Iran Kicks Out Third of Nuclear Inspectors in ‘Unprecedented’ Response to Western Sanctions

Iran and world powers continue to clash over nuclear issues. Illustrative official meeting in Iran. Photo Courtesy of UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Europe last week chose to continue sanctions on Iran because of Tehran’s troubling nuclear activities, so how did Iran respond? With more troubling nuclear activities.

Iran kicked out several “experienced” inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), according to an announcement on Saturday, in a move IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi strongly condemned as “disproportionate” and an “unprecedented unilateral measure.” This follows the prior expulsion of another experienced inspector.

“Iran has effectively removed about one third of the core group of the Agency’s most experienced inspectors designated for Iran,” said Grossi in a statement posted to the IAEA website. “This measure, while formally permitted by the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty] Safeguards Agreement, has been exercised by Iran in a manner that affects in a direct and severe way the ability of the IAEA to conduct effectively its inspections in Iran.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in comments published by his office on Sunday ahead of his trip to the United States, said the Iranian regime is showing its true form and he plans to discuss this with other world leaders.

“Today, the world is seeing—and I will certainly emphasize this—that Iran is violating all of its commitments, that it brazenly lies, and that it intends both to develop nuclear weapons and continue its aggression in the region. We will confront both of these together,” said Netanyahu.

Iran expelled the IAEA inspectors after the European Union (EU) trio of France, Germany and the United Kingdom chose to maintain sanctions and weapons embargos against Iran that had been set to expire under the defunct nuclear accord known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In a statement on Thursday, the three EU nations explained the decision to retain sanctions on Iran was “fully compliant” with the provisions of the JCPOA due to Iran’s violations of the JCPOA after withdrawing from its requirements.

“Iran has refused opportunities to return to the JCPOA twice and has continued to expand its program beyond JCPOA limitations and without any credible civilian justification. Its enriched uranium stockpile stands at more than 18 times the amount permitted under the JCPOA,” said the joint statement published by Germany’s Federal Foreign Office. “Our commitment to finding a diplomatic solution remains… We stand ready to reverse our decision, should Iran fully implement its JCPOA commitments.”

Iran’s Foreign Ministry, in a series of posts to X—formerly known as Twitter—called their actions regarding the JCPOA “legitimate.” In the posts, Iran claimed their efforts to enrich uranium for nuclear fuel at a level approaching weapon’s grade was “completely legal” in response to the United States withdrawing from the JCPOA, after attempts by the US to bolster the accord failed.

One day after Iran’s posts attacking the EU sanctions, Iran announced they had kicked out the IAEA inspectors. Grossi’s statement said the Iranian move to expel the inspectors “openly contradicts the cooperation that should exist between the [IAEA] and Iran.”

“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,” said Grossi. “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.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, September 17, 2023)

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