Diplomacy

EXCLUSIVE: IAEA Official Stepping Down Over Iran Enforcement Failures

The number two official at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was forced to step down over disagreements regarding Iran’s nuclear program with his boss, the Japanese Director General (DG) Yukiya Amano. Officially it was announced last month that the contract of the Belgian Herman Nackaerts would not be renewed after only three years as Deputy DG and head of the important Department of Safeguards.

During his term Nackaertes failed to boost the UN nuclear watchdog’s inspections of Iran’s nuclear program. His major failure was the inability to force Iran to allow IAEA inspectors to visit the military site at Parchin, where Israeli, American, and British intelligence suspect that Iran has conducted tests revelant to the development of nuclear warheads.

Well informed source in Vienna, where IAEA is based, told The Tower that at the heart of the dispute between the DG and his Deputy was the question of how to proceed with the Iranian rejection of the IAEA demand. “It is not a secret here,” said the source, “that Iran has turned the IAEA into a laughingstock with its delaying tactics in regard to Parchin and its nuclear program in general. Some officials argued that the IAEA has to stop the farce by ending the useless talks with Iran about Parchin.”

Nackaerts was accused by the DG and some other top officials of being too soft toward Iran. But other sources point out that Amano, who has the overall responsibility for formulating the policy, was equally to blame.

In the last two years, while rejecting the IAEA requests to open the site for inspection, Iran has been involved in intensive work to conceal past work and remove any traces which could have been used to prove the nature of the nuclear activity there. Buildings at the site were destroyed, soil was removed, and recently the suspected zone was paved over with asphalt.

Nackaertes will be replaced in October 2013 by Tero Varjoranta of Finland who is his country’s director of the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK). Varjoranata will be the second Finn in three years to lead the department, whose major task in recent years has been to deal with Iran’s rush to obtain nuclear weapons. Nackaerts’s predecessor was also a Finn, the combative Dr. Olli Heinonen, who is now a Senior Fellow at the Belfer center at Harvard University.

The sources assume that there will be no policy change when Tero Varjoranata assumes office.

[Photo: IAEA Imagebank / Flickr]