Iran Warns IAEA Chief’s Comments Damage Credibility of Process

Grossi wants 'very technical discussions'

While Iran and the IAEA seemed to be on good terms in recent months, a split is starting to emerge from weekend comments by IAEA chief Rafael Grossi, who is seeking “very technical discussions” on undeclared Iranian uranium, and sites that are not listed in the official documentation.

Israel, and subsequently the US, have long accused Iran of having secret sites, but so far have not come up with solid evidence any of this has happened, and have mostly sent the IAEA to repeatedly search through an old carpet factory, finding what appeared to be trivial amounts of unprocessed uranium, hardly definitive of anything.

Iran has given IAEA access to these accused sites a few times, but has expressed annoyance that they keep wanting to go through them over and over, and never find anything. So long as the allegations continue that there were secret sites, the IAEA seems to be treating the fact that they can’t find anything as proof Iran needs to be more forthcoming with info.

Iranian officials responded to Grossi’s latest comments by warning he’s damaging the credibility of the whole process. It is Iran’s position that these secret sites don’t exist, and that they can’t come clean about things they never did. Kazam Gharibabadi, Iran’s IAEA representative, urged them to stop clinging to “over-two-decade-old allegations.”

That’s how detailed talks about what may have happened lead only to more talks, and nothing ever gets resolved. Iran seemed to have hoped giving Grossi early access would wrap things up, and allow them to move beyond allegations and get back to trying to get the nuclear deal back to functioning.

The path to saving the nuclear deal is farily straightforward, getting the sanctions relief in place, which Iran assures will lead them to reverse all other measures that are outside of compliance. Iran has been promising that for a long time, but so far no real attempts have been made on sanctions relief, something that was expected when President Biden took office.

Instead, US officials are trying to play “tough” with Iran by holding off on any moves until they give Grossi what he wants, which once again is admissions of things they don’t appear to have ever done, and evidence that never existed. This just maintains a status quo that satisfies no one.

It’s not clear where anyone goes from here, though it is clear that saving the nuclear deal is a lot more achievable than interminable investigations into phantom sites. Iran’s remains the most closely watched civilian nuclear program on the planet, and if they can’t prove the existence of large alternate sites, it should underscore that such sites don’t exist.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.