Top nuclear watchdog: Lack of Iran deal leaves agency 'flying blind'

Top nuclear watchdog: Lack of Iran deal leaves agency 'flying blind'
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Rafael Mariano Grossi, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said in an interview that aired on Sunday that his agency was "flying blind" due to not having a deal in place with Iran.

Speaking with Axios's Margaret Talev, Grossi said it is "essential to have a deal" with Iran "because Iran has a very big, ambitious, sophisticated, developed nuclear program."

Talev noted that the absence of a deal prevented the IAEA from monitoring Iran's nuclear program. The country has recently made moves to limit the IAEA's monitoring capabilities, briefly threatening to end its access to surveillance cameras, though Iran later agreed to a one-month extension.

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The IAEA said in May that it has not been able to access data necessary to monitor the Iranian nuclear program since February.

"As I say, we are flying blind," Grossi commented to Talev.

Talev also noted that Israel is known to have a nuclear program, though it has never publicly disclosed information regarding its arsenal.

"I wouldn't go into the analysis of individual political stances of countries but it is obvious and this has been said publicly," Grossi said, though he acknowledged there was an "opaqueness" when it came to Israel's nuclear program. "But some leaders in this region [have said] that the presence of a new nuclear arsenal would trigger a nuclear arms race in the region."

"We do have a relationship with Israel and we do inspect the facilities that are outside the program," Grossi said, telling Talev that the IAEA believes Israel should join the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Negotiations for Iran to reenter the nuclear deal are still ongoing in Vienna, with the U.S. engaging indirectly through allies. Last week, the U.S. lifted some sanctions on Iranian officials following a stall in the negotiation. Sanctions on companies that ship and trade petrochemical products as well as sanctions on former senior National Iranian Oil Co. officials were lifted.

However, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that there was “absolutely no connection” between the lifting of these sanctions and the Iran nuclear deal negotiations.

"These actions demonstrate our commitment to lifting sanctions in the event of a change in status or behavior by sanctioned persons,” Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenMore than 180 local employees working at US embassy, consulates in Russia laid off Duterte restores pact allowing US war exercises Blinken urges Tunisian president to return country to 'democratic path as quickly as possible' MORE stated.