Tillerson holds Iran deal talks with IAEA chief

The Washington Times– Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held private talks with head of the United Nations atomic watchdog agency Thursday in the first direct meeting between the outfit monitoring the Iranian nuclear accord and a senior official from the Trump administration, which has been sharply critical of the 2015 deal.

The State Department’s public schedule listed the meeting between Mr. Tillerson and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director Yukiya Amano. But the department’s press arm offered no further details and declined to comment on who else was attending the meeting.

An IAEA spokesman told The Washington Times that Mr. Amano was meeting with the U.S. secretary of state “and other senior U.S. officials in Washington,” but also declined to give other details.

It is likely the meeting focused on the nuclear accord that the Obama administration helped broker between Iran, the U.S. and five other world powers, to lift economic sanctions on the Islamic republic in exchange or restrictions to its atomic material stockpiles and nuclear research activities.

President Trump railed against the accord on the campaign trail last year, at one point calling it “the worst deal ever negotiated.” It remains to be seen whether new administration will work with Republicans and some hawkish democrats to try and undue or rewrite parts of the deal, or undercut it by imposing a wide slate of new sanctions against Iran.

Mr. Tillerson has called for a “full review” of the accord.

It’s against that backdrop that Mr. Amano, whose agency is in charge of policing the restrictions put on Iran under the accord, arrived for Thursday’s meeting at State Department headquarters in Washington.

Reuters noted that the IAEA chief, who is Japanese, has publicly argued in favor of the nuclear deal, describing it as a “net gain.”

The news agency also noted that the IAEA produced a quarterly report on Iran last week that said the Islamic republic’s stock of enriched uranium — material that could be used to make a nuclear bomb — had roughly halved after coming close to the limit of what it is allowed under the accord with major powers.