The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced on Saturday that Iran has decided to cancel the appointments of several experienced agency inspectors, in addition to the cancellation of the appointment of another experienced inspector that was carried out recently and passed relatively quietly. In fact, Iran has decided to remove from its territory about a third of IAEA most experienced inspectors, who have unique knowledge in enrichment technology, who performed essential verification work in the enrichment facilities that are under IAEA control.
The head of the IAEA, Raphael Grossi, said in his statement, in which he strongly condemned Iran's step, that this directly and severely affects the agency's ability to effectively carry out its mission: "I strongly condemn this disproportionate and unprecedented unilateral measure which affects the normal planning and conduct of Agency verification activities in Iran and openly contradicts the cooperation that should exist between the Agency and Iran".
From Grossi's words, it can be concluded that the effectiveness, efficiency, and relevance of the control operations on behalf of the IAEA are questionable and may go down the drain, in light of the well-known and predicted Iranian conduct. As he said: " This profoundly regrettable decision by Iran is another step in the wrong direction and constitutes an unnecessary blow to an already strained relationship between the IAEA and Iran in the implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement. Without effective cooperation, confidence and trust will continue to be elusive and the Agency will not be in a position to discharge effectively its verification mandate in Iran and provide credible assurances that nuclear material and activities in Iran are for peaceful purposes."
The decision of the Iranians at this time is not coincidental, it comes at a subsequent timing to a sequence of events. The first of them happened just a day before, when France, Germany and Great Britain announced the extension of the arms embargo imposed by the Security Council on Iran, which was to expire in about a month, on October 18. The second event happened about three weeks ago, after the submission of a report on the state of nuclear enrichment in Iran, according to which the stockpile of enriched uranium was increased to a level of up to 60%. The third event is the prisoner exchange agreement that was signed between Iran and the United States at the beginning of August and whose implementation actually began this week.
Other factors, which have a certain weight that has an impact on the timing of the decision, are the UN General Assembly that occurs now, and on the sidelines of things also the internal situation in Israel, which inspires hope in the Iranians. This is as the commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, was able to express recently: "The Zionists are now involved in many problems and the chances of their collapse and extinction are obvious, if the eliminations in the past increased your confidence - then continue. But be aware... because your life will be shortened."
An expected move
This step by Iran is another expected step, consistent with its policy towards obtaining nuclear weapons. As we know, Iran has been "playing" with the inspectors, the Western countries and the UN for about two decades, in different ways that have one purpose - to gain time and put the world to sleep, or at least get used to it, before the 'no return' stage.
For more than two decades, Iran has been playing a kind of "Chess" with the Western world. It takes measured, cunning and calculated steps, which accustom everyone to a unique rhythm and style that match the pace of development of the nuclear program and its interests only. This while taking advantage of the world's innocence, ignorance and continued indifference to the rules of the game, which some believe was invented in ancient Persia. A mind game whose moves lead Iran to produce a bomb, neutralizing it will probably lead to the start of a war, which not many people in the world are willing to pay the price for in the absence of an actual existential threat to them first.
Among the game measures taken by Iran, it is worth mentioning, on the one hand, the prevention of inspection of its nuclear sites, as happened on September 26, 2021, when the access of inspectors to the site used for the production of centrifuges in the city of Karaj was denied; Arresting, harassing and expelling inspectors; Disconnecting surveillance cameras at nuclear sites; Production of prohibited substances and gradual nuclear intensification; Delay in providing explanations for anomalies found on nuclear sites; The "smearing" of time in negotiations and signing conditional cooperation agreements, which are not necessarily worth the paper they are signed upon.
On the other hand, Iran periodically makes cautious moves that soften its extremist image and give a glimmer of (false) hope to the world, in the form of: prisoner exchanges, providing limited access to closed or suspicious sites, conducting material tests and more. As mentioned, none of these acts of diversion stopped the Iranian military nuclear program, at most it delayed her for a while. All of these measures happens while Iran is wisely accustoming the IAEA and the Western countries to the "temperature" of the 'heavy water' needed by nuclear reactors, which is getting closer and closer to a lethal boiling point, like a frog boiling for pleasure in a pot, until it dies.
A concluding message
With or without inspectors, Iran continues to impose on everyone, violate agreements and, above all, promote its military nuclear program to the best of its ability for several decades. The international community clucks its tongue, issuing weak condemnation that fades away in the absence of actual and determined operative measures to prevent Iran from realizing its plans.
In an interview with the weekly "Newsweek" from the beginning of 2006, the head of the IAEA at the time, Muhammad al-Baradei, warned Iran against removing the international inspectors from Iran, as it threatened to do, if it was referred to the Security Council. He also added and said: "We are coming to the decisive test in the coming weeks. Diplomacy is not just talk. Diplomacy needs to be backed up by pressure and in extreme cases by force. I still want to prevent escalation, but the International Atomic Energy Agency cannot be fooled. I have an obligation and I want to fulfill it."
In response to the removal of the IAEA inspectors from Iran and the announcement of the agency's secretary general on Saturday, the following response from the Israeli Prime Minister's Office was published: "Israel is not surprised by Iran's actions which prove that it is violating all its commitments to the international community and intends to arm itself with nuclear weapons. The Prime Minister repeats that Israel will do everything that is needed to protect itself from this threat."
It seems that Iran has not changed anything about its intentions over the years, and is still using the same tactics in the "Chess game" it is playing with the world. For Israel, the threat is growing and the window of time for action is shrinking as the New Year approaches.
Col. (Res.) Tal Braun is a Member of IDSF and a strategic consultant.