Yukiya Amano, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the nuclear watchdog of the United Nations, said in an address in Indonesia on Friday that it cannot be confirmed that all nuclear material in Iran is intended for peaceful purposes.
With that statement, Amano left the door wide open to speculation of just how much nuclear material Iran currently has that the IAEA and the US combined do not know about or cannot stop.
Amano is not the first high ranking official to make such a bold statement. Numerous officials have expressed similar concerns, including former IAEA official Olli Heinonen, former American Director of Central Intelligence General Michael Hayden, and president of the Institute for Science and International Security David Albright.
Iran has yet to come clean about its previous and even current activities. IAEA inspectors have been routinely banned from inspecting certain Iranian nuclear facilities, leading officials to question what exactly Iran is trying to hide.
As Amano pointed out, Iran, who signed the Joint Plan of Action with the P5+1 nations in November 2013, is supposed to have disclosed all of its nuclear activities by now.
Amano’s address validates Israel’s vocal concerns over the Islamic Republic’s ambitions to acquire the bomb. The issue of a nuclear Iran is one which Israel not only takes seriously, but also views as an existential threat. No one has made this point more clear in the recent years than Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has spent countless hours and public speeches declaring the dangers of a nuclear Iran.
In an effort to make his point more acutely felt in the US, Netanyahu accepted an invitation to speak in front of a joint session of Congress, which has severely angered US President Barack Obama, and other various American liberals. According to one senior Obama official, Netanyahu “spat” in the face of Obama by accepting the invitation.
The invitation was issued by the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, who invited Netanyahu to address Congress on the dangers of a nuclear deal and the need for tougher sanctions. US lawmakers have usually been in favor of harsher sanctions against Iran, something which the American president disagrees with.
While the White House said the invitation was a breach of protocol and will refuse to host the prime minister when he is in Washington, Boehner revealed that the White House knew ahead of time of the invitation to Netanyahu.
Meanwhile, critics in Israel have begun to severely chastise Netanyahu for attempting to use the speech as an election campaign ploy and to continue to harm the relationship between the US and Israel. Former Israeli ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, called on Netanyahu to retract his acceptance.
“It’s advisable to cancel the speech to Congress so as not to cause a rift with the American government. Much responsibility and reasoned political behavior are needed to guard interests in the White House,” he said.
It also seems that the move has backfired politically as well. Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Bob Menendez informed the White House this week that the Iran sanctions bill will be withheld from a vote until March 24 to give more leeway for diplomatic negotiations.
Additionally, with the current crisis on the Israeli northern border and the unrest in the south, it is highly unlikely that Israel can afford to open a third front against Iran. While stranger things have happened, especially in Israel, it would not be the most opportune time to attack Iran head-on, in spite of Amano’s warning.