U.S. Statement on Safeguards Matters in Iran
As delivered by Ambassador Jackie Wolcott
At a Special Meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors
Vienna, November 7, 2019
The acting Director General of the IAEA called an unprecedented meeting of the Board today to hear his report on safeguards matters in Iran. This is an emergency, unplanned meeting of the Board to inform us – the governing body of the IAEA – that Iran is not cooperating adequately on crucial aspects of its safeguards obligations with the agency, and that the circumstances are so critical that it was necessary to convene and alert us in this way.
When the Acting Director General first flagged a safeguards-related concern for the Board’s awareness in September, he stated that “time was of the essence” in addressing these issues. The updates we received yesterday at the Technical Briefing presented by Deputy Director General Aparo, and today in the Acting Director General’s opening statement, show that after two more months these issues have not been adequately addressed. These updates paint a deeply troubling picture of Iran’s safeguards-related interactions with the Agency. Time was of the essence in September; now that time is up. That the Acting Director General called this special session to bring these matters to the Board’s attention underscores the gravity and urgency that the Secretariat assigns to the matters, and rightly so. The Board has a responsibility to respond with the same gravity and urgency in support of resolving these issues satisfactorily and without further Iranian delay.
The first issue reported to us can only be seen as an indication of possible undeclared nuclear material in Iran – material that could still be present in Iran today, outside safeguards monitoring. Thus far, Iran has refused to provide – and apparently cannot provide – a credible, verifiable answer to the fundamental question of where the particles detected by the IAEA came from, and where the material and equipment they came from is today.
This is not a question of history, but of whether Iran is in compliance with its safeguards obligations today. This is a significant new revelation that raises questions that lie at the core of Iran’s safeguards obligations and at the heart of the Agency’s essential verification role: has Iran declared to the Agency all of its reportable nuclear material, sites, and facilities? Or is it continuing to conceal sensitive activities from the IAEA? And, if the latter, what more do we all need to insist be done to get to the bottom of Iran’s deceptive and noncompliant behavior? Iran must comply fully with its nuclear safeguards obligations, and must immediately provide the IAEA nothing short of full and immediate cooperation regarding this unexplained nuclear material. Any further delay, denial, or deception by Iran that inhibits the IAEA’s essential nuclear safeguards verification work in Iran is completely unacceptable, and would require that the Board appropriately escalate this issue.
Recognizing the important questions raised by these findings, the Board should note it supports the IAEA’s continued, careful, and independent assessment of all available information on Iran’s nuclear activities, in accordance with the IAEA’s standard safeguards practices and fully within the IAEA’s verification mandate in Iran.
A second issue has been brought to our attention this morning. The detention of an IAEA inspector in Iran is an outrageous provocation. All Board members need to make clear now and going forward that such actions are completely unacceptable, will not be tolerated, and must have consequences. The professional staff of the Agency has the full and unwavering support of the United States, and any effort by Iran to use members of the IAEA Secretariat as political pawns is unequivocally unacceptable. If the Iranian regime thinks it can test the international community’s resolve on this issue, then we assure you the United States will not waver. We welcome the news that the detained inspector is now safely home, and request that the Acting Director General keep the Board fully apprised of any additional details regarding this troubling incident, and report immediately any further harassment of IAEA personnel in the performance of their professional responsibilities in Iran.
We request that the Secretariat keep the Board fully and regularly apprised on these serious safeguards concerns until all open questions are satisfactorily addressed. Regarding the detection of potential undeclared nuclear material, we believe it appropriate for the Acting Director General to provide a written report to the Board in advance of the November 21-22 meeting of the Board of Governors; this is a highly technical matter that warrants a written report so that Board members have the Agency’s authoritative technical analysis on record. It is absolutely essential that all Board consideration of safeguards matters flow from the IAEA’s technical report. In addition, we request that the substance of the Acting Director General’s report to the Board today be made public following the adjournment of this meeting. The absence of the Agency’s authoritative, public voice regarding these urgent and grave matters would cause undesirable speculation and confusion about the reason for this special session. The Acting Director General has responsibly called this session today, and the Secretariat should therefore help ensure the public narrative about our discussion is accurate. To do otherwise could raise troubling questions about the reasons for breaking with the Secretariat’s customary practice of carefully informing the Board of such important safeguards developments in writing, on the record.
Thank you, Madam Chair.