With talks between Iran and the P5+1 group set to resume today for the first time in more than a year, the Iranian delegation will likely be troubled that the UN atomic agency chief — who doesn’t play a role in the negotiations — is seen by U.S. diplomats as sympathetic to U.S. positions on the nuclear standoff with Iran.
According to two cables released by the British Guardian newspaper (though not yet released by the anti-secrecy Wikileaks organization), Yukiya Amano, who took over as IAEA chief a year ago, said that his role would be less political than his predecessor (Mohamad El Baradai) and that he saw the IAEA primarily as a party to the safeguards agreement with Iran. In other words, he thinks the IAEA role in any P5+1 negotiations ought to be limited.
However, several months later, Amano told a U.S. diplomat that while the full body of the IAEA required him (rightly) to be impartial, “he was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision.” This includes “the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program,” according to the cable’s author.
In the lead-up to this week’s negotiations, Amano called on Iran to be more cooperative with the IAEA and cited “outstanding issues which give rise to concerns about possible military dimensions to its nuclear program,” according to Scott Peterson in the Christian Science Monitor.
Peterson goes on:
But Iran may now see such criticism as part of a broader anti-Iranian slant, given a leaked American diplomatic cable from October 2009 that portrays Amano to be in lockstep with key aspects of US policy.
“It will give the Iranians another lever to apply in pursuance of a weapons-grade program,” says John Large, an independent nuclear expert in London. “For Iran, it really does mean that they don’t have a representative, they clearly don’t have the ear of anyone at the IAEA.”
The Guardian also rounds up and contextualizes related cables, concluding that Amano and the U.S. have a “cozy” relationship.
However, Peterson notes that since the IAEA plays such a technical role, its possible that, should even Iranian allegations of a bias against them be true, there may not be any concrete adverse consequences for Iran:
Despite the Iranian interpretation of an anti-Iran slant from Amano – and stronger IAEA language toward Iran in the past year – any such bias may have a limited impact because of the technical nature of inspections and safeguard compliance.