ISIS Iran Report

Tensions Rise over Iran and Syria at IAEA Board of Governors Meeting, Ahead of U.N. Meet

Tensions Rise over Iran and Syria at IAEA Board of Governors Meeting, Ahead of U.N. Meet photo

September 17, 2010

At the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors meeting this week, several Western countries (and IAEA Director General Amano) called on Iran to stop preventing the IAEA from doing its job by limiting information and access by qualified inspectors.  Western countries also called for IAEA access to Syria’s suspected nuclear installations, including the Dair Alzour site of a suspected nuclear reactor bombed by Israel in 2007.  In response, Iranian and Syrian diplomats attempted to deflect attention by calling for the IAEA to instead investigate Israel for evidence related to the bombing.  Tensions also appeared to rise ahead of next week’s opening of the 65th U.N. General Assembly and P5+1 meeting on Iran, with the U.N. envoys of the United States, France, and Britain calling for stricter implementation and reporting on country enforcement of United Nations Security Council sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program.

Wednesday’s 35-nation IAEA Board of Governor proceedings saw the issue of the alleged Syrian nuclear program brought to debate. According to Reuters, both the United States and European Union envoys circled the issue of an IAEA special inspection of the Syrian sites, with the United States indicating it “strongly support[s] the secretariat’s use of all tools at its disposal to verify Syria’s compliance with its safeguards obligations,” and the EU lamenting, “necessary information concerning the Dair Alzour site is deteriorating or at risk of being lost entirely.”  On Thursday, according to the Associated Press, U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, Glyn Davies, directly raised the issue of a special inspection in Syria.  He said that time was running out for Syria to cooperate with the IAEA, a possible signal of the United States’ intention to seek further action on the issue at the U.N. Security Council. 

Syria’s envoy dismissed the need for additional IAEA visits, claiming Syria has already provided proof that the site was for non-military purposes.  The Iranian and Syrian envoys each called for inspections of Israel to determine the origin of uranium particles found at the bombed site, which Syria (and now Iran) claim came from Israeli missiles used to raze the facility.  The IAEA has rejected as unlikely Syria’s claims that uranium particles came from Israeli missiles.  Iran spoke out in Syria’s defense, calling demands for inspections of the country political and amounting to harassment.  Iran and Syria also accused the IAEA of leaking sensitive information, and supported calls by Arab countries for a resolution at next week’s IAEA full member conference that would pressure Israel to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

U.S., French, and British diplomats also targeted Iran with calls ahead of next week’s U.N. General Assembly and planned P5+1 meeting for all countries to implement and better report on their enforcement of Security Council sanctions on Iran.  On Wednesday, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed the sanctions as having no effect.     

For more on a special inspection in Syria, see a recent ISIS report, “If Not Now, When? Time for an IAEA Special Inspection in Syria.”

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