Mark HibbsAn IAEA Conversation with Rafsanjani

In February 2004, senior IAEA officials led by then-Director General Mohamed ElBaradei held a one-off meeting in Tehran with former President and parliamentarian Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Based on an assessment of Iran’s nuclear program which the IAEA is currently preparing for the Board of Governors, after that report is completed it might be appropriate at some point for Director General Yukiya Amano to request a second meeting.

Since 2004, the IAEA has obtained a lot of information documenting that military-linked research and procurement organizations were involved in Iran’s nuclear program. Some of that activity was carried out during the presidency of Seyed Mohammad Khatami, from 1997 through 2005. Some individuals the IAEA has identified as having been engaged in this activity were also in the program under Rafsanjani’s presidency, from 1989 through 1997.

ElBaradei met Rafsanjani before the IAEA started compiling that dossier on weapons-related activities. At that time, the IAEA had much broader issues on its plate with Iran, including a discussion of implementation of the Additional Protocol by Iran. The meeting with Rafsanjani was squeezed into an itinerary packed with meetings between ElBaradei and other Iranian political luminaries, including President Khatami, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and the Speaker of Iran’s Parliament, Hojjatoleslam Mehdi Karroubi. Diplomacy, courtesy, and confidence-building were the watchwords for these meetings.

Nonetheless, the IAEA’s meeting with Rafsanjani had an extraordinary moment: During the discussion, Rafsanjani at one point became very emotional and nearly broke into tears when he described having witnessed the results of a battlefield poison gas attack on Iranian front soldiers during Iran’s eight-year war with Iraq, ordered by Saddam Hussein. Rafsanjani had described a state of affairs during that war when, after the poison gas attack, and the virtually absent response to it by the rest of the world, as one participant in IAEA-Iran diplomacy related, the very existence of the Iranian state was at stake.

The IAEA never sat down with Rafsanjani again.

About a year later, the IAEA began obtaining an increasing stream of evidence suggesting there is a “possible military dimension” (PMD) in Iran’s nuclear program, and that Iran had taken steps, in procurement and in conducting R&D activities, which would be useful for developing nuclear weapons. The IAEA’s dossier on these activities after 2005 continued to grow–it contains historical information on HE testing, firing systems, neutron research, a nuclear-capable missile reentry vehicle, chemical processing of uranium to metal, procurement of high-speed cameras–which suggests a composite picture of dedicated Iranian interest in this subject. By 2008, the IAEA had been routinely investigating Iran’s program for six years, and the IAEA’s files on Iran’s nuclear program were comprehensive enough for the agency to ask Rafsanjani some questions about nuclear decision making and about what he knew was going on in the nuclear program. Rafsanjani answered these questions, but the IAEA was not satisfied with all of the answers he provided.

As I suggested here way back in June, the IAEA will very shortly provide an assessment of Iran’s nuclear program including its military dimension to the Board of Governors. We hear that an initial version of the report, for Amano, has been drafted and that it is now being amended.

The current mantra from Iran on this is that all the information on PMD in the IAEA’s files is falsified. That wasn’t the Iranian view in the past, as late as 2008, however, because Iran knew that the IAEA had multiple sources for this information. Until around 2008 there was no Iranian idée fixe that the Department of Safeguards was spoon-fed all this stuff by the US and Israel and other governments hostile to Iran, and that the rest of it came from unqualified open-source references. Iran was prepared in fact to discuss some of the information then because it knew that at least some of the IAEA’s information was genuine. But those were different times.

Who decided?

There is some continuity in the IAEA’s composite Iran picture, permitting the agency to establish that certain individuals with links to military-related organizations in Iran appear to have been consistently involved in weaponization-related R&D and procurement activities.

But it is far less clear who key personel in Iran–including Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a leading scientist–are taking orders from. And it would appear that difficulties experienced by the IAEA in assigning personal responsibility or authority for directing nuclear activities in Iran involving military-affiliated personnel and organizations–in particular the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)–may be similar to problems the U.S. government is currently facing in trying to establish a watertight connection between suspects it says were planning to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, and higher-ups at the top of the Iranian government.

The line we heard from the U.S. last week that there was a direct connection between the alleged perpetrators of the foiled assassination plot and Iran’s top leadership has since been qualified by some U.S. officials who acknowledge that that relationship might not be so direct after all. In the IAEA’s nuclear investigation, similar forensic problems have arisen over the last five or six years.

If there is a smoking gun in the US government case against Iran’s leadership in the foiled assassination plot allegations this week, it’s that someone in Iran was prepared to wire across USD 100,000 to pay for services rendered. In the nuclear investigation, the IAEA has some information showing that money was allocated for activities which appear to be military-related in Iran. But there’s no slam-dunk record on file showing that someone at the top of the Iranian regime authorized scientists or procurement agents to go for broke and steer the nuclear program in the direction of nuclear weapons.

The Iranians have been masters in compartmentalizing their nuclear program. Some scientists who have been doing research that looks like it may be related to nuclear weapons development aren’t even aware that they are part of the nuclear program. But it would be a mistake to assume that decisions about these activities are not being made at a very high level.

Was Rafsanjani ever a decision maker in this area? I have no idea. Some people in the VIC over the last couple of years have asked that question, going back to that Tehran meeting with ElBaradei when Rafsanjani conveyed his strong reaction to those Iraqi poison gas attacks.

Before he was elected President of Iran Rafsanjani had a senior military role during the Iran-Iraq war. If this  report is to be believed, in 1988, a year before his election as President, Rafsanjani was appointed by the Ayatollah Khomenei as head of Iran’s armed forces, and that during his tenure he advanced control over the military by the IRGC–a military organization which U.S. officials have asserted again and again since the 1990s was responsible for key parts of Iran’s nuclear program (and is at the center of U.S. assassination allegations now) . But the report also suggests that pro-Rafsanjani personalities in the IRGC were removed after Rafsanjani became President of Iran. During Rafsanjani’s presidency, however, the weight and power of the IRGC in Iranian politics and the economy considerably magnified.

The first Iraqi chemical weapons attack on Iran was in 1983. My understanding is this: Iraqi chemical attacks provoked Iran to mull how to most effectively respond to such an attack in the future. The world was virtually silent when those attacks on Iran were carried out. It would be logical that decision making on Iran’s response would involve the country’s top leadership as well as its military. Decisions were taken–somewhere, by someone–to do nuclear military-related R&D work in specific areas sometime after the Iraqi chemical attacks were carried out.

Rafsanjani has been named as a top-level actor in highly-sensitive decision making before, outside the nuclear realm, involving terrorist attacks on foreign soil which governments say were piloted by Iran. But to my knowledge, these allegations haven’t been substantiated or have been disputed. One such case was in Argentina, where a prosecutor asserted that Rafsanjani was co-responsible for a 1994 attack on a Jewish organization in Buenos Aires. The prosecutor failed however to make those charges stick in Interpol arrest warrants. In another case, in Germany in 1992, prosecutors charged that Iran’s intelligence chief, Ali Fallahian, masterminded a deadly attack on Kurdish opposition figures in a restaurant in Berlin. They also asserted that Rafsanjani was implicated, but some of the testimony from at least one witness who linked Rafsanjani to the attack was based on assumptions, not hard evidence.

Would Rafsanjani be in the position to help the IAEA better understand what’s in that assessment we will likely read in a few weeks? The IAEA might find the man at times described as Iran’s ultimate political survivor difficult to pin down, but he’s no longer in power, and I would hazard the guess that, if he is highly confident that Iran’s uranium enrichment program will survive, Iran’s ex-President might now have some illuminating answers to questions the IAEA first asked him three years before.

Comments

  1. Mark Lincoln (History)

    Perhaps Rafsanjani would, If he could, tell the truth.

    Given the fractured and fractious nature of the Iranian government(s) it might well be that he could not risk offending someone(s).

    Remember he was utterly discredited when his efforts to create an opening with the USA were rebuffed with threats of invasion by the Bush team in the heady days of “Mission Accomplished.”

    The need of the IAEA to gain full compliance and return to the Additional Protocols from Iran is intense. If for no reason aside from providing maximum warning of a break-out effort.

    The desire of Israel and the USA to create Casus belli has become so blatant that nothing either does or says is generally believed outside those nations.

    The two times that we know as fact that Iran dabbled with the possibility of building atomic weapons were during the Iran-Iraq war, and when the Bush boys were talking about taking down Iran as soon as they could.

    Iran, like most oil producing nations in the region, understands that new reserves are not being proved and reservoir pressures are plunging on the old fields.

    Everyone understands that the best deterrent against attack is the possession of nuclear weapons. Notice how the Bush gang stopped talking about taking down North Korea instantly after even a fissile capability was demonstrated.

    There certainly are elements in Iran that see a nuclear deterrent as necessary for self-defense.

    Developing a break-out capability might achieve the deterrence without the expense of deployment.

    There are certainly elements who wish to retain a degree of energy independence in the post-oil age.

    Using the desires of hawks to gain funding for a program which might not be funded if the money had to come out of the non-defense budget has happened before in other nations.

    The need for a war with Iran is an act of religious faith amongst the Israeli and American right.

    The Drums of War are being sounded particularly loudly this fall.

    Could Rafsanjani tell the ‘truth’ (what ever that might be) in such an atmosphere?

    What ‘truth’ do you want to hear?

    Mr. Rafsanjani is a politician. I am sure he can figure out which ‘truth’ you wish to be entertained with.

  2. Ataune (History)

    You are saying,

    ***Iran was prepared in fact to discuss some of the information then because it knew that at least some of the IAEA’s information [regarding PMD] was genuine.***

    Do you have any source to back this? I have been attentively following this issue from its onset and have never read or heard any public source statement confirming what you are saying here.

    • mark (History)

      Ataune, if the question is “Do you have an open source for that statement?” the answer is no. Is the statement documented? Yes.

  3. camtankerous (History)

    Ataune,

    The quote below from GOV/2008/15 (para 20) might not be satisfactory in answering your question and might be different than Mark’s intended point. However, it may offer some clarity as to which of the PMD activities Iran was “prepared” to discuss as recently as 2008.

    “Concerning the alleged work to design and build an [exploding bridgewire] EBW detonator and a suitable detonator firing unit, Iran acknowledged that it had conducted simultaneous testing with two to three EBW detonators with a time precision of about one microsecond. Iran said, however, that this was intended for civil and conventional military applications.”

    • mark (History)

      Thanks, Camtankerous, this citation is entirely consistent with my information.

    • Ataune (History)

      camtankerous,

      As you are implying, your quote is neither confirming Mark’s sentence nor invalidating my statement – that’s why it’s consistent with what marc’s said. The quote is only clarifying the fact that Iran was – and still is – ready to discuss any **mis-understanding** that IAEA might have on the PMD activities.

      Iran’s public position, as I followed it througout the years – before or after 2008, has always been that there is no PMD activities in Iran, period.

      Now Mark is somehow implying that before 2008 Iran had private discussions with the IAEA quiet differently in nature from its public statements now. Frankly, I would be very doubtful that such disparities between Iran’s public and private words on the nuclear issue exist, be it in the IAEA or anywhere else. This simply doesn’t fit with known facts on Iran’s political behaviour on international issues.

  4. Amir (History)

    The facts are very simple: Nuclear weapons at this point will not improve Iran national security otherwise Iran built them many years ago. After all, both Pakistan and North Korea are by far less advanced and less wealthy countries and they have nukes for some time now. It means Iran has the capability but it is not in its interests now to build the bomb. This might be change in the future, particularly I think tough sanctions and military threats may change the cost-benefit equation in a way that force Iran to build it to protect its national interest.

  5. Mohammad (History)

    As I guess, Iranian authorities believe that there is the risk of highly sensitive conventional military secrets (e.g. Shahab conventional warhead design) to be leaked, were Iran to cooperate with IAEA on the alleged studies. Another related but distinct issue is Iranian military industries’ involvement in peaceful nuclear-related activities in fields where Iran doesn’t have the technology in the civilian sector; e.g. some advanced materials used in centrifuge design (even for purely peaceful activities) which the only military industries know how to produce. This means military involvement but not in weaponization activities.

    Have these two possibilities been taken into account by the IAEA and other parties to explain Iran’s reluctance to cooperate? Of course this is not to mention Iran’s disappointment with the DG’s refusal to announce all outstanding issues in the 2007 agreed work plan to be resolved (incidentally, this disappointment started in 2008).

    • hass (History)

      The alleged Iranian “reluctance” to discuss matters could also be simply because they know that the nuclear issue is a rouse, and merely a convenient pretext for a real policy for regime change. Having repeatedly offered to impose additional restrictions on their nuclear program well in excess of any possible legal obligation, only to see such offers dismissed, ignored or even deliberately torpedoed, it is quite obvious to them and any other observer that the US has no intention of allowing the nuclear issue to be resolved peacefully, with the Iranian government still in power. Hence, no amount of Iranian disclosures will ever suffice.

  6. Dan Joyner (History)

    Excellent post, Mark. Very interesting indeed. Particularly about the reasons for Iran’s nuclear R&D going back to the Iran/Iraq war.

    There does appear to be a showdown looming as more information is collected by the IAEA that is said to show Iran’s R&D activities on multiple aspects of a nuclear weapons program.

    I had an interesting disucssion the other day with James Acton and Chris Ford about the term “manufacture” as it’s used in NPT Article II. The core NPT compliance question will ultimately be what that term means, and is Iran in violation of its obligation not to manufacture a nuclear explosive device.

    I interpret that term quite narrowly, as I think the plain meaning of the text demands. The article doesnt prohibit research or design regarding a nuclear explosive device. It prohibits the actual manufacture of the device. The question becomes how far back down the development line do you go in capturing activities within this term, precedent to actually turning the last screw into the warhead.

    Often cited on this question is the 1968 dictum of William Foster:
    “Facts indicating that the purpose of a particular activity was the acquisition of a nuclear explosive device would tend to show non-compliance. (Thus, the construction of an experimental prototype nuclear explosive device would be covered by the term “manufacture” as would be the production of components which would only have relevance to a nuclear explosive device.)”

    This “purposive” approach looks to an inference that a subject activity can only be purposed in the acquisition of a nuclear explosive device.

    But I think that nothing so far revealed about Iran’s R&D and experiments can clearly be inferred to be purposed in the acquisition of a nuclear explosive device. I think its certainly true that for some time the Iranians have been learning how to make a nuclear explosive device. But thats very different to my mind than having made a decision to manufacture a nuclear explosive device, and going down the R&D route toward that end.

    I think what Iran is doing is what has come to be known (at least since Ariel Levite’s article) as nuclear hedging. Learning how to create a nuclear weapon, and amassing the essential capabilities to do so, without having made a decision to manufacture a weapon. Others call this developing a breakout capability.

    I do not think that a program purposed in nuclear hedging, or in creating a breakout capability, satisfies the Foster criteria, and I dont think that such a program is captured within the term “manufacture” as used in NPT Article II. I think there would have to be clearer evidence that a decision had been made to construct a nuclear exposive device, and that development activities were purposed toward that end. And I think there would have to be more evidence of the actual construction of components for a nuclear explosive device.

    Any other interpretation goes too far, in my view, toward trying to prohibit the spread of information and scientific knowledge, and is simply unworkable.

    So in my view, and with the information we currently have, Iran is not in breach of NPT Article II.
    Dan Joyner

    • John Schilling (History)

      My own literal reading of the NPT agrees with yours. But, if we take such matters literally, I do not see how e.g. Japan would be in violation of the NPT if she were to deploy five hundred road-mobile ICBMs with hypersonic maneuvering reentry vehicles and precision high explosive implosion-device warheads with conspicuous central cavities, five hundred pulse neutron tubes stored in the glove compartments of the TELs, and five hundred conspicuously sized hollow plutonium spheres locked in safes in the back of the cab. With the crews drilled in installing neutron sources and metal spheres into the “conventional” warheads in a matter of minutes. No actual nuclear weapons would have been manufactured, and the NPT prohibits neither ridiculous conventional weapons nor gratuitous plutonium spheres.

      If this is in fact permissible under the NPT, the NPT is next to worthless. If this is not permissible under the NPT, where is the line to be drawn?

      I lean towards the interpretation that a set of R&D activities that cannot plausibly lead to a useful gadget other than a nuclear explosive device, plus the accumulation of significant quantities of fissile materials, ought to be considered “nuclear weapons manufacture”. But that’s not a literal reading of the treaty, just a practical benchmark.

    • kme (History)

      John, it seems to me that your hypothetical gratuitous plutonium spheres would plainly fall under the Foster criteria, as “…the production of components which would only have relevance to a nuclear explosive device.”

    • John Schilling (History)

      Oh, fissile pits vs the Foster criteria, definitely. But the Foster criteria isn’t part of the NPT text, and its legal authority is somewhat debatable.

      Also, a cold-test rig for nuclear-style implosion assembly devices would IMO count as “components which would only have relevance to a nuclear explosive device”. They would not count as components which could only be used in a nuclear explosive device, but that would be a separate criteria.

    • kme (History)

      I believe the criteria which operates in reality (as with pretty much all treaties) is that you can do whatever you can get away with up to the point where you precipitate a collapse in support for the treaty.

      ie. It would be pointless for Japan to game the treaty to the extent you describe, because it would simply instigate an exodus from the treaty. If Japan wanted that outcome, they might as well simply withdraw themselves.

    • mark (History)

      kme (directly) and John S. (indirectly):

      The Iran and Japan parallels are in part interesting because the Iranians themselves in the last several years in Vienna have openly favored seeing Japan as a “model” for their nuclear development. That seems to imply that Iran encourages us to see Iran as what Atsuyuki Suzuki used to call (refering to Japan in his case) a “virtual nuclear state” (Suzuki-sensei meant nuclear weapon state but being Japanese he didn’t want to use the W-word…) before he was encouraged by the Japanese nuclear establishment not to say that any more (a development in itself which is very revealing perhaps).

      But I don’t know how much the Iran and Japan examples are really congruent, since I could imagine that at least some of the work that Japan did which resembles Iranian R&D in this area was done before Japan joined the NPT. The U.S. was really worrried about Japanese behavior at least until it joined the NPT, witness one of the major reasons while the NSG was set up in 1975.

    • kme (History)

      As far as I was aware, we were talking hypotheticals here.

    • Mark Gubrud (History)

      It seems to me that the point of John’s entertaining scenario is contained in the question he poses, “where is the line to be drawn?”

      Clearly, the line must be drawn well short of the situation he describes, which is the production of 500 nuclear ICBMs requiring only a quick pre-launch final assembly. However, his implication is that the imaginability of such a scenario somehow argues for drawing the line at a point which excludes what Iran appears to be doing now, which would appear to fall well short of the scenario described. I don’t see the logic of this as an argument.

      Clearly, a line does have to be drawn, and it is fuzzy at first but becomes clearer as specific circumstances are noted and as the IAEA and NPT regime goes through its mechanics. So it is or should be with any arms control regime, or for that matter any legal regime (which is why we have Court opinions, precedents, torts, etc.).

      The fact that where exactly you draw the line is somewhat arbitrary, is often used as an argument against the practicality of drawing any lines (i.e. against arms control in general), and here is used as a rhetorical device arguing against reasonable compromise in line-drawing.

  7. Adam Neira (History)

    No matter how you spin it, the fact remains that some groups in other nations were quite happy that Arabs were slaughtering Arabs in the senseless Iran/Iraq War of the 1980’s. The loss of human life in that conflict and the echoes of WWI trench warfare was barbaric. So Rafsanjani’s emotional release in the confines of a safe meeting was understandable. Obviously trauma can make people over engineer in other parts of their life. A tribe or nation is no different. A feeling of international pariah status, besiegement and an us versus them mentality may create a mindset of “Defence and protection at all costs”. Thus the allure of nuclear weapons. A nation like Iran is a collection of mindsets and frames of reference developed over thousands of years. Some of these constructs are healthy and some limiting to further unfolding of potential.

    It is clear now that Iran wants to part of a global commonwealth of nations. As with all marriages there are many things that need to be negotiated, but the current relationship has promise. The key to working with Iran is to know which Sefirotic modalities are required at which stage.

    Looking back from 2050, from the perspective of a solved cube, what are the moves required to shift the configuration to its correct alignment ?

    Wouldn’t it be grand if Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabi and the USA all played each other in the same group at the Qatar World Cup in 2022 ?

    • kme (History)

      Iranians are for the most part not Arabs.

  8. mark (History)

    Dan and John:

    Thanks very much for your comments. I will come back to this most critical issue you both raise.

    Before I board a plane in FRA bound for HKG in a few minutes, however, I’ll for now just leave you with two remarks which have been made by IAEA officials in recent days. The first statement was a comment expressed to a reporter who had called the agency after he had been spun by US officials aiming to press Amano to squeeze Iran in the upcoming assessment. The second is a statement made during a meeting in Europe two weeks ago, also in reference to the forthcoming Iran assessment:

    “There is a major difference between having a nuclear weapon and having a nuclear explosive device.”

    “It’s not for the IAEA to judge intent.”

    • Andreas Persbo (History)

      Mark.

      So, it’s a good thing that the NPT prohibits the manufacture of both. And the IAEA judges intent all the time, implicitly. That’s why certain files take a long time to close, and others no time at all.

      By the way, note that the Foster statement does not specify what kind of activity we’re talking about. Uranium enrichment could be a breach of the treaty’s article II if the purpose of that particular activity would be the acquisition of a nuclear device.

      I fully agree with John Shilling’s statement above. Dan’s interpretation goes too far. Maybe Teheran and its supporters will agree with him on this, but hardly anyone else.

    • Dan Joyner (History)

      Mark,
      I look forward to your comments on these issues.

      With regard to the two quotes you offer, as to the first one I will look forward to your thoughts and clarification on this. Frankly, I”m not sure what point the official was trying to make there.

      With regard to the second quote, I will do the official one better. It is in fact not for the IAEA to judge NPT compliance at all. So the question of Iran’s compliance with NPT Article II really isnt a matter for the IAEA to formally determine. Obviously this matter underlies, in both a legal and political sense, everything going on at the IAEA with regard to Iran. But the IAEA simply doesnt have the authority to make a determination of Iran’s compliance with its NPT obligations.

      To John Schilling, I understand and respect your views on the NPT. I know you are making a political, pragmatic assessment and are not trying to give a legal interpretation of Article II. I would say, though, that one must be careful not to take an inconsistent approach, whereunder one, for example, takes a very legalistic and limited view of the obligation in Article VI, while taking a broader, political and pragmatic view of the obligation in Article II. I’m not at all saying that you are doing this personally, only that there are those NWS officials whom I think do this, in order to read NWS obligations under the treaty minimalistically, while reading NNWS obligations under the treaty expansively. This is inconsistent and incorrect treaty interpretation.

    • John Schilling (History)

      Inconsistent interpretation of Article II vs Article VI, I believe, will ultimately be the death of the NPT as a useful instrument. I do not see any plausible interpretation of Article II that is both useful (e.g. rules out the 500-ICBMs-holding-at-T-minus-5 case), and consistent with the extremely loose interpretation of Article VI that must follow from observation of the actual policies of most of the NWS. The NNWS will not put up with this indefinitely – if they want a treaty of mutual restraint among the NNWS only, they can do that all by themselves and they don’t need our meddling in pursuit of our, very different, interests.

      Somewhat cynically, I acknowledge that it may be possible to wring an extra decade or so of residual utility out of the NPT by browbeating the NNWS into tolerating an inconsistent interpretation. We may in fact be into that decade. It’s not something I am comfortable with, even if it is expedient in the short term, but I don’t have anything better to offer.

      W/re “There is a major difference between having a nuclear weapon and having a nuclear explosive device.”, according to the NPT there is not. The NPT treats “nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices” identically, with the essentially trivial exception of Article V. It is precisely because nobody should be in the intent-judging business, that the NPT clearly states that the NNWS are not to possess Gadgets Which Make Mushroom Clouds regardless of the degree of weaponization.

    • Dan Joyner (History)

      Since Andreas is a friend, I’m going to push him a bit. Andreas, are you saying that Schilling’s views above are a correct legal interpretation of Article II? Because thats not how Schilling presented them. He presented them as “practical benchmarks.” But you are a lawyer, and are assumedly interested in a legal interpretation of Article II. How does your legal interpretation of Article II differ from mine?

    • Andreas Persbo (History)

      Dan. I thought that was clear. If the purpose of your fuel cycle activity is to produce a nuclear weapon, or a nuclear explosive device, you are in breach of your non-proliferation commitments under the treaty. If you are seeking to manufacture a nuclear device by say, mining uranium or enriching it, your inalienable right is affected. This follows from an e-contrario reading of Article IV. A reading, by the way, that is fully consistent with the preamble and the preparatory works. The question is not one of law, but one of evidence. Different matter altogether.

    • Dan Joyner (History)

      Andreas,
      I think you’re right that we are essentially disagreeing on the kind and character of evidence necessary. Your purposive test in and of itself doesn’t really answer the question of what kinds of evidence would silufficient as a basis for inferring intent. I think my proposed interpretation is a bit more detailed in that regard. But again I think the gist of the disagreement is that you would be willing to infer intent to manufacture on the basis of less concrete evidence than I am.

    • Andreas Persbo (History)

      No, not at all. I think we disagree on the law, that is what is meant by “manufacture”. I think that it covers all activities in the fuel cycle with a purpose of building a nuclear device. You seem to think that it only applies to the very final stages. I believe that your interpretation – and this is what Shilling wants to illustrate with his example – makes the treaty completely meaningless. Obviously, we disagree on this.

      As for standards of evidence. It is more difficult to prove that the construction of an enrichment plant has a military purpose than it is to prove that a warhead has a military purpose. Foster explains this in the second part of his criteria, which James has posted in full in a previous post.

      I have not, as far as I am aware, taken any position on standards of evidence. And this is for a reason. In my view, discussing standards of evidence in international law is mostly meaningless, as judging compliance under the NPT is a state perogative.

      This is not a court of law.

  9. hass (History)

    This is rubbish. What the IAEA (under Amano) calls “Possible Military Dimensions” were, under Elbaradei, labelled “Alleged Studies” and for a good reason. Furthermore, Iran position is NOT that all of the “Alleged Studies” are falsified but that they weren’t necessarily part of a nuclear weapons program In fact, we went through all of this back in 2009 when the Bush administration excoriated the IAEA for the supposed refusal to release the “secret annex” that contained these Alleged Studies. which the IAEA said was not verifiable enough to release.
    http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/10/05/iaeas_man_in_dc_no_secret_annex_on_iran

    All that has happened now is that with the replacement of Elbaradei with a more pliant Amano, the standard of proof is being lowered at the IAEA in the case of Iran.

  10. wfr (History)

    “… they weren’t necessarily part of a nuclear weapons programme.”

    How ridiculous for the IAEA to keep asking silly questions!

  11. mark (History)

    Greetings this morning from an ever-more expensive Hong Kong.

    Hass,with all due respect, I’m sorry but a lot has happened since the IAEA went through that internal bloodletting over the release of that information two years ago.

    The amount of information which the IAEA has accumulated has increased substantially since then. One Wiki-leaked cable indirectly quotes Herman Nackaerts as saying as much in bilaterals and breifings. There is new information, and there is information which corroborates previous data suggesting that these activities were carried out.

    I think there is a concern among some people close to this information that Amano will look at the data in a too-narrow manner, perhaps too focused on the issue of what constitutes PMD and without consideration of what would appear to be a larger, broader picture of what Iran has been doing, involving people and organizations with military affiliations.

    I won’t however speculate here about what will be in the assessment. With just a couple of weeks to go before it will be ready to deliver, that’s probably counterproductive.

  12. Nikpay (History)

    Do these alleged military-related studies pertain to the period before 2003? American intelligence agencies continue to maintain that Iran ended any military-related studies in that year.

    Incidentally, the involvement of military personnel in the nuclear industry need not arouse suspicion. The Revolutionary Guards own more than 6 % of Iran’s economy I’ve been to trade fairs in which they put on display the household appliances they’d produced. These toasters certainly had no military use.

    • Anon (History)

      Yes, they are all outdated.

      See my links below to statements by the US DNI and by IAEA ex-DG and wikileaks.

  13. Olli Heinonen (History)

    Mark makes an important point: PMD is more than just the “Alleged Studies”. It covers all involvement of military related personnel and entities to procurement, manufacturing, design, R&D or construction of nuclear installations or manufacturing of equipment for the Iranian nuclear program. First formal questions to this end were raised with Iran already in 2004, and are reflected in the IAEA reports, but without providing details. The notion of the PMD came more visible during the 2007 Work Plan process, and you will find PMD being used from 2008 onwards in the IAEA reports and discussions.

    • masoud (History)

      Dear Mr. Heinonen,

      I’ve always wondered about what motivated the main IAEA accusations that formed the basis of the Work Plan you mention. From what sources did these suspicions come from? Given that you mention that the current ‘PMD’ allegations originate from as far back as 2004, can you clarify for us why nothing on the agreed agenda of the Work Plan led to the discovery of any illicit activity on Iran’s part?

      Masoud

    • Anon (History)

      Mr. Heinonen,
      There is a “P” in “PMD” which functions as a nice way to implicate states even when there is no “MD”.

      Do you think the US DNI and the ex-DG are lying?

      What evidence do you have that Iran is weaponizing post-2003?

      The IAEA has no authority to investigate “PMD” absent a nexus to diverted nuclear materials. See para 52 of the Feb 2006 IAEA report quoted below.

  14. Anon (History)

    Mark,
    do you know of any evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program?

    Jeffrey’s post on the centrifuges got me a-wonderin’ if Brazil or Argentina (also non-ratifiers of the A.P.) also showed off their centrifuges at the fair?

    Nations are justifiably proud of their fuel cycle technology. In fact, the IAEA should help nations with civil fuel technology, no?

    Is there any evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program?

    Paragraph 52 of the Feb 2006 IAEA report on Iran clarifies whether the IAEA has any legal authority on “nuclear related” stuff like missiles:

    “[A]bsent some nexus to nuclear material the Agency’s legal authority to pursue the verification of possible nuclear weapons related activity is limited.”

    In short, there is nothing really that authorizes the IAEA to investigate Iran’s missiles program or other research, unless there is evidence of nuclear material involved — which the IAEA has said there isn’t. What there was, was pre-2004.

    In fact, there is “high confidence” in the US Intelligence community that Iran has not re-started it’s small research level nuclear weapons program which was mothballed in 2003/4. Our Director of National Intelligence (DNI) has said this unambiguously:

    Clapper has now confirmed in senate questioning that he has a “high level of confidence” that Iran “has not made a decision as of this point to restart its nuclear weapons program”

    REFERENCE:
    http://armed-services.senate.gov/Transcripts/2011/03%20March/11-11%20-%203-10-11.pdf

    The Nobel Prize winner and 12 year Director of the IAEA had this to say recently to investigative journalist Seymour Hersh — he said that he had not “seen a shred of evidence that Iran has been weaponizing, in terms of building nuclear-weapons facilities and using enriched materials … I don’t believe Iran is a clear and present danger. All I see is the hype about the threat posed by Iran.”

    If you or anyone else has evidence of Iran’s nuclear weapons program post 2003 please post it up asap!

    • mark (History)

      Anon, I’m still in Hong Kong until midnight then the red eye to FRA and then to SFO. I therefore can’t get into my notes.

      The legal reservation about the IAEA’s authority to pursue PMD is as you say established in that 2006 report. I have no information that DDGSG would take issue with that judgment. To the contrary.

      I’m quite sure that MEB’s take on Iran (“no shred of evidence”) is however not shared by the same people on those four VIC floors. That was a political judgment made by DGO and supported by EXPO then. It wasn’t a judgment that was made by DDGSG. There are people, organizations in Iran who have been doing the stuff I listed off in graf 6 of the post. Does that mean it’s an Iranian “weapons program?” (Does that mean there was a Japanese weapons program?–see above. US “managed” [!] the Japanese activities in its bilateral SG agreement with Japan. The good old days in the hearts and minds of a lot of ex-State Department nostalgics, especially people whose formative years were in the two halcyon decades after the NPT went into force, when the US was on top of the world and bluntly leveraged its security relationships to crack down on these kinds of activities in Japan, ROK, Taiwan…) No one has that leverage in Iran. Bottom line.

      Olli Heinonen was quoted in a Glyn Davies Wiki-leaked cable in 2009 as saying that on PMD he was not confident IAEA would get anywhere in Iran without Iran implementing Code 3.1 and the AP. Iran isn’t doing either, so go figure. Doesn’t mean the IAEA can’t do anything. Not at all. But the lesson of this is that AP and 3.1 are important and that in a world where we are dealing with asymmetrical threats and an international nuclear trade system that is now far more complex, the AP should be considered part of a standard NPT verification obligation. If the NAM don’t understand that point, fine, but that’s a political issue and doesn’t detract from the above facts. The task is getting the NAM and others to understand that the threat assessments we are dealing with in 2010 are very different from the ones we had in 1969. That is a separate matter from dealing with the broader question of whether the “pillars” of the NPT are in balance. The two are not necessarily in contradiction. There might be deficits in balancing the “pillars” but that doesn’t detract from the fact that the AP is there to address the historical shift in the kinds of threats we face, a fact we became aware of in dramatic terms in Iraq in 1991. Proliferation “accidents” which have transpired since then have simply reinforced our perception that this threat shift is continuing.

      Does Iran have a “nuclear weapons program?” I don’t think DDGSG through 2010 when he left the agency was ready to say that in such a black-and-white way but you had better ask him. Did Iran do stuff which looks consistent with a weapons program over the years (disregarding whether that happened in 1994, 2003, or 2011) well off the bat it looks to me like they did. Compartmentalization everywhere. Iran was better at this than Iraq in the 1980s.

      Question back: Does it have to look like the Manhattan Project for it to qualify as a nuclear weapons program? Not in my view.

      Did Argentina or others exhibit their centrifuges or enrichment technology at GC/55? No. Iran didn’t either. They presented to the GC a tube with a cooling coil on it, all of it made of 6061-T6 aluminium. That ain’t a centrifuge. Hint: there was no rotor tube inside that thing they brought into the VIC. But the machining was as I said worthy of lathemasters in Germany and the Netherlands.

      No smoking gun in Iran if that requires an official “weapons program” which is steered and controlled by specific individuals with political responsibility whom the IAEA has identified.

  15. masoud (History)

    Dear Mark,

    I must say, it seems i’m late to the party, but let me say my piece anyway: I’m disappointed.

    First and foremost, I really don’t understand this new found Rafsanjani fetish. Yeah, he was the president(and speaker of the Majles before that, and many other things besides), but so what? Are you trying to allege that he’s somehow broken down in the past couple of years, or that he’s about to break down and confessed to a(non-existent) nuclear weaponization program?

    It seems to me that your current piece is nothing more than an extension of the whisper campaign being perpetrated against Iran for the past 30 years. You discussed in brief the chemical attacks against Iran. But what you failed to mention is that the reason the UNSC failed to take any action against Saddam was that the US, sitting ‘secret evidence’ alleged that it wasn’t Saddam using chemical weapons; but that it was Iran.

    In my view, the sum total of the evidence presented in the piece you’ve just posted is comparable to the evidence presented now widely understood as mendacious chemical weapons accusations against Iran. Ditto with the accusations of ‘terrorism’ both in Argentina, and Texas(the former seems to have been the work of argentinian neo-nazi groups, the later a combination of Obama dishonesty and Mujahideen-E-Khalq mischief).

    The current mantra from Iran on this is that all the information on PMD in the IAEA’s files is falsified. That wasn’t the Iranian view in the past, as late as 2008, however, because Iran knew that the IAEA had multiple sources for this information.

    I really don’t know where you are getting the above from. Quite frankly, I don’t know of any accusation of the IAEA’s that’s held up at all against a modicum of scrutiny. But if you do, please share with us the details. If you are unable to because you’ve been sworn to secrecy on that account, I’d say there is probably a very good reason for it.

  16. Olli Heinonen (History)

    A few clarifications to the questions raised.

    1. Many of the founding fathers of the Iranian enrichment program are still active. I would just like to note that Mr. Moussavi was then the Prime Minister, and Mr. Khamenei, the President. Many of the (then) Director Generals of governmental offices are still around and can shed light to the decision makings.

    2. The IAEA mandate comes not only from the Safeguards Agreement with Iran, but from the UN Security Council resolutions. This wider scope is also reflected in the titles of the IAEA reports.

    3. Work Plan 2007. The scope of the plan was agreed between Mr. Elbaradei and Mr. Larinjani in June 2007. It was aimed to solve all open issues, and not just the military aspects.

    4. As indicated in the Annex of 2008 May IAEA report, the activities had fairly wide time span. Some of them took clearly place after 2003. Since that report the IAEA got additional information from Member States, and continued its own investigations which raised concerns further about the nature of the program. We will see in a few weeks whether the IAEA describes in more detail its findings showing more recent Iranian activities, and whether it will provide an updated assessment on the scope and content of the Iranian nuclear program.

    • Anon (History)

      The UN SC sanctions are extra-judicial since under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter states can only have such actions placed against them if there is a threat to the peace or a breach of the peace….you know, like when Israel bombs Syria.

      Olli, have you read UNSCR 487? Well worth your time.

      You note that many of the founding fathers of the Iranian program are still alive: yes, that is despite Israel and the (likely) US attempt to kill them extra-judicially. Is there a UN commission looking into those murders, sir?

      In your point 4 you note that a 2008 report says that some actions took place after 2003: yes, a bit into 2004 as this wikileaks makes clear:

      From 2009, State Department officials confirmed that some rehashed IAEA reports of suspicious Iranian activities in 2004 were “consistent with the 2003 weaponization halt assessment, since some activities were wrapping up in 2004”. REF:

      http://cablesearch.org/cable/view.php?id=09UNVIEVIENNA192

      Please share with the class any actual evidence you have of a CURRENT Iranian nuclear weapons program. There is none, as our DNI has said and as the ex-DG verified above.

      This is a witch hunt which will leave the NPT and IAEA weaker, as the 118 nations of NAM have attested to.

    • Dan Joyner (History)

      I have to say that I agree with Anon on the illegal and immoral nature of the extra judicial killings of Iranian scientists by the US and Israel. During the recent furore in the US about an alleged Iranian assassination attempt against a Saudi Diplomat, I was immediately galled by the hypocrisy of principled and legal condemnation of Iran by the US in light of this recent spate of assassinations by the US.

    • masoud (History)

      Dear Mr. Heinonen,

      Work Plan 2007. The scope of the plan was agreed between Mr. Elbaradei and Mr. Larinjani in June 2007. It was aimed to solve all open issues, and not just the military aspects.

      Thanks for engaging with us. I’m not sure whether the above passage was intended as a response to my question. If it was, let me clarify what my confusion is. You had said before that suspicions about Iranian “Possible Military Dimensions” go back as far as 2004. You also imply that these suspicions are well founded, based on reliable information.
      What I find confusing, is this: if the IAEA had such a wealth of documentation about Iranian PMD, why were the “Alleged Studies”, as they were refereed to at the time, given such minor role in the 2007 Work Plan, treated more like an afterthought than anything else?

      In the document outlining the Work-Plan(INFCIRC/711), which is a full nine pages, there are only three sentences dealing with the “Alleged Studies”. These sentences outline a process whereby the IAEA provides Iran with the documents that form the IAEA’s basis of belief in the “Alleged Studies”, and Iran provides it’s assessment of those documents:


      A. Enrichment Related Activities
      ..
      B. Reprocessing Activities
      ..
      C. Heavy Water Related Projects
      ..
      D. Outstanding Issues
      ..
      D.1. Plutonium Experiments
      ..
      D.2. Acquisition of P-1 and P-2 Centrifuge Technology
      ..
      D.3. Contamination
      ..
      D.4. Uranium Metal Document
      ..
      D.5. Polonium-210
      ..
      D.6. Gchine Mine
      ..
      E. Alleged Studies
      Iran reiterated that it considers the following alleged studies as politically motivated and baseless allegations. The Agency will however provide Iran with access to the documentation it has in its possession regarding: the Green Salt Project, the high explosive testing and the missile re-entry vehicle.

      As a sign of good will and cooperation with the Agency, upon receiving all related documents, Iran will review and inform the Agency of its assessment.

      I would have thought that if the IAEA’s secret evidence was as credible and as worrying as everyone seems to believe it is, it would have been given more prominence. Do you have any idea whether the current ‘documentation’ is based on the same old ‘laptop-of-death’, or if we’ll be hearing something totally fresh? Do you have any idea why the IAEA and the US refuse to make the content on the ‘laptop of death’ public, a full seven years after it was supposedly obtained from Iran?

    • FSB (History)

      I would say the US role in assassinations is “likely” but unconfirmed, and that Israel probably led on the extra-judicial assassinations of Iranian scientists.

      Likely the US helped with Intelligence.

      It is possible and in fact likely that the IAEA was involved in handing over intelligence.

      David Kay, who served as the IAEA/UNSCOM (United Nations Special Commission) Chief Nuclear Weapons Inspector in Iraq was accused by Iraqi officials of being a spy and was quite instrumental in building the case for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

      He once admitted that some inspections in Iraq went hand in hand with spying. When in 1999 he was asked by PBS’s Frontline what he thought about infiltration of the UNSCOM by intelligence agents, he answered:

      “Well, I think it was a Faustian bargain. The intelligence communities of the world had the only expertise that you could use if you were unmasking a clandestine program. . . . So, from the very beginning, you needed that expertise, but I can say for myself personally—and I’m really only comfortable talking about myself—although a number of us discussed this in the early days—I realize it was always a bargain with the Devil—spies spying. The longer it continued, the more the intelligence agencies would, often for very legitimate reasons, decide that they had to use the access they got through cooperation with UNSCOM to carry out their missions.”

      Iran does disregard some decisions of the IAEA — the wrong ones.

      Because most of the requests to visit various Iranian sites that are stated by the IAEA in its reports are covered by the Additional Protocol, Iran has no legal obligations to grant them.

      Iran has stated that, if its nuclear dossier is returned to the IAEA – its rightful place – it will begin implementing again the provisions of the Additional Protocol on volunteer basis until Iran’s parliament ratifies the Agreement.

      At the same time, the Agency has carried out many unannounced visits to Iran’s nuclear sites. Such intrusive and unannounced visits are an important part of the Additional Protocol. Therefore, Iran is still selectively and voluntarily carrying out some provisions of the Additional Protocol. That is a positive aspect of Iran’s behavior which is overlooked.

      The IAEA also stated that Iran did not allow it to visit and inspect Iran’s under-construction research reactor in Arak. But, such visits are covered by the modified text of the Subsidiary Arrangements General Part, Code 3.1, of the Safeguards Agreement. Iran had agreed to the modified text, part of which states that Iran must allow inspection of the under-construction sites. However, because the EU3 reneged on its promises, Iran suspended the implementation of the modified text in February 2006, and went back to its original Safeguards Agreement, signed in 1974. The original Subsidiary Arrangements state that only 180 days prior to the introduction of any nuclear material into a nuclear facility does Iran have the obligation to allow visits to and inspection of the facility. Thus, once again, Iran has no legal obligations towards the Agency regarding the Arak reactor.

      Thus, overall, despite the propaganda and bogus alarms the IAEA report actually indicates positive developments in the thorny issue of Iran’s nuclear program. Iran’s legally-speaking relative openness of its uranium enrichment program should be taken for what is intended for: declaring that Iran is willing to compromise.

      Since the assassinations happen now and then, is it any wonder that Iran does not want the IAEA or others to interview scientists?

      Since Iraqi and Syrian facilities have been bombed is it any wonder Iran wants to have covert facilities and a fuel stockpile?

  17. Anon (History)

    The PMD has a “P” in it.

    When the IAEA has evidence of MD it can present it to the world.

    I don’t attach much importance to a “P” MD.

    I have evidence of “P” MD for Brazil also.

    Paragraph 52 of the Feb 2006 IAEA report on Iran clarifies whether the IAEA has any legal authority on “nuclear related” stuff like missiles:

    “[A]bsent some nexus to nuclear material the Agency’s legal authority to pursue the verification of possible nuclear weapons related activity is limited.”

    In short, there is nothing really that authorizes the IAEA to investigate Iran’s missiles program or other research, unless there is evidence of nuclear material involved — which the IAEA has said there isn’t. What there was, was pre-2004.

    In fact, there is “high confidence” in the US Intelligence community that Iran has not re-started it’s small research level nuclear weapons program which was mothballed in 2003/4. Our Director of National Intelligence (DNI) has said this unambiguously:

    Clapper has now confirmed in senate questioning that he has a “high level of confidence” that Iran “has not made a decision as of this point to restart its nuclear weapons program”

    REFERENCE:
    http://armed-services.senate.gov/Transcripts/2011/03%20March/11-11%20-%203-10-11.pdf

    The Nobel Prize winner and 12 year Director of the IAEA had this to say recently to investigative journalist Seymour Hersh — he said that he had not “seen a shred of evidence that Iran has been weaponizing, in terms of building nuclear-weapons facilities and using enriched materials … I don’t believe Iran is a clear and present danger. All I see is the hype about the threat posed by Iran.”

  18. yousaf (History)

    Olli Heinonen makes the point that many of the founding fathers of the Iranian enrichment program are still “active”. I suppose he means alive as they are not actively involved in the nuclear program.

    I am unsure how this is relevant because we know Iran had an interest in weaponization under the Shah which did not hinder our participation in Iran’s then-A-OK nuclear program:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A3983-2005Mar26.html

    Indeed, we were ready to send Iran reprocessing technology at that time.

    Because then Iran was our friend.

    We also know that there may well have been a small research level weapons’ investigation program up to ~2003/4, as pointed out by Anon above. (see links by Anon)

    The US Director of National Intelligence and the ex-Director General have both stated that this is not the case now.

    Iran may well be stockpiling 20% LEU but this is not illegal: it is a bug (or, depending on your perspective) a feature of the NPT.

  19. FSB (History)

    Too bad there was no nuclear material involved in the ‘alleged studies’. And, they are of course only alleged.

    The IAEA reports state that “it should be emphasized … that the Agency has not detected the actual use of nuclear material in connection with the alleged studies” (IAEA Gov/2008/15 at paragraph 28).

    The immediately preceding board report was even more explicit: “[I]t should be noted that the Agency has not detected the actual use of nuclear material in connection with the alleged studies, nor does it have credible information in this regard” (IAEA Gov/2008/4 at paragraph 54 )

    It further states: “It should be noted that the Agency currently has no information … on the actual design or manufacture by Iran of nuclear material components of a nuclear weapon or of certain other key components, such as initiators, or on related nuclear physics studies” (IAEA Gov/2008/15 at paragraph 24).

    The IAEA has seen “no indication of any [uranium metal conversion] and casting activity in Iran” (IAEA Gov/2007/58 at paragraph 25).

    That people say that “Iran refuses to answer” IAEA questions is grossly misleading. As documented in every single IAEA board report since the laptop allegations first surfaced, Iran has consistently and adamantly answered many of the allegations by describing them as baseless and fabricated.

    In addition, it was only in February 2008 that the U.S. even gave the IAEA permission to show any of the documents to Iran to enable it to respond (IAEA Gov/2008/4 at paragraph 37). The U.S. further manipulated the IAEA’s efforts by providing “much of this information [to the IAEA] only in electronic form” and “not authorizing the [IAEA] to provide copies to Iran” (IAEA Gov/2008/15 at paragraph 16). The U.S. even refused to give the IAEA itself copies of some material. The agency was “therefore unfortunately unable to make them available to Iran.”

    Iran’s declination to respond to allegations based on documents it has never been shown, or has only been allowed to peek at, may qualify as a “refusal” to answer, but that would not stand up in any court of law.

  20. Anon (History)
  21. yousaf (History)

    I wrote a short piece on why the UNSC and unilateral sanctions are designed to fail — the WSJ would not carry it on its OpEd pages so here it is:

    http://original.antiwar.com/yousaf-butt/2011/08/25/iran-sanctions-built-to-fail/print/

    “Conditions for lifting these sanctions go way beyond anything having to do with Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.

    The West has essentially painted itself into a corner with sanctions that were relatively simple to enact but will prove hard, if not impossible, to lift – no matter what Iran does with its nuclear program. The situation may – intentionally or not – become a prelude to war.

    For instance, the US sanctions can only be lifted after the President certifies to Congress “that the government of Iran has: (1) released all political prisoners and detainees; (2) ceased its practices of violence and abuse of Iranian citizens engaging in peaceful political activity; (3) conducted a transparent investigation into the killings and abuse of peaceful political activists in Iran and prosecuted those responsible; and (4) made progress toward establishing an independent judiciary.”

    And – just in case those conditions were not unrealistically stringent and comprehensive – the President has to further certify that “the government of Iran has ceased supporting acts of international terrorism and no longer satisfies certain requirements for designation as a state sponsor of terrorism; and [that] Iran has ceased the pursuit, acquisition, and development of nuclear, biological, chemical, and ballistic weapons.”

    Many US allies, such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, could not satisfy all these conditions.

    So even if Iran were to stop all uranium enrichment and dump all their centrifuges into the Persian Gulf, shutter their nuclear program entirely, and re-task all their nuclear physicists to work in Chocolate factories, Iran would still be sanctioned by the US Congress.

    The UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions are only a little better than the unilateral US ones in that they have only marginally less impossible goals.

    While the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would be happy to simply get slightly more transparency regarding Iran’s nuclear program, nothing short of stopping all uranium enrichment will satisfy the arbitrary conditions of the UNSC sanctions. The Security Council has “affirmed that it would suspend the sanctions if, and so long as, Iran suspended all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, as verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)…” This is clearly something that will not happen since virtually all the Iranian polity and people support their sovereign right to enrich uranium – just like Argentina, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the US do.

    So while the IAEA initially referred Iran to the UNSC over a lack of transparency, the UNSC took that opportunity to slap on additional ad hoc demands: this is like being stopped for a traffic violation and then having your car confiscated for no good reason, other than that you were speeding and can’t be trusted with cars – forever!

    While Iran is probably willing and able to satisfy IAEA demands for greater transparency, this concession will not satisfy UNSC sanctions that require Iran to suspend enrichment indefinitely.

    This is possibly why Iran feels it has little to gain by cooperating with the IAEA at this stage: even if it makes the IAEA happy, the UNSC – and various unilateral – sanctions still be fully in effect. So these sanctions are, in fact, a disincentive for Iran to cooperate with the IAEA: if they are going to be sanctioned by the Security Council anyway, why should they cooperate with the IAEA? “

    • Anon (History)

      Good Points.

      Furthermore, according to a 2004 analysis by the Center for Nonproliferation Studies,

      “Many NPT state parties, particularly those from the Non-Aligned Movement(NAM), have already stated their opposition to President Bush’s proposals to restrict enrichment. In their view, precluding states from developing enrichment and reprocessing capabilities contradicts an important tenet of the NPT-that is, the deal made by the nuclear weapon states (NWS) to the non-nuclear weapon states (NNWS). Article IV of the NPT states that NNWS have the inalienable right to develop research, production, and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, a right intended to provide an incentive for NNWS to give up the pursuit of nuclear weapons. The Bush proposals, however, introduce another element into the nonproliferation regime by segmenting countries into those that can engage in enrichment and reprocessing and those that cannot. Since most states with fuel cycle capabilities are from the developed world, it is clear that the target group of the proposal is the developing world.”

      Note that 118 countries of planet Earth agree with Iran — these countries, together, constitute the real “international community”:

      http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LI17Ak02.html

      “In a strongly-worded statement, representatives of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have supported Iran’s position on the contentious issue of IAEA inspectors and have also expressed concern that the most recent IAEA report on Iran has “departed from standard verification language”.

      “NAM notes with concern, the possible implications of the continued departure from standard verification language in the summary of the report of the director general [Yukio Amano],” the statement said. The statement was read during the IAEA board of governors meeting on behalf of over 100 NAM member states.”

  22. mark (History)

    If you drill into these NAM statements in Vienna you will find:

    – That they were written on the basis of talking points provided to the Vienna chapter by Iran.

    – That Iran has a natural leadership role because it has far more collective experience in nuclear nonproliferation negotiations on issues of NPT and safeguards legal (access, scope, obligations…) than all the other NAM states combined. After all Iran has been fighting against non-compliance resolutions for 8 years and has beyond that over 20 years of internal creative thinking about how to carry out nuclear activities without disclosing them.

    – That the drivers on these issues in that group are (in this order): Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, Egypt

    – That most of the “over 100 countries” supporting their positions are out to sea in part because these issues are not critical to their national development agendas, related to the absense of resources (why in fact should Mauritania allocate a lot and resources to nuclear issues?), and therefore rely on guidance from Iran and the above group on what positions to take

    – That because the nonproliferation issues are not well understood in detail by most of those 100 countries for the above reasons, ambassadors in Vienna, Geneva, and New York who are interested in their career trajectories won’t challenge the positions expressed on these issues by the Vienna chapter but instead take the safest path of least resistance and embrace the talking points

    – That the above situation is exascerbated by other (non-nuclear) aspects of N-S dynamics, permitting the NAM nuclear policy driving countries (above) fertile ground for making their case. (As I said above the international system may exhibit equity dysfunction, but that doesn’t disqualify the intrinsic merits of the argument that the Additional Protocol should be incorporated into the world’s standard for verification under a CSA)

    • Anon (History)

      Mark,
      Thank you. Yes, I agree — more or less.

      And if you drill into the statements of the IAEA reports you will see that they are politicized by those nations who send in the biggest checks to the IAEA. Mostly the US.

      e.g.
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/julian-borger-global-security-blog/2010/nov/30/iaea-wikileaks

      So, yes Iran may influence the NAM; and the US politicizes the IAEA *and* the UN Security Council.

      Do you — or anyone you know — have evidence that there is a nuclear weapons program in Iran?

    • Anon (History)

      PS: it is OK for Iran to aspire for a leadership role in the NAM.

      It is not OK for the US to politicize the IAEA and UNSC.

    • masoud (History)

      If you drill into these NAM statements in Vienna you will find:
      -These statements support Iran, so therefore they should be dismissed out of hand as illegitimate.

      -That Iran is a criminal state because white people have as of yet not been able to break it’s independence yet. This sets a dangerous, if attractive example for other countries of the south.

      -That the drivers on these issues in that group are The Big International Bad Baddies.

      -That the “over 100 countries” are pathetic, backwards nations haven’t even been able to nuclear technology themselves!(Never mind chapter I of the NPT) I mean seriously Mauritania? Who gives a shit? It’s not like that’s a real country like Denmark. Since the NAM is more a collection of non-European technologically backwards, and therefore ignorant and stupid countries, those wily Iranians are able to so easily take advantage of them.

      -The driving engine behind those black, brown and yellow people talking back to us like that is the fact that they don’t like white people very much. The NAM are basically just a bunch of racists when you think about it.(OK OK, so we might have screwed(/are currently screwing) them in all sorts of ways. But is that really a good reason why we shouldn’t be able to to unilaterally rewrite the NPT in a way that ‘renders quaint’ NNWS rights to peaceful development, and instead impose an even stricter ‘inspection regime’ which will feed Western Intelligence agencies all they need to know to carry out assassination campaigns against the scientific communities of countries that get too out of line?)

    • masoud (History)

      I prefer George Bush’s rendering: You are either with us or you are with the Terrorists.

      I don’t think I have all the answers, Mark. And I can’t therefore frame always frame my comments in a way that lends itself to supporting some grandly conceived Solution. But the least I can do is point out problematic thinking when I see it, so that others will be prone to repeating them. That’s not something I usually see in you’re writings, but you gotta call them as you see them. I often wonder what Cleaver and the rest of the fallen heroes 1960’s era black liberation movements would be saying today about Barak Obama.

  23. mark (History)

    Anon, just a couple of points on US relationship with NAM before leaving home again:

    – A non-unexpected fairly goodly number of US(and other P-5) people I’ve encountered over the last year or so don’t want to know about that leaked cable. Why? Because they are on orders not to go there with the non-classified world, or because they don’t see the underlying issues it raises as a serious problem? I hope it is the first and not the second reason that predominates.

    – P-5 and the NAM: You can read (again, sorry, I’m now back from Hong Kong and am about to jump from TXL to FRA and to SFO so no ready files access…) references to statements from luminaries in the usual countries–US, Canada, Australia, U.K., France, Germany–that (I paraphrase) “We pay their TC accounts so they let us do nonproliferation” at the IAEA.

    – As long as the above is considered a cynical bargain by the P-3+1 we’re heading for a train wreck in the long term. There are other ways of looking at this. There’s a fairly circumscribed group of NGO/academic people in a few far-flung places in the world who get it (David and Tanya are you on line?) We’re looking for a lever to plug into this at the ground level. That ain’t easy. Too early to call it a roadmap.

    A dismaying number of nonproliferation practitioners in P-3+1 and their friends don’t understand that without engagement on the big-picture international equity issues, they will never get the NAM ultimately to trust them. That will be true regardless of whether the NAM’s arguments are, at times, breathtakingly off the mark (another subject). An example is the Middle East. Palestine is not a nuclear issue. It isn’t targeted by nuclear weapons. But as long as there is no commitment by the US to a peace process that means anything, the US will never get anywhere with these people in the IAEA board room.

    http://www.carnegieendowment.org/2011/09/14/what-peace-process/54av

    – In the same vein, who supported Libya’s bid for a seat on the board in September? I’m assuming that the National Transition Authority didn’t come up with this idea.

    -No problem with Iran taking charge at the NAM at an international level. That won’t mean too much on the ground if that happens. Some people (including NAM states in Vienna) think that this will lead to a re-think in Iran about how far it will go. I doubt it. Iran was very careful in NY in 2010 and they will be careful again. Doesn’t mean that there is any change in Iran’s orientation vis-a-vis those “100 countries” supporting the Vienna chapter position. Just means Iran is being careful.

    • Anon (History)

      Mark, thanks very much for your valuable input.

      I think to many developing country diplomats the statements you refer to i.e. “fro[m] luminaries in the usual countries–US, Canada, Australia, U.K., France, Germany–that (I paraphrase) “We pay their TC accounts so they let us do nonproliferation” at the IAEA. ”

      is the main problem and what the NAM nations worry about.

      This is analogous to the problem with the political system in the US, where campaign financing and lobbying skews and corrodes democracy to favor the moneyed special interests.

      Instead of the IAEA doing the bidding of its main funders, it should strive to justice and upholding the law as written, impartially.

      Otherwise, these are the final days of the NPT and IAEA.

    • masoud (History)

      The problem with the IAEA is not who pays the bills, but the fact that the BOG runs on a quota system which first and foremost privileges countries who have a vested interest in maintaining an oligopoly in nuclear tech(eg the NSG nations), prioritizes secondarily the geographic areas of the globe in which the first category of nations reside, and therefore have the most influence, and leaves the remaining 75% of the world something like 40% of the seats on the BOG. This “We pay the bills” business is a red herring, meant to distract people from the fact that the makeup of the BOG reflects a determination of relative political power that was made during a period of time where most of the global south, still plagued by the effects of European Colonization, was barely on it’s feet.

    • Anon (History)

      Thanks Masoud for pointing that out — it would appear we need us a “Occupy IAEA” movement! 😉

  24. Dan Joyner (History)

    I think that this thread has included some particularly valuable back and forth discussion on some deep and meaningful topics, at an overall very collegial and candid level. I think its one of the best entries and discussion threads I’ve seen on ACW in a while. I would like to thank Mark both for hosting and for so valuably participating in this discussion.

  25. Anon (History)

    And, again, I plead for any evidence of a _current_ nuclear weapons program.

    Olli?

    Of course, we do have an on-again, off-again love affair with the Iranian nuclear weapons programme, so maybe this is just one of our phases:

    http://www.raceforiran.com/americas-on-again-off-again-love-affair-with-irans-nuclear-program

    (link if worth clicking on just for the nuclear-industry Ad. with the Shah of Iran….)

    • mark (History)

      Anon,

      Knowledge/evidence of Iranian nuclear weapons program: This is supposed to be what the IAEA is there to tell us about in about 2 weeks or less.

      “on-again-off-again”: I’ll be at Stanford tomorrow where this subject will come up. Some of the people I’ll be with have experience in Track-2 discussions with Iran. Even in this let’s-talk-to-Iran group of people there is a divide over the nuclear program. One side says talk to Iran while pressing Iran to comply with UNSC/IAEA benchmarks/sanctions. The other says nothing can happen unless the nuclear file is taken off the table.

    • Anon (History)

      Mark,
      what I will be looking for in 2 weeks is that the IAEA says something about the *CURRENT* alleged Iranian nuclear weapons program: if it’s yet more stuff about “P”MD and old info on initiators or missiles ca. 2003/4 that is wholly irrelevant to what is going on *now* in Iran.

      Please let them know it is not only folks like Sanger listening. Please remind the IAEA DG office that the US DNI has “high confidence” that Iran has not re-started her nuclear weapons research program as of 2011.

      As for the chicken and the egg with the nuclear file, I thought Yousef summed it well above in his article about why the UNSC sanctions are a disincentive for Iran to co-operate:

      http://original.antiwar.com/yousaf-butt/2011/08/25/iran-sanctions-built-to-fail/print/

      “So even if Iran were to stop all uranium enrichment and dump all their centrifuges into the Persian Gulf, shutter their nuclear program entirely, and re-task all their nuclear physicists to work in Chocolate factories, Iran would still be sanctioned by the US Congress.

      The UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions are only a little better than the unilateral US ones in that they have only marginally less impossible goals.

      While the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would be happy to simply get slightly more transparency regarding Iran’s nuclear program, nothing short of stopping all uranium enrichment will satisfy the arbitrary conditions of the UNSC sanctions. The Security Council has “affirmed that it would suspend the sanctions if, and so long as, Iran suspended all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, as verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)…” This is clearly something that will not happen since virtually all the Iranian polity and people support their sovereign right to enrich uranium – just like Argentina, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the US do.

      So while the IAEA initially referred Iran to the UNSC over a lack of transparency, the UNSC took that opportunity to slap on additional ad hoc demands: this is like being stopped for a traffic violation and then having your car confiscated for no good reason, other than that you were speeding and can’t be trusted with cars – forever!

      While Iran is probably willing and able to satisfy IAEA demands for greater transparency, this concession will not satisfy UNSC sanctions that require Iran to suspend enrichment indefinitely.

      This is possibly why Iran feels it has little to gain by cooperating with the IAEA at this stage: even if it makes the IAEA happy, the UNSC – and various unilateral – sanctions still be fully in effect. So these sanctions are, in fact, a disincentive for Iran to cooperate with the IAEA: if they are going to be sanctioned by the Security Council anyway, why should they cooperate with the IAEA? “

    • FSB (History)

      Marks,
      looks like it will be a re-hash, eh?

      http://gsn.nti.org/gsn/nw_20111025_3690.php

      Do you have specifics on what “better assist” means and whether such assistance will remove UNSC sanctions?:

      “Western nations might set a March deadline for Iranian to better assist the IAEA investigation of the nation’s nuclear program, according to the diplomat. Afterward, Tehran might be sent back to the Security Council.”

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