Head of UN’s Nuclear Watchdog Warns Iran Is ‘Not Entirely Transparent’ on Its Atomic Program 

Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency speaks at the panel session during the second day of the World Government Summit in Dubai on February 13, 2024. (AFP)
Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency speaks at the panel session during the second day of the World Government Summit in Dubai on February 13, 2024. (AFP)
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Head of UN’s Nuclear Watchdog Warns Iran Is ‘Not Entirely Transparent’ on Its Atomic Program 

Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency speaks at the panel session during the second day of the World Government Summit in Dubai on February 13, 2024. (AFP)
Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency speaks at the panel session during the second day of the World Government Summit in Dubai on February 13, 2024. (AFP)

The head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog warned Tuesday that Iran is "not entirely transparent" regarding its atomic program, particularly after an official who once led Tehran's program announced the country has all the pieces for a weapon "in our hands."

Speaking at the World Government Summit in Dubai, Rafael Mariano Grossi, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, alluded to remarks made this weekend by Ali Akbar Salehi. Grossi noted "an accumulation of complexities" in the wider Middle East amid Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Iran, after the collapse of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, has pursued nuclear enrichment just below weapons-grade levels. Tehran has accumulated enough enriched uranium to build several weapons, if it so chose. However, US intelligence agencies and others assess that Iran has yet to begin a weapons program. Israel long has been believed to have its own nuclear weapons program.

Iran is "presenting a face which is not entirely transparent when it comes to its nuclear activities. Of course, this increases dangers," Grossi warned. "There's loose talk about nuclear weapons more and more, including in Iran recently. A very high official said, in fact, we have everything, it’s disassembled. Well, please let me know what you have."

Grossi did not identify the official. However, in a late night Iranian state television show on Sunday, Salehi appeared and said that the country had all it needed to build a weapon.

"We have all the (pieces) of nuclear science and technology. Let me give an example," Salehi said. "What does a car need? It needs a chassis, it needs an engine, it needs a steering wheel, it needs a gearbox. Have you made a gearbox? I say yes. An engine? But each one is for its own purpose."

Salehi made a similar comment Saturday.

"We have it in our hands," he said then.

Since 2022, Iranian officials have spoken openly about something long denied by Tehran as it enriches uranium at its closest-ever levels to weapons-grade material: Irn is ready to build an atomic weapon at will. That includes Kamal Kharrazi, an adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who told Al Jazeera that Tehran has the ability to build nuclear weapons, but does not intend to do so.

However, Salehi's comments represent a further escalation. He served as the head of the civilian Atomic Energy Organization of Iran under then-President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate within Iran's theocracy who reached the 2015 deal with world powers.

The further hardening of Iran's position comes as militias it arms in the region — Lebanon's Hezbollah and Yemen's Houthi militias — have launched attacks targeting Israel. Meanwhile, the Houthis continue to attack commercial shipping in the region, sparking repeated airstrikes from the US and the United Kingdom.



Taiwan Says China Drills More about Intimidation, Propaganda than Starting War

A man stands on a jetty behind a tourist boat and Chinese flags on Pingtan island, opposite Taiwan in China’s southeast Fujian province on Sunday. (AFP)
A man stands on a jetty behind a tourist boat and Chinese flags on Pingtan island, opposite Taiwan in China’s southeast Fujian province on Sunday. (AFP)
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Taiwan Says China Drills More about Intimidation, Propaganda than Starting War

A man stands on a jetty behind a tourist boat and Chinese flags on Pingtan island, opposite Taiwan in China’s southeast Fujian province on Sunday. (AFP)
A man stands on a jetty behind a tourist boat and Chinese flags on Pingtan island, opposite Taiwan in China’s southeast Fujian province on Sunday. (AFP)

China's military drills last week were more about propaganda and intimidation than starting a war, but Chinese forces did show how they could react quickly, Taiwan's top security official said on Wednesday.
China said it carried out the two days of war games starting Thursday as "punishment" for new President Lai Ching-te's inauguration speech last week, in which he said the two sides of the Taiwan Strait were "not subordinate to each other", which China viewed as a declaration the two are separate countries, Reuters said.
China views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control. Lai rejects China's sovereignty claims, saying only Taiwan's people can decide their future, and has repeatedly offered talks with Beijing but been rebuffed.
Speaking to reporters at parliament, Taiwan National Security Bureau Director-General Tsai Ming-yen said the aim of China's drills was not to go to war.
"The purpose of the military exercises was to intimidate," he said.
The drills were meant to show an external and domestic audience that Beijing "has absolute control over the situation in the Taiwan Strait", Tsai added.
Speaking in Beijing, Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, reiterated its list of complaints about Lai being a dangerous supporter of Taiwan's formal independence, and threatened continued Chinese military activity.
The drills were a "just action to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity", she said.
"As Taiwan's provocations for independence continue, the People's Liberation Army's actions to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity continue."
The government in Taipei says Taiwan is already an independent country, the Republic of China. The Republican government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with Mao Zedong's Communists who set up the People's Republic of China.
China says any decisions on Taiwan's future are for all of China's 1.4 billion people to make, not only Taiwan's 23 million, and has offered a Hong Kong-style "one country, two systems" autonomy model, though that has almost no public support on the island, according to opinion polls.
"Different systems are not an obstacle to reunification, let alone an excuse for separation," Zhu said.
China has never explained how it would integrate Taiwan's vibrant democracy and direct election of its leaders into any plan to govern the island.
China has in the past four years sent its military to areas around Taiwan on an almost daily basis, as it seeks to exert pressure on the island.
But China also appeared to be trying to keep the scope of these drills contained, Tsai's bureau said in a written report to lawmakers, noting there was no declaration of no-fly or no-sail zones and the exercises lasted only two days.
"The intention was to avoid the situation escalating and international intervention, but in the future it is feared (China) will continue its compound coercion against us, gradually changing the Taiwan Strait's status quo," it said.
Tsai added that Chinese forces mobilized almost as soon as China announced the drills early on Thursday.
"The speed was extremely fast, demonstrating rapid mobilization capabilities," he said.