September 18, 2023 | Flash Brief

IAEA Loses Sight of Iran’s Nuclear Program as Hostages-For-Prisoners Exchange Proceeds

September 18, 2023 | Flash Brief

IAEA Loses Sight of Iran’s Nuclear Program as Hostages-For-Prisoners Exchange Proceeds

Latest Developments

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) condemned Tehran on September 16 for barring about one-third of the agency’s inspectors from Iran’s nuclear facilities. Iran made the unilateral decision just two days before five Americans held hostage by the regime for years embarked on a flight to Washington following a prisoners-for-hostages deal with the United States that provides Iran with $6 billion in sanctions relief.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said Iran’s comprehensive safeguards agreement pursuant to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty “formally permits” Tehran’s decision, but the move “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.” The United States and the E3 — the United Kingdom, France, and Germany — echoed Grossi’s concern in a statement on September 18, calling for Iran to reverse its decision.

Expert Analysis

“Iran is ejecting IAEA inspectors from the country against the backdrop of a strategically incoherent U.S.-Iran hostage and ransom deal. Washington should call for an emergency IAEA Board of Governors meeting and provide a deadline for Tehran to reverse its obstruction of international monitoring. Congress, meanwhile, must intervene and halt all further sanctions relief by the Biden administration to the regime.” Andrea Stricker, FDD Research Fellow and Deputy Director of FDD’s Nonproliferation and Biodefense Program

“That Tehran feels so emboldened to ban UN nuclear inspectors on the same weekend the United States delivers another $6 billion for the regime’s use demonstrates how naive and dangerous the appeasement posture toward Tehran really is.” Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

Sixty-Three Countries Call for Iran to Resolve Outstanding Safeguards Issues

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani blamed the United States and the E3 for precipitating Tehran’s ejection of the IAEA inspectors. At an IAEA Board of Governors meeting last week, 63 countries, led by the United States and the E3, demanded that Iran explain traces of uranium found at two undeclared sites.

The E3 also said last week that they plan to retain their own ballistic missile and nuclear proliferation-related sanctions on Iran past their October 18 sunset dates. However, the countries are not acting to snap back UN sanctions or extend the UN’s missile sanctions.

Secret Nuclear Negotiations

An IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear program released in early September indicated that, despite slowing down its overall uranium enrichment rates, Iran has expanded its stock of highly-enriched uranium, including at 60 percent enrichment levels, which mark 99 percent of the effort needed to produce weapons-grade uranium at 90 percent enrichment. The revelation, along with Iran’s latest ejection of inspectors, points to the ineffectiveness of the indirect negotiations between the United States and Iran.

Analysis of IAEA Iran Verification and Monitoring Report – September 2023,” by David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, Spencer Faragasso, and Andrea Stricker

It’s Up to Congress to Stop the Iranian Nuclear Threat,” by Andrea Stricker

Biden has a secret, illegal deal with Iran that gives mullahs everything they want,” by Richard Goldberg

New Iran Deal Could Spell End to IAEA Investigation,” by Andrea Stricker


International Organizations Iran Iran Human Rights Iran Nuclear Nonproliferation