In September 1982, the United States suspended its membership in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a move that was perceived as a dramatic vote of no confidence in the Agency. Surprisingly, this incident has remained under-explored in current academic literature. The U.S. action was taken after the Agency’s General Conference (GC) voted to reject the credentials of the Israeli delegation to its annual meeting. The resolution was the outcome of an on-going power struggle which had occupied the IAEA following the Israeli strike against the safeguarded Iraqi Osirak nuclear reactor on June 7, 1981.

Drawing on declassified documents from several archives, this study explores Washington’s reaction to the Osirak bombing and how this policy played out in the IAEA. The findings indicate that the American decision to withdraw from the IAEA did not stem from a lack of interest in the non-proliferation regime, or in achieving non-proliferation goals in general. Rather, the Reagan administration's decisions originated from an effort to maintain what it perceived as an ‘organic’ or harmonious relationship between non-proliferation policies on the one hand, and general foreign policy goals on the other.