US: Iran Threat to Kick Out UN Nuclear Inspectors Would Violate Key Treaty

US Secy. of State Mike Pompeo and PM Netanyahu. Illustrative. Photo courtesy of Amos Ben-Gershom (Israeli GPO)

After Iranian legislator Ahmad Amirabadi threatened on Saturday to expel United Nations nuclear inspectors next month if sanctions are not lifted, outgoing United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that move would be even more egregious than prior Iran nuclear violations. Pompeo said kicking out inspectors from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would go “much further” than Iran’s withdrawal from commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The top US diplomat said the inspector expulsion would violate the critical Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) that is foundational to UN nuclear rules.

“Every nation, not only the United States, will attach great importance to Iran’s compliance with these obligations.  Nuclear brinksmanship will not strengthen Iran’s position, but instead lead to further isolation and pressure,” said Pompeo in comments on Saturday published by the State Department.

However, Pompeo won’t be able to respond to Iran’s actions for much longer, as he is set to be replaced by Antony Blinken once US President-elect Joe Biden takes office on January 20. Lawmaker Amirabadi, who is a member of the Iranian Parliament’s Presiding Board, specifically noted the incoming US administration as a reason for the February 21 deadline they set for sanctions to be lifted. Amirabadi said that would give the Biden Administration a full month to act, with clear consequences if they don’t.

“We will definitely expel the IAEA inspectors from the country” if sanctions are not removed, the Fars News Agency quoted Amirabadi as saying. The sanctions Iran most wants to see lifted, according to the legislator, are those in the finance, banking and oil sectors.

Pompeo, in his response to the Iranian threat, pointed out that this comes after the Iranian Parliament passed a law in December requiring IAEA inspectors to be expelled if sanctions are not lifted. He said Iran has a “legal treaty obligation to allow IAEA inspector access pursuant to Iran’s NPT-required safeguards agreement.”

Pompeo said this latest Iran threat follows Tehran’s announcement they had resumed enriching uranium to the medical-research level of 20%, a key step towards the military-grade 90% level needed for fueling nuclear weapons. “Once again the Iranian regime is using its nuclear program to extort the international community and threaten regional security,” said Pompeo, whose country has imposed the most serious sanctions on Iran in an effort to pressure Tehran to stop malign behavior.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week thanked outgoing US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin for the US “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign against Iran, for which Mnuchin’s department “played a crucial role… in this tremendously important campaign.”

“It must be continued [after the Biden Administration takes office] to prevent Iran from continuing its campaign of aggression and terror throughout the region and to prevent Iran from rushing to a nuclear arsenal,” said Netanyahu in comments published by his office last Thursday.

President-elect Biden is widely expected to rejoin the nuclear deal with Iran, although it’s unknown if he would seek additional commitments from Iran or just return the US to the JCPOA deal and the sanctions relief therein.

“If we just go back to the JCPOA, what will happen and may already be happening is that many other countries in the Middle East will rush to arm themselves with nuclear weapons,” said Netanyahu. “That is a nightmare and that is folly. It should not happen.”

Meanwhile, the current US government has made their view of Iran’s nuclear actions very clear—and that continued with the latest Iranian threat.

Said Pompeo, “The United States fully supports the IAEA’s continued professional and independent verification and monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program. Iran’s expulsion of international inspectors must be met by universal condemnation.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, January 10, 2021)

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