the issues highlighted in his report and set the stage for mutual cooperation by the signatories of the nuclear deal. 

A spokesperson for the Iranian regime’s Foreign Ministry welcomed the visit. However, the relevant statement also seemed to reinforce the regime’s decision to drag its feet with negotiations and continue its nuclear extortion. Tehran urged the IAEA to remain focused on “technical” issues and avoid political pressure from “certain countries.” Such color commentary is unlikely to be well-received by Grossi, who has grown noticeably more impatient with Tehran’s approach to the nuclear issue. 

Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency presented reports regarding ongoing conflicts between itself and the Iranian regime, as the latter prepared for the resumption of talks in Vienna that are aimed at restoring the 2015 nuclear deal. Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China will also be taking part in those discussions on November 29, after the passage of nearly six months since the previous session. The United States will contribute to the dialogue indirectly, on account of the Iranian regime’s refusal to allow direct meetings with the U.S.  

Tehran’s recent statement and Grossi’s failed visit to Iran are two indications of a broader pattern of obstruction and non-cooperation by Tehran, which includes a commitment to demands for the US to lift all economic sanctions before the regime will even begin to reverse the steps it has taken to advance its nuclear program since the JCPOA went on life support in 2019. The US has unsurprisingly rejected this one-sided proposal each time it has been presented. 

At the time of the IAEA’s quarterly report in the summer, Grossi publicly stated that it was no longer possible to simply restore the original terms of the JCPOA in the wake of so much accumulation of nuclear material, know-how, and capabilities by the Iranian regime. In October, he answered in the affirmative when questioned about whether it would be a good idea for the IAEA’s Board of Governors to formally censure Iran. And on November 2, he publicly complained of an “astounding” lack of contact between IAEA officials and the government of Ebrahim Raisi, who had been inaugurated in August as part of the process whereby the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has consolidated power. 

In February, Grossi struck a deal to prevent nuclear inspectors from being kicked out of the country but accepted that they would no longer have direct access to surveillance cameras and data monitoring equipment. A later agreement established that the IAEA would be allowed access to the relevant facilities for long enough to perform maintenance on the equipment and replace hard drives. However, by then a camera at TESA Karaj had been damaged and taken offline, and the regime authorities also disconnected three others at the same site. 

Questions remain on Iran’s nuclear program before talks resume in Vienna

Since then, the facility in question has become a blind spot in IAEA monitoring, which will never be fully restored given the length of time for which no surveillance footage exists. Grossi no doubt intended to put much of his effort into rectifying this issue during his latest visit to Tehran, but his recent statements evoke a high degree of skepticism about his prospects. Now the progress of subsequent talks in Vienna may depend on whether he will be able to convince the international community – including Russia and China – that Iran is primarily at fault for ongoing disputes. 

Western powers should know that Tehran’s provocative actions are not coming from a position of strength. The regime faces a restive society, Iran’s economy is in shambles, and sanctions have seriously damaged the regime’s ability to fund its terrorist proxy groups and fuel its warmongering machine.  

To end the regime’s nuclear provocations, the international community should reinstate the Six U.N. Security Council Resolutions restricting the regime’s nuclear program. Striking deals with Tehran, as it has been proven in recent months, would only embolden the regime to continue its nuclear program and malign activities. Western powers should once and for all end Tehran’s race toward an atomic bomb by imposing sanctions on the regime. The Iranian regime should know that its provocative actions and extortion come at a very high price. This would certainly end the regime’s malign activities in the region.