The Israeli prime minister has disputed the UN watchdog’s statement that attacks on nuclear power plants are “forbidden”.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted that the option of attacking an Iranian nuclear facility is compromised “self defense” must remain on the table, arguing that the chief of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is a “unworthy” statement when he stated that such strikes are prohibited.
“Are we forbidden to defend ourselves?” Netanyahu said this during a cabinet meeting on Sunday. “Of course we may, and of course we do this… Nothing will prevent us from protecting our country and preventing oppressors from destroying the Jewish state.”
Netanyahu’s diatribe came a day after IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi was asked by a reporter about the US and Israel’s threats to attack Iran if it does not agree to curb its nuclear program.
“Any military attack on a nuclear facility is prohibited, falls outside the normative structures we all adhere to. Grossi said this at a press conference in Tehran after a meeting with Iranian leaders. That principle applies to all nuclear installations, including Europe’s largest nuclear installation in Zaporozhye.
Netanyahu said such a ban could not apply to Israel. “Rafael Grossi is a worthy person who made an unworthy remark” he said. “Prohibited by what law? May Iran, which is publicly calling for our extermination, protect its weapons of destruction that will slaughter us?”
Grossi’s trip to Tehran apparently paid off, as Iranian officials agreed to restore the UN watchdog’s access to some surveillance tools in the country’s nuclear facilities. The IAEA also increased inspections at the Fordo nuclear site, as well as additional verification and monitoring activities.
“These are not words,” Grossi told reporters on his return to Vienna on Saturday. “This is very concrete.”
Tehran has denied any ambition to acquire nuclear weapons. Iran signed a deal with the US and other world powers in 2015, agreeing to impose restrictions on its nuclear industry, including uranium enrichment, to allay fears about nuclear warhead development. Washington backtracked on the agreement in 2018, when then-US President Donald Trump said he would instead apply “maximum pressure” through sanctions against Iran to curtail its nuclear program.