It was a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board, which, considering the controversy between Iran and the IAEA, was not an unimportant gathering. So when Ambassador Joseph Macmanus walked out after the Iranian envoy made his blood libel against Israel, there was a particular gravity to the action that wouldn’t have been present in another forum.
Officials from Canada and Australia also left the closed-door meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) 35-nation governing board when Iran’s Ali Asghar Soltanieh made his statement during a debate on Syria, they said.
They later returned to the closed-door IAEA meeting, where such action is unusual though it has happened before in other international forums.
Soltanieh was not immediately available for comment. Iran has often criticized Israeli policies towards the Palestinians. It has also said Israel would be wiped “off the face of the earth” if the Jewish state attacked it.
U.S. envoy Joseph Macmanus’s walkout highlighted tensions with Tehran a few hours after he accused the Islamic Republic of a “commitment to deception, defiance, and delay” in addressing IAEA concerns about possible nuclear weapons-related research.
The European Union also used the meeting to call on Iran to stop obstructing an IAEA investigation and give the agency access to sites and documents, regardless of broader talks between Iran and world powers that resumed last week.
Some diplomats say Iran is using its meetings with the IAEA merely for leverage in negotiations with world powers which, unlike the U.N. agency, have the power to ease sanctions that they have recently tightened on the major oil producer.
“Iran is inviting further isolation, pressure and censure from the international community … until it meets its obligations and addresses the board’s concerns,” Macmanus said.
During the debate on Iran, which happened before the board turned its attention to Syria, Soltanieh said the allegations over his country’s nuclear work were “baseless” and suggested the IAEA, not Tehran, was to blame for the failure so far to revive the stalled inquiry.
Saying U.N. inspectors had found no evidence of any diversion of nuclear material or activities to military purposes, Soltanieh told the board: “Nuclear weapons have no place in the defense doctrine of Iran.”
Macmanus accused Iran of “provocative actions”, particularly the installation of advanced centrifuges that would enable it to speed up its uranium enrichment.
This is something every single US diplomat should be told to do if they are confronted with similar statements from anyone — Iranians, Palestinians, Egyptians — it doesn’t matter who. A standard of truth must be maintained in international forums and when an outrageous lie like accusing Israel of genocide is uttered, member states have an obligation to refuse to be part of the promulgation of that lie.
Sometimes, symbolic gestures are necessary.