The International Atomic Energy Agency last week condemned Iran for failing to cooperate with the U.N. agency regarding its nuclear program but stopped short of more concrete action due to fears of sparking an Iranian counter-reaction.
Those fears are based on concerns that the Israel-Hamas war will broaden into a regional conflict. However, some observers say this is a mistaken assumption.
A senior diplomat said Western hesitancy to rebuke Iran has had the opposite of its intended effect and only “emboldened” Tehran.
Kelsey Davenport of the Arms Control Association told AFP that viewing Iran “in a vacuum” and failing to hold it accountable “sends the wrong signal to Tehran and other would-be proliferators.”
Eyal Pinko, a researcher and lecturer at Bar-Ilan University, who served for years in Israeli intelligence, told JNS that the argument that taking a hard line on Iran could lead it to escalate the current conflict was “irrelevant,” adding, “This is already a regional war.”
“This is much, much more than a Hamas-Israel issue. The whole [Oct. 7 attack] was to stop Saudi peace agreements, allow the Iranians to move forward with the nuclear program and the Russians to move forward in Ukraine, while the Chinese take advantage and weaken the United States. This is a multi-dimensional war even though it’s hidden below the radar for some people,” he said.
Iran has continually defied IAEA resolutions, and in mid-September barred agency inspectors from overseeing its nuclear activities.
While IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi condemned Iran’s action, it went no further.
A confidential IAEA report this month revealed that Iran is still stonewalling the agency.
Pinko, who has a dim view of the IAEA’s effectiveness, said, “Iran has been fooling this organization for many years. Iran keeps developing the nuclear program without the IAEA doing anything to stop it. What’s needed are sanctions and more sanctions, but [the IAEA does] nothing.”
In February, IAEA inspectors detected uranium enriched to 84% in Iran, the highest level found by monitors in the country at that point, and just below the 90% level considered military-grade.
Iran in theory has enough enriched uranium to manufacture three bombs, according to another confidential IAEA report released last week, AFP reported.
U.S. policy is unfortunately of a piece with the IAEA, said Pinko. “The United States is not responding to any of the Iranian moves, including attacking its forces recently,” he said.
“The U.S. shows weakness towards the Russia-China-Iran-North Korea alliance. The will to avoid any kind of conflict is harming U.S. power and deterrence in [such] countries. This is translated as weakness, not as power,” said Pinko.