Israel is deeply unhappy with the performance of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Iran, Israeli media has reported.
“Almost all the suspected sites have not been visited by IAEA inspectors, either because of Iran’s refusal to grant entry or UN officials' reluctance to confront Iran on the issue,” the daily Haaretz quoted unnamed Israeli sources as saying on September 17.
“As Director General Yukiya Amano has said, the IAEA has conducted many complementary accesses (CAs) in Iran since Implementation Day of the JCPOA, and will continue to request access to sites and locations before drawing a broader conclusion for the country,” he added.
Israeli Prime Minister Banjamin Netanyahu, who is going to address the United Nations General Assembly in New York, is set to raise the concern during his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump.
A short time after the Haaretz report, the IAEA denied that it has been soft-pedalling over the Iran inspections program. A spokesman said, “This article does not accurately reflect the safeguards work of the IAEA”.
The Haaretz report also maintains that Israeli officials are unhappy with the UN nuclear watchdog's inspection in Iran. The inspectors, Haaretz cites its unnamed sources as saying, prefer to avoid any confrontation with Iran.
According to Haaretz sources, “even when the Iranians granted inspectors access to the suspected sites, it only did so after a substantial amount of time had passed and it created significant obstacles.”
The information concerning suspected sites were provided by a “Western entity,” Haaretz reports.
“In 2016, a few months after the nuclear agreement with Iran went into effect, a Western entity gave the International Atomic Energy Agency information regarding sites the Islamic republic did not report as part of its nuclear program and where, according to suspicions, forbidden nuclear military research and development activity were being conducted,” Haaretz cites according to Israeli officials involved in the issue.
Without naming the Western entity, Haarets asserts, “The Western entity also shared the information with a number of the six world powers who were party to the nuclear agreement.”
Daily Haaretz reiterates, “The officials noted that almost all the suspected sites have not been visited by IAEA inspectors – either because of Iran’s refusal to grant entry or UN officials’ reluctance to confront Iran on the issue.”
The issue of Iran’s nuclear program is expected to be one of the main topics on the table when Netanyahu and Trump meet on September 18.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, (JCPOA) or Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers was ratified in 2015 and implemented in 2016.
Haaretz insists the new information on suspicious sites were relayed a couple of months after JCPOA was implemented.
“There is a whole list of suspicious sites where the Iranians do not allow inspectors to visit and no one enforces the supervision mechanisms established in the nuclear agreement. There is simply a demonstration of weakness in the IAEA when it comes to Iran. The sense is that Iran allows what it wants, and does not allow what it does not want," Haaretz cites one of its unnamed sources as saying.
One of Haaretz’s sources has even gone further, criticizing the whole “mechanism of the inspections,” asserting the inspectors’ regular visits are limited to the sites that used to be inspected even before JCPOA was ratified.
IAEA denies this insisting that so far, its inspectors have been able to visit all sites, as planned.
“However, one of the issues Israel and the West are concerned about regarding the Iranian nuclear program regards the sites Tehran did not reveal, where there is suspected research and development for a military nuclear program,” one of the unnamed sources claims.
Moreover, the source says, “These sites were supposed to be addressed by the IAEA and Iran as part of an agreed track called the “possible military dimensions” of its nuclear program.
An official noted that the Western entity identified, among others, a civilian Iranian site of potential illegal nuclear activity. IAEA inspectors asked Iran to visit the site, but the Iranians did not allow them to visit the site immediately, attempted to raise objections and created bureaucratic obstacles that caused the visit to be substantially delayed.
The officials, according to Haaretz, also said the Iranians refused to allow inspectors to visit a series of other suspicious sites, claiming they were military bases and, therefore, were not covered by the nuclear accord and that they were not required to allow access to inspectors.
Apparently referring to a controversial Iranian military complex, Parchin, about 30 km (roughly 18.5 miles) southeast of the capital, Tehran, Haaretz reports, “The senior officials provided an example of a suspicious site IAEA inspectors had previously toured.
According to the officials, the Western entity supplied information about the suspected site and suggested that it be re-inspected. The inspectors then requested permission to revisit the location. However, the Iranians rejected the request and the visit idea was dropped.”
Without going into specifics, IAEA's response is that that JCPOA has given "broader access to information and locations".
The Trump administration is party to Israeli criticism concerning the lack of adequate IAEA inspections of suspected Iranian sites, Haaretz asserts, adding that Netanyahu was set to highlight the concerns at his meeting with Trump.
A day after the meeting, the Israeli prime minister is expected to deliver a speech at the UN’s annual general assembly in New York.
Before leaving Mexico City for New York on Friday, Netanyahu had reiterated that Iran’s “destabilizing” activities would be at the top of the agenda in his meetings with world leaders.
However, Haaretz had earlier reported that there is no consensus on Iran and JCPOA among Israeli leaders. While Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman have branded the JCPOA as a “bad agreement” that should be canceled or totally amended, the Israeli security entities believe that canceling the deal with Tehran would worsen the situation.
Meanwhile, Trump has reportedly vowed to help Israel ensure Iran does not bolster its power and influence in the Middle East, in particular by filling the power vacuum in Syria.
"The U.S. will not allow Iran to take over Syria. The U.S. will not leave Israel alone in this arena," a senior U.S. official quoted Trump as saying in remarks to the daily newspaper Israel Hayom.
Israel has warned that it will use any means necessary to prevent Iran from establishing a foothold in Syria, and especially to deny the transfer of game-changing weaponry to Iran's Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, the newspaper said.