The Washington Post reports: Iran is ratcheting up pressure on the U.N. agency responsible for overseeing the country’s nuclear program, accusing its inspectors of engaging in spying and sabotage and threatening to restrict U.N. access to Iranian nuclear facilities.
So strident has been Iran’s criticism of the International Atomic Energy Agency in recent weeks that some Western officials fear that the country is preparing to officially downgrade its cooperation with the nuclear watchdog. The Vienna-based agency is the only international body allowed to routinely visit Iran’s most sensitive nuclear installations.
The IAEA’s notoriously troubled relations with the Islamic Republic deteriorated sharply last month after Iran reported attacks by alleged saboteurs on electrical grids serving its two uranium-enrichment plants. Since then, Iranian officials have alleged the agency was directly involved in the attacks, accusations leveled in private meetings as well as in public statements, according to Western diplomats and government officials briefed on the exchanges.
IAEA officials initially rejected the allegations as absurd. Since then, the agency’s internal assessments have been unable to confirm that the attacks occurred at all, according to two European diplomats privy to the internal review.
Iran’s nuclear facilities are known to have been targeted by saboteurs in the past, notably in a series of covert cyberattacks attributed to the United States and Israel. But the lack of supporting evidence for any IAEA involvement in recent sabotage has underscored concerns that Iran is seeking a pretext for curtailing cooperation with U.N. inspectors, the diplomats said. [Continue reading…]