The Israeli PM has challenged the UN watchdog’s statement that any attacks against nuclear plants are “outlawed”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted that the option of attacking an Iranian nuclear facility in “self-defense” must be left on the table, arguing that the chief of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) made an “unworthy” statement when he declared that any such strikes are banned.
“Are we forbidden to defend ourselves?” Netanyahu said on Sunday in a cabinet meeting. “Of course, we are allowed, and of course, we are doing this… Nothing will prevent us from protecting our country and preventing oppressors from destroying the Jewish state.”
Netanyahu’s rant came a day after IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi was asked by a reporter about US and Israeli threats to attack Iran if it doesn’t agree to curb its nuclear program.
“Any military attack on a nuclear facility is outlawed, is out of the normative structures that we all abide by,” Grossi said at a press briefing in Tehran after meeting with Iranian leaders. That principle applies to all nuclear facilities, including Europe’s biggest atomic facility in Zaporozhye.
Netanyahu said no such prohibition could apply to Israel. “Rafael Grossi is a worthy person who made an unworthy remark,” he said. “Outlawed by what law? Is Iran, which publicly calls for our extermination, allowed to protect its weapons of destruction that will slaughter us?”
Grossi’s trip to Tehran apparently paid dividends, as Iranian officials agreed to restore the UN watchdog’s access to some surveillance tools at the country’s nuclear facilities. The IAEA also was granted an increase in inspections at the Fordo nuclear site, as well as additional verification and monitoring activities.
“These are not words,” Grossi told reporters upon his return to Vienna on Saturday. “This is very concrete.”
Tehran has denied having 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 its potential for warhead development. Washington reneged on the agreement in 2018, when then-US President Donald Trump said he would instead apply “maximum pressure” through sanctions on Iran to contain its nuclear program.