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IAEA chief warns against military strike on Iran

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“A military attack would be detrimental to any inspection activity, let alone the safety of my inspectors,” Rafael Grossi told NBC News in an interview.

The head of the U.N. watchdog responsible for inspecting Iran’s nuclear program has warned against launching a military strike on Iran.

“I would hope there would never be a time for a military attack,” the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, told NBC News in an interview Wednesday in Vienna.

His comments come after The New York Times, citing four current and former U.S. officials, reported Monday that President Donald Trump had asked advisers last week what options he had to take military action against Iran’s main nuclear site.

During a meeting last Thursday, a range of senior advisers dissuaded the president from moving ahead with a military strike, the Times reported. NBC News has not independently verified the reporting.

Grossi called suggestions that America was considering such an attack “total speculation.”

“A military attack would be detrimental to any inspection activity, let alone the safety of my inspectors, which is the first thing I have to think about if somebody is planning to do something like that,” he said.

Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have escalated since 2018 when Trump walked away from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal struck by his predecessor, Barack Obama. The U.S. has pursued a campaign of maximum pressure on Iran, imposing sanctions that have helped devastate the Iranian economy and sent the local currency into free fall.

In response, Iran — which has always denied it is seeking a nuclear arsenal — has slowly abandoned the limits set by the deal.

On Wednesday, the U.S. hit Iran with another round of sanctions, with the Treasury announcing that it had targeted an important Iranian charity, as well as a number of its affiliates. The Mostazafan Foundation is suspected of providing material support to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for malign activities, including for the persecution of the “regime’s enemies.”

The Treasury also targeted Iran’s minister of Intelligence and Security, Mahmoud Alavi.

Many of the sanctions supplement previously announced penalties by simply adding another layer to them, according to The Associated Press. However, they come as the Trump administration appears to be trying to lock in its policy toward Iran before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

The IAEA has reportedly set out ways in which Iran is no longer adhering to the nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.