• Rafael Mariano Grossi, head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog, warned that Iran lacks transparency regarding its atomic program.
  • Ali Akbar Salehi, former leader of Tehran’s nuclear program, said Iran possesses all the components necessary for a nuclear weapon.
  • Iran has been enriching uranium near weapons-grade levels since the collapse of the 2015 nuclear deal.

The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog warned Tuesday that Iran is “not entirely transparent” about its atomic program, particularly after an official who once headed Tehran’s program announced that the Islamic Republic has all the parts for a weapon “in our hands.”

In his speech at the World Government Summit held in Dubai, on the other side of the Persian Gulf, Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, alluded to comments made this weekend by Ali Akbar Salehi. Grossi noted “an accumulation of complexities” in the 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 desires. However, U.S. and other intelligence agencies assess that Iran has not yet initiated a weapons program. Israel has long been believed to have its own nuclear weapons program.


Iran “presents a face that is not entirely transparent when it comes to its nuclear activities. Of course, this increases the dangers,” Grossi said. “There is more and more talk about nuclear weapons, even recently in Iran. A very senior official said that, in fact, we have everything, it is dismantled. Well, please let me know what you have.”

Rafael Mariano Grossi speaks

Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, speaks during the World Government Summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on February 13, 2024. Grossi warned that Iran is “not entirely transparent” regarding its atomic program. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Iran, as a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, has agreed to allow the IAEA to visit its atomic sites to ensure its program is peaceful. Tehran also agreed to additional oversight by the IAEA as part of the 2015 nuclear deal.

Grossi did not identify the Iranian official who made the comment. However, on an Iranian state television program on Sunday night, Salehi said the country had everything 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 everyone is for their own purpose “

Salehi made a similar comment on Saturday.

“We have it in our hands,” he said then.

Since 2022, Iranian officials have been open about something Tehran has long denied as it enriches uranium to its closest levels to weapons-grade material: the Islamic Republic is ready to build an atomic weapon at will. That includes Kamal Kharrazi, an adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who told Al Jazeera that Tehran has the capability to build nuclear weapons but has no intention of doing so.


Salehi’s comments represent an escalation. He served as head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran during the government of then-President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate within the Iranian theocracy who reached the 2015 deal with world powers.

Iran’s hardening of its position comes as its militias in the region – Hezbollah in Lebanon and Houthi rebels in Yemen – have launched attacks against Israel. The Houthis continue to attack commercial shipping in the region, provoking repeated airstrikes from the United States and the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Iran released a video of a ballistic missile fired from the Shahid Mahdavi, a container ship converted by Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard into a floating base. The images showed a Fateh missile fired from a launcher disguised as a shipping container, potentially meaning Iran could hide the launcher on other ships.

By Sam