UN nuclear agency picks Argentina’s Rafael Grossi as next chief

Press TV – The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has picked Argentina’s Rafael Grossi as the UN nuclear watchdog’s next director general.

On Tuesday, Grossi, 58, managed to secure the necessary two-thirds in a vote by the agency’s 35-nation Board of Governors to become the next chief of the nuclear watchdog, some three months after his predecessor, Yukiya Amano, died in office.

In a press conference following his victory, Grossi pledged to act independently and neutrally as the new chief of the IAEA.

“I will do my job and I think my job is to implement the mandate in a manner which is independent, which is fair, which is neutral,” Grossi told reporters when asked about Iran’s nuclear deal, which is arguably the most significant challenge he will have to tackle on his road ahead.

Iran and world powers – the United States, France, Britain, China, Russia, and Germany- reached a landmark nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in 2015, under which, nuclear-related sanctions against Iran were lifted in exchange for curbs on Tehran’s nuclear program.

However, US President Donald Trump, a stern critic of the JCPOA, unilaterally withdrew the US from the multilateral deal in May 2018, and unleashed the “toughest ever” sanctions against the Islamic Republic in defiance of global criticism in a bid to strangle the Iranian oil trade.

Despite Washington’s withdrawal from the deal, Tehran remained fully compliant with the JCPOA for an entire year as confirmed by the IAEA in several reports, waiting for the co-signatories to fulfill their end of the bargain by offsetting the impacts of Washington’s sanctions on the Iranian economy.

As the European parties failed to do so, Tehran, in retaliation, has so far rowed back on its nuclear commitments three times in compliance with articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA, and has warned it will take the fourth step if its expectations are not met.

The Islamic Republic, at the same time, has stressed that its retaliatory measures will be reversible as soon as Europe finds practical ways to shield the mutual trade from the US sanctions.

No significant shifts are expected under Grossi as he described on Tuesday the leadership change only an “opportunity to recalibrate,” suggesting he plans moderate reform rather than a thorough overhaul. He also said the IAEA needs to make its voice heard more in international debates.

Although the nuclear watchdog’s board aims to have Grossi take office by January 1, Grossi said that might happen earlier.

Earlier this month, Endo Andri, Venezuelan national radio correspondent, raised concerns that Grossi might have direct links to the US State Department, which is accused of meddling in favor of Argentina’s contender.

Andri also said that an alliance had already been formed in support of Grossi before the IAEA’s vote, accusing him of transmitting secret information in telephone conversations with diplomatic representatives of certain member states of the IAEA.

The Venezuelan correspondent further said that Grossi was approved by Argentinean President, Mauricio Macri, who enjoys close ties with the Israeli regime.

Grossi, a veteran of nuclear diplomacy, worked in senior positions at the UN nuclear agency from 2010 to 2013. Since then, he served as Argentina’s ambassador to the IAEA. He also chairs the quadrennial nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference due to be held in New York next year.