Jeffrey LewisZombie Fuel Swap, Back from Dead, Again

It seems Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have convinced Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to send 1200 kg of low enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for new fuel for the TRR.

Robert Naiman gets off the best line, even if it isn’t quite fair, saying “It’s Gollllllll! for Lula Against Western Push for Iran Sanctions.”

Naiman’s comment is unfair because the nominal intent of sanctions is to press Iran to behave better. If Iran complies, then you don’t need the sanctions.

On the other hand, there is less to Iran’s agreement than meets the eye. Although Naiman thinks the US should accept the offer, I am not so sure. Indeed, I worry that the Zombie Fuel Swap is, to extend the metaphor, an “own goal.”

The US position has been that it is “open” to such an arrangement, but that “the details matter.” In this case, the details are how much LEU Iran has produced in the interim and whether Iran continues feeding the remaining LEU into the cascades to produce ~20 percent enriched uranium. (Iran has previously said that enrichment to that level — for the TRR reactor fuel — is without respect to any fuel swap.)

The Iran-Turkey-Brazil agreement is for 1200 kilograms of LEU — but that leaves about the same amount (Iran had produced a total of 2,065 kg as of January 29, 2010 and today should about 2400 kg) back in Iran. The US seems to think Iran enriching this material to ~20 percent is a deal breaker.

I always feared the fuel swap was a waste of time — it has too many moving parts and doesn’t get at the real problem of clandestine facilities. This scenario is the perfect illustration of that objection; I only wish I had seen it so clearly at the time. The “fuel swap” was intended to delay an Iranian “breakout” capability by a year or so. But Iran can enrich uranium quicker than we can arrange for it to be sent out of the country.

After eight months of haggling, Iran has doubled its stockpile of LEU. The Iranian argument for a partial swap has a certain simplicity: After all, the 1200 kilograms is the amount needed for a load of fuel for the TRR. The exchange has a certain symmetry. What were offering for the remainder of the stockpile? Nothing.

So, is it worth getting our hands on half of Iran’s stockpile of LEU? I don’t know, I thought this was a dumb idea along, although I refrained from throwing stones in public. It would have been better to have never made this particular offer, but as it is, I see two approaches. On the merits, the Administration has to push Iran to stop enrichment above 5 percent. If Tehran agrees, that’s worth a load of TRR fuel, no question. But the Iranians are likely to refuse. In that case, should the Obama Administration insist?

The downside of insisting is that the deal, imperfect as it may be, will be viewed in most capitals as relatively fair compromise. As a result, if the fuel swap collapses, the US will suffer most of the blame. Our efforts to use sanctions in support of a negotiated resolution to the Iranian nuclear program will suffer. Brazil and Turkey will undercut us in the Security Council and any advocates of engagement inside Iran would be left hanging (perhaps literally, hard to know these days in Iran). In other words, we may have to accept a pointless “zombie fuel swap” just to get it off the agenda and to keep Brazil and Turkey in the business of taking consignments of Iranian fuel.

The downside of not insisting is that the deal — which does nothing to constrain Iran’s program — creates a false sense that the problem is Iran’s break-out capability. In the Reuters story, Western officials claimed “Iran was trying to give the impression that it was the fuel deal which was at the center of problems with the West, rather than its nuclear ambitions as a whole.” Yeah, no kidding. As regular readers know, I have long argued that the problem is not Iran’s enrichment at Natanz, not even to 20 percent. The problem is Iran’s history of clandestine enrichment. Iran wants to change the narrative to focus on the West’s objections to its arguably legitimate activities. Why we keep helping them do that is beyond me.

In the end, I don’t think it makes much difference either way.

Until then, the full text of the agreement is on the Turkish CNN website:

(17 May 2010)

Having met in Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, the undersigned have agreed on the following Declaration:

1) We reaffirm our commitment to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and in accordance with the related articles of the NPT, recall the right of all State Parties, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy (as well as nuclear fuel cycle including enrichment activities) for peaceful purposes without discrimination.

2) We express our strong conviction that we have the opportunity now to begin a forwardlooking process that will create a positive, constructive, non-confrontational atmosphere leading to an era of interaction and cooperation.

3) We believe that the nuclear fuel exchange is instrumental in initiating cooperation in different areas, especially with regard to peaceful nuclear cooperation including nuclear power plant and research reactors construction.

4) Based on this point the nuclear fuel exchange is a starting point to begin cooperation and a positive constructive move forward among nations. Such a move should lead to positive interaction and cooperation in the field of peaceful nuclear activities replacing and avoiding all kinds of confrontation through refraining from measures, actions and rhetorical statements that would jeopardize Iran’s rights and obligations under the NPT.

5) Based on the above, in order to facilitate the nuclear cooperation mentioned above, the Islamic Republic of Iran agrees to deposit 1200 kg LEU in Turkey. While in Turkey this LEU will continue to be the property of Iran. Iran and the IAEA may station observers to monitor the safekeeping of the LEU in Turkey.

6) Iran will notify the IAEA in writing through official channels of its agreement with the above within seven days following the date of this declaration. Upon the positive response of the Vienna Group (US, Russia, France and the IAEA) further details of the exchange will be elaborated through a written agreement and proper arrangement between Iran and the Vienna Group that specifically committed themselves to deliver 120 kg of fuel needed for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR).

7) When the Vienna Group declares its commitment to this provision, then both parties would commit themselves to the implementation of the agreement mentioned in item 6. Islamic Republic of Iran expressed its readiness to deposit its LEU (1200 kg) within one month. On the basis of the same agreement the Vienna Group should deliver 120 kg fuel required for TRR in no later than one year.

8) In case the provisions of this Declaration are not respected Turkey, upon the request of Iran, will return swiftly and unconditionally Iran’s LEU to Iran.

Update | 2:47 pm The White House has issued a statement that doesn’t exactly convey enthusiasm for the offer.


Office of the Press Secretary


May 17, 2010

Statement by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Iran

We acknowledge the efforts that have been made by Turkey and Brazil. The proposal announced in Tehran must now be conveyed clearly and authoritatively to the IAEA before it can be considered by the international community. Given Iran’s repeated failure to live up to its own commitments, and the need to address fundamental issues related to Iran’s nuclear program, the United States and international community continue to have serious concerns. While it would be a positive step for Iran to transfer low-enriched uranium off of its soil as it agreed to do last October, Iran said today that it would continue its 20% enrichment, which is a direct violation of UN Security Council resolutions and which the Iranian government originally justified by pointing to the need for fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. Furthermore, the Joint Declaration issued in Tehran is vague about Iran’s willingness to meet with the P5+1 countries to address international concerns about its nuclear program, as it also agreed to do last October.

The United States will continue to work with our international partners, and through the United Nations Security Council, to make it clear to the Iranian government that it must demonstrate through deeds – and not simply words – its willingness to live up to international obligations or face consequences, including sanctions. Iran must take the steps necessary to assure the international community that its nuclear program is intended exclusively for peaceful purposes, including by complying with U.N. Security Council resolutions and cooperating fully with the IAEA. We remain committed to a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear program, as part of the P5+1 dual track approach, and will be consulting closely with our partners on these developments going forward.


  1. hass (History)

    The claim that the purpose of the sanctions is merely to get Iran to “behave better” is laughably inaccurate. Secretary of State Clinton has made it clear :

    You do not have the right to full enrichment and reprocessing cycle under your control.”

    That’s blatantly a violation of the NPT’s letter and spirit.

  2. hass (History)

    Incidentally, precisely what “history of clandestine enrichment” are you speaking of? There was no enrichment in the Qom facility. The idea that there are parallel clandestine enrichment programs is entirely, thus far, mythical.

  3. Jeffrey Lewis (History)


    A query. Are you asserting that Iran intended to declare either Natanz or Qom in time to avoid a safeguards violation?

    Or are you merely making the lawyerly argument that Iran did not violate its safeguards agreement (in this respect) because the facilities were revealed before Iran was obligated to do so. (And are pleading the international equivalent of the fifth amendment in regard to what Iran intended to do.)

    Because the problem with the latter argument is that Iran’s insistence on a minimalist interpretation of its legal obligations is precisely why clandestine facilities are such a problem.

  4. Alan (History)

    The US can still treat the thing as two negotiations if they want to – one over the TRR and one over a comprehensive nuclear deal. After all, there is no coherent reason to deny Iran the TRR fuel in the first place, and to do so is breaching their NPT rights. Intriguingly, there appears to be conflicting signals between Obama and Clinton here – Obama for a deal, Clinton against.

    I tend to think Iran would be happy to cease 20% enrichment; I think that was the real own goal here – we refused to supply the stuff so gave them the opportunity to go to 20%, and improve their negotiating position. But I still think it is a throwaway item for them in a more comprehensive negotiation, and perhaps that is also good for Obama, because he can “secure” an Iranian commitment to 5%.

    Also, what are Turkey and Brazil angling for in the NPT Review? Iran was the outlier there – now they could all be on the same page. And Iran will not want to embarass either of them by being awkward over the TRR, they are both crucial to the Iranian strategy.

  5. Paul Ingram (History)

    You rightly point to the limitations of this deal, but I really don’t think the US has a choice at this stage. It depends to some extent which game people think they are playing…
    1) Pull the Iranians into the engagement flight pattern so that more meaningful agreements can be negotiated in future OR
    2) See no reason to believe this is possible, and build up the international pressure and isolation of Iran, sanctions etc. as we edge closer to attempting some sort of internatioanl support for military action.

    Because it seems to me increasingly clear that preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon capability by denying them the technology is increasingly a game doomed to failure, even if we can slow their activities down, and that the only hope is to pull them into engagement. In which case, while this deal has its limitations, we can ill afford to sit on the sidelines making demands of them they will simply reject. Partiocularly when important swing states like Turkey and Brazil are clearly looking to these agreements as stepping stones.
    Well written, post, though, I must say. As usual, very clear.

  6. FSB

    Funny that many people think that Brazil, who brokered the deal, itself has a nuke program.

    Why would many people think such a crazy thought? Because Brazilian officials said so. Vice President Jose Alencar said: “Nuclear weapons as an instrument of deterrence are of great importance for a country that has 15,000 kilometers (9,000 miles) of border”

    Any media outcry over that?

    You say “…which does nothing to constrain Iran’s program — creates a false sense that the problem is in hand. But the problem is not Iran’s enrichment at Natanz, even to 20 percent. The problem is Iran’s history of clandestine enrichment that appears to have been in support of a nuclear weapons program.”

    What would mollify you? Install another regime that is not tainted with such a history. Let’s remember Sadaam also had such a history — until he did not.

    Want to enforce zero enrichment? That is in contravention of the NPT.

    States can get together to insist on doing so, but nothing in the NPT says enforcing zero enrichment is legit.

    Let’s see what the DNI said, and what will (surely) be part of the future NEI:

    Annual Threat Assessment:

    “We continue to assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that bring it closer to being able to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so. We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.”

    And the “721” report:

    “…we do not know whether Iran will eventually decide to produce nuclear weapons.”

    Let us re-cap: to the best of the US IC’s knowledge the Iranian government has not decided to make nuclear weapons. And Iran needs 20% enriched U for its medical purposes.

    Do you think in face of the deal the US should still stubbornly force sanctions that are unlikely to work?

    If you really don’t think “it makes much difference either way” perhaps we need not put unnecessary hardships on the Iranian public which, incidentally, will play nicely into the regime’s hands.

  7. Alan (History)

    Jeffrey – I think Iran’s insistence on a minimalist interpretation of its legal obligations corresponds to a Western/nuclear power minimalist interpretation of their own obligations, certainly over Natanz, because the development period there needs to be set against a background of the obstruction by the West of the transfer of nuclear technology to Iran.

    Regarding Qom, Iran only suspended the Additional Protocol and adherence to the revised 3.1 code following what they saw is the unjustified referral to the UNSC (which arose from issues predating the supposed definitive Work Plan for the settlement of all outstanding issues). They were prepared to subscribe in full up until that point. Perhaps in this instance it could be said that Iran’s minimalist interpretation corresponds to the West’s maximalist interpretation of their own obligations!

  8. hass (History)

    No, the reason why “supposedly-INTENDED-to-be-clandestine facilities” exist is because in 1984, the US directly intervened to prevent IRan from acquiring the nuclear technology that it was entitled to obtain, overtly and in cooperation with the IAEA, forcing Iran to go underground…and the US has done everything in its power to prevent Iran from acquiring the the technoloigy since, including undermining international agreements that were completely legit and overt. And, Iran’s enrichment program was never “secret” nor “clandestine” and in fact there was long history of Iran making crystal clear its plans to enrich uranium — ie by announcing it on national radio in the 1980s, by inviting IAEA experts to visit its uranium mines in 1994 and by declaring the uranium conversion facility in 2000. So in short, your implied argument that Iran would not have declared Natanz is not supported by facts, and remains purely speculative, as the same goes for the site in Qom (which indeed Iran declared first) If you insist on framing the issue as “Iran’s clandestine facilities” and dismissing contrary information as mere “lawyerly” talk then you’re basically trying to make the facts fit your predetermined conclusions rather than vice versa. The IAEA has clearly said that there is no evidence of any undeclared facilities or material in Iran. The rest is just speculation which can just as easily be applied to practically any country. BRazil, Egypt, S. Korea … all of them “could” have clandestine facilities. Go prove otherwise.

    Speaking regarding the 2007 NIE on Iran, ElBaradei has stated that the IAEA has no evidence of any undeclared facilities in Iran

    IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei … notes in particular that the Estimate tallies with the Agency´s consistent statements over the last few years that, although Iran still needs to clarify some important aspects of its past and present nuclear activities, the Agency has no concrete evidence of an ongoing nuclear weapons program or undeclared nuclear facilities in Iran.

    Note further that unlike S. Korea or Egypt or Brazil, Iran had implemented the Additional Protocol, and even on occasion exceeded the AP in allowing inspections at sites such as Parchin based on zero evidence of anything actually going on there. THe result: nada. That’s precisely why the nature of the US accusation against Iran changes and is unclear: on one hand, Iran is accused of having parallel clandestine facilities, but when that doesn’t pan out, Iran is accused of seeking the capability or intention of making nukes in the indefinite future. What both of these accusations have in common is the rhetorical nature of not being disprovable (mainly because they’re entirely specious and speculative.) SInce we assume the sites are “clandestine” therefore by definition they can’t be found to exist or not exist…how convenient. And since we’re speculating about a future course of of conduct, then by definition there is no way to prove that Iran will or won’t build nukes in the future… again, how conveinient. And you’ve bought into this. Sad, really.

  9. hass (History)

    In short, you went from “iran could have clandestine enrichment facilities” (nevermind the absence of evidence) to asserting that Iran already has a “history of clandestine enrichment”, like magic. Presto!

  10. TTA

    I think you are seeing the nuclear swap deal the wrong way. It´s supposed to be a confidence-building measure, in an environment where confidence is non-existent.

    The idea – expressed by the US in October – that the deal was supposed to simply take the uranium from Iran killed it from the start. THAT was what “zombified” the deal from the beginning.

    This is about negotiations. You don´t negotiate if you don´t take the parties back to the table. The swap deal may not solve all the issues regarding the Iranian dossier, but it´s a start.

    This is the first big concession from the Iranian side since 2003, when they accepted to implement unilaterally the Additional Protocol. That´s no small feat.

    BTW, it´s ironic for Western analysts to say that Brazil and Turkey have been manipulated by Iran, when these two countries actually managed to get something out of Tehran after just a few months, while a whole year of Obama´s “extended hand” has not moved the situation forward one single inch.

  11. shaheen

    It’s neither a violation of the letter nor a violation of the spirit: – Art. 4 does not say anything about enrichment and reprocessing (and for good reasons – see the negotiating record). – In any case, enjoying the benefits of Article 4 is conditioned by compliance with Article 2, which Iran has violated. Unless you assumes that Iran is in compliance (a position that I would find insane or extraordinarily misinformed, but, hey, it’s your call).

  12. Azr@el (History)

    I believe the IRI has handled as expertly as anything I’ve ever seen in the realm of diplomacy. The Iranians have ~2.4 tons of 3.5%, if we allow for an enrichment to weapons grade that is ~50% efficient then that translates to ~8 five kg weapons. They trade away 4 of these virtual bombs for an end to sanctions, return to negotiations and fuel for the TRR. Absolutely brilliant. I think the new requirement for a state department job should be previous experience working for the Iranian Foreign Ministry; send out the head hunters.

  13. Joseph

    You said it has too many moving parts, but a big part is missing from most discussions on the deal: what state will provide the other 1200 kg of LEU? And what State will enrich it? Iran’s stock stays sealed in Turkey until 120 kg of 20% enriched UF6 arrives. Is it not only the United States that has enough spare LEU to send to France for enrichment? Or will Russia do it-both donate and enrich? Or? Can Iran trust these other players? Plus, what about fabrication? Where other than France can that be done??

  14. MK (History)

    When the deal was originally broached, if I’m not mistaken, Iran was not enriching beyond 5%. When Tehran pulled the deal off the table, it then proceeded to enrich to 20%. If my recollection is correct, then it seems to me that one essential proviso for revisiting the deal would be for Iran to stop enriching to 20%. Yes? No?

  15. FSB

    do you think UNSC should sanction the US over its flouting of Article I on the NPT also? (Helping non-NPT members w/ their nuclear programmmes)

    Glass houses.

  16. Alan (History)

    shaheen/hass – Iran IS in non-compliance according to the IAEA Board, for their failure to co-operate over the “Alleged Studies”. But that’s it.

    The Alleged Studies were not of sufficient magnitude to be considered an outstanding issue at the time the IAEA Work Plan was agreed with Iran to “resolve all outstanding issues”.

    They rematerialised as an issue just as Iran resolved the last Work Plan item, although not I believe on the basis of any new information. I think there might be a case to say something corroborative had emerged, however whoever provided it will not permit Iran to see originals of the evidence.

  17. FSB

    MK: Iran needs to enrich to 20% for medical purposes, even if it is unsettling.

    Joseph: it is to be done in France.

  18. Jeffrey Lewis (History)


    Well, yes, as I say, on the merits, the Administration has to push Iran to stop enrichment above five percent.

    But I believe the Iranians are likely to refuse — at least that has been their position, that enrichment above five percent is “without respect” any fuel swap.

    So we are left to ask, if Iran does refuse, should the Obama Administration insist?

    I think the cost of insisting, as Paul Ingram points out, is high. Refusing dampens the chances for engagement.

    On the other hand, as you point out, the whole purpose was to obviate enrichment above five percent. If Iran continues with that, then what was the point?

    Neither option is very appealing, if you ask me. I would rather we never made the offer, although I confess I didn’t the see the outcome this clearly.

    So, having made the offer, I think we are stuck with it.

    I suspect, however, that the Administration will judge that the political costs of a half measure outweigh the modest gains, and cut the Iranians off at the knees (and their own noses off, to spite their faces.)

    At least, that’s how I read the Gibbs statement.

  19. Pires (History)

    FSB, Although Brazilian vice-president did make that statement, Brazil is signatary of an agreement that keeps Latin American as a nuclear-free site and Brazilian Constituition does not allow the country to develop such weapons. Oh, and Brazil is also TNP signatary. You should worry about the four countries that are not signatary, they all have already dozens of bombs (except for NK) and they have not such a peacefull tradition as Brazil does.
    I do agree there are still many concerns about the iranian nuclear program, but if this time they show commitment, it´s a good path, I preffer it than watered sanctions that can make the islamic regime even hardlined.

  20. Alan (History)

    Jeffrey – “the whole purpose was to obviate enrichment above five percent. If Iran continues with that, then what was the point?”

    Surely if that was the purpose, the West should simply have agreed to sell them the plates without all this tomfoolery? Otherwise we have practically forced them to enrich to 20%.

  21. hass (History)

    Shaheen, I’m sorry but the entire world disagrees with the notion that enrichment is not included in Article IV. And similarly, the right to enrichment is not something granted by the NPT at all — it is sovereign right that preexisted the NPT. Under the NPT, Iran agreed to declare nuclear facilities and allow inspections to ensure non-diversion of nuclear material. And it has done so. THus, there is no “conditionality” attached to Iran’s right to enrich uranium. Iran has the same right to do so as Japan, Brazil, or even the US and China.

  22. Jeffrey Lewis (History)


    The fuel must be fabricated in France or Argentina. Recall the French strategy paper that ended up in the press on the subject.

    Obviously, with a deal involving Turkey (holder of the Iranian LEU), Russia (supplier of the LEU for fuel assemblies), France (fuel fabricator) and the United States (assistance with TC at the Tehran Research Reactor), there is the potential for lots to go very, very wrong.

    I would love to see a flowchart with every step, including any legal or policy changes necessary for implementation.

    I am all for confidence-building measures, especially in this context, but this always struck me as a case of walking before we were ready to run. Neither side was likely to come out of the engagement concluding the other was serious about a deal.

  23. hass (History)

    Actually Alan, the “alleged studies” have no bearing on Iran’s compliance with the nPT because the IAEA has specifically said that it has detected no diversion of nuclear material related to those “alleged studies”. You see, “compliance” means not diverting nuclear material, and allowing accounting. Iran is and always has been in full compliance with the NPT. There is nothing in the NPT which says countries can’t design warheads or missiles, even nuclear ones if we are to assume that the “alleged studies” are accurate and true (a big if).

  24. Jeffrey Lewis (History)


    The Administration was being clever — if you turn over the LEU you say you need to fuel the TRR, we will enrich it for you.

    That foundered because the Russians weren’t willing to run Iran’s dirty hex through their ‘fuges. So, we ended up with a reflagging or a swap, which then opened up questions about when, where and how to swap the fuel.

    8 months later, Turkey has agreed to take a consignment, but now Iran has twice as much LEU in the form of hex and is enriching above 20 percent — meaning that if Iran ships the fuel out tomorrow, we still don’t return to the status quo ante.

  25. hass (History)

    Incidentally, why should Iran cease 20% enrichment when there is no guarantee at all that at the end of the year, Iran will receive the promised fuel? Note that this whole issue could have been avoided had Iran been allowed to simply purchase the fuel for the TRR as usual, in full compliance with the NPT and under IAEA safeguards as usual so that 800,000 cancer patients could have their isotopes. There was no weapons risk involved, and the material would be under total safeguards. Why wasn’t that allowed to happen? THis was simply a case of trying to strong-arm Iran which backfired.

  26. Jeffrey Lewis (History)


    The safeguards create more obligations than mere non-diversion. There is no question that Iran has violated its safeguards agreement. The only interesting question is whether we ought to conclude that Iran is in material breach of its obligations under the NPT. (Oddly, I keep saying “no” though you don’t make it any easier for me.)

    As a more general matter, the sort of tendentious arguments you make about Iran’s compliance are precisely why people think the Iranians are building a bomb. These are the arguments of lawyers for criminal defendants and used car salesmen.

    These arguments invite suspicion, rather than dispel it.

  27. Azr@el (History)

    “These arguments invite suspicion, rather than dispel it.”

    Vigorous defense is no more an admission of guilt than refusing to answer questions and deferring to ambiguity is indication of innocence.

  28. Alan (History)

    Hass – Iran are most certainly non-compliant as things stand. That was the finding in the IAEA Board resolution of September 2005, which was notified to the UNSC in February 2006. The finding was based on Iran’s lack of co-operation over the Alleged Studies.

    Whether or not you think that situation is justified is another question. But in the eyes of the IAEA and the UNSC, Iran are non-compliant today.

    Jeffrey – interesting; I wasn’t aware of those permutations. But the question must remain why they just didn’t sell them the plates from scratch, because if they had there would be no 20% enrichment in Iran today.

  29. hass (History)

    Jeffrey, the IAEA made a list of issues to address regarding past safeguards violations, which it said involved no weapons-related issues, and by the Feb 2008 report concluded that there were “no other outstanding issues”. A safeguards violation is not the same thing as NPT non-compliance, and it it were, then S. Korea and Egypt should have been hauled before the UNSC. And the Lawyers Committee for NonProliferation Agrees:

    “The conclusion that no diversion has occurred certifies that the state in question is in compliance with its undertaking, under its safeguards agreement and Article III of the NPT, to not divert material to non-peaceful purposes. In the case of Iran, the IAEA was able to conclude, in its November 2004 report, that all declared nuclear materials had been accounted for and therefore none had been diverted to military purposes. The IAEA reached this same conclusion in September 2005.”

    I don’t know what “people” you think believe the Iranians are building bombs – the US accuses Iran of seeking the capability or “breakout option” and not actually building the bomb now.
    As for “lawyers” the fact remains that Iran has allowed far more inspections and compromises than the law requires of Iran. Yet since Iran is accused of “intending to seek the capability” to make bombs, there is no way for Iran to disprove the charge no matter how many inspections are allowed because the IAEA can’t see into the future. Indeed any country with a nuclear program could be accused of having a “breakout option” and according to the IAEA there are currently 40 countries that could rapidly build a bomb if they so chose.

  30. Alan (History)

    Jeffrey – yes, it doesn’t get them back to the status quo ante, which looks bad, but that was the tactical mistake in trying to complicate a simple request into something requiring all these other parties.

    The strategic mistake was to try and couple the enrichment question with the TRR. On the TRR, Iran are on to a winner. I think the US needs to decouple the two issues again, otherwise the only chance for a resolution is a comprehensive deal that encompasses the TRR and I can’t see where that would come from without a stepping stone.

    Still, the prospect of Iran giving up enrichment to 20% could yet be used to both sides’ benefit, if they want to.

  31. hass (History)

    PS It might be lawyerly of me, but note that according Article 19 of Iran’s safeguards agreement, the IAEA may refer Iran to the UN Security Council ONLY if the IAEA is “not able to verify that there has been no diversion of nuclear material required to be safeguarded under this Agreement, to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices” AND Art. 2 which states that the purpose of the safeguards agreement is for the “EXCLUISIVE purpose of verifying that such material is not diverted to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” This is standard language in the all basic safeguards. Note further that even then, the IAEA’s model safeguards agreement (INFCIRC-153) imposes various limits on inspections, and requires that IAEA inspections avoid hampering or causing “undue inteference” with civilian nuclear programs, whilst also requiring that the IAEA collects the “minimum amount of information and data consistent with carrying out its responsibilities” and “reduce to a minimum the possible inconvenience and disturbance to the State.”

    Finally, note paragraph 52 of the Feb 2006 IAEA report on Iran:

    “[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 that authorizes the IAEA to investigate Iran’s missiles program unless there is evidence of nuclear material involved — which the IAEA has said there isn’t.

  32. Mark

    Oh come on! The demand that Iran give up enrichment is simply not tenable nor justified by any safeguard violations ESP when those have been resolved with no evidence of diversion to nonpeaceful uses. Accusing people of being “lawyerly” or not, that’s just a fact.

  33. FSB

    but no tendentious arguments are needed in Brazil’s case: their vice President said they want nukes. Plain and simple.

    When do we start bombing Brazil?

    Even-handedness would be nice, or admitting that we are picking on Iran because we are not friends.

    The Lawyerlyness you mention applies more to Iran’s critics in dreaming up reasons to censure it, instead of just saying that “we kindda feel uncomfortable with brown people mastering the fuel cycle.”

    When the DNI says that we have no evidence that Iran has made a decision to start making nukes, and when the Brazilian VP says they want nukes, and folks argue to censure Iran — well, you gotta wonder who is being lawerly.

  34. andrew

    Pretending that Iran has no right to domestic enrichment is silly when so many other states already have the technology. The US or any other country can claim Iran is in noncompliance with the npt, and Iran can do the same to the US, but there is no formal international mechanism for determining this.

    Trying to pretend Iran already has a bomb capable of reaching us is silly as well. Sanctions have produced absolutely no tangible results whatsoever, so I don’t understand how it is ‘weak’ to propose simply acknowledging reality. We could demand that Iran stop enrichment tomorrow, but that doesn’t translate in to a reality.

    The TRR deal should be used as a stepping stone in to more diplomacy, finding the easiest things to agree on first. This could be Iran going down to 20%, agreeing to further transparency measures, etc. In return, the US could return long frozen property, agree to share (some?) evidence of its accusations with Iran so it could resolve it with the IAEA, etc.

  35. BenjaminS (History)

    The Iranians have ~2.4 tons of 3.5%, if we allow for an enrichment to weapons grade that is ~50% efficient then that translates to ~8 five kg weapons.

    -@Azrael But wouldn’t a design necessitate 25kg of material?

  36. masoud (History)

    The IAEA board has no right to by itself adjucate or demand that UNSC adjucate any legal disagreements between itself and the IRI. The safeguards agreements explicitly spell out how such impasses are to be resolved; an arbitration panel is to be appointed, and the method by which this is to be done is clearly laid out.

    Neither the NPT, IRI’s safeguards document the IAEA statute or any other document appoints or defers to the UNSC as the proper forum to resolve differences of opinion’s as to Iran’s obligations. So your assertion that the UNSC has found Iran to be in breach of the NPT is entirely without meaning, the UNSC can’t find that Iran is either in compliance or non-compliance with the UNSC.

    There’s a whole lot more one can say about the IAEA board and the DG’s reports, but we can just stop at the same observation made in the previous paragraph. We can’t take their allegations about Iran’s compliance seriously when they themselves are in blatant violation of the arbitration procedures laid out in they safeguards agreement they signed with Iran.(to say nothing of the IAEA’s other failures)

  37. G.Balachandran (History)

    Mr.Haas’s sympathies for Iran should not lead him to make outright false statements on its behalf. In particular that (i) “The IAEA has clearly said that there is no evidence of any undeclared facilities or material in Iran” IAEA has nowhere said that. What IAEA has repeatedly said is that Iran has not diverted any of the safeguarded material. Indeed IAEA would find it very difficult and would even refuse to do so, unless Iran ratifies the Additional Protocol and gives IAEA all the access that it is entitled to under the AP. In fact with AP, IAEA has in, fact, given a number countries a certificate that they do not have any undeclared facility or material. They cannot and will not do that in respect of Iran. (ii) “prevent Iran from acquiring the nuclear technology that it was entitled to obtain,” Iran is not entitled to demand and obtain anything technology or equipment under any of the current agreements that it has with anybody including IAEA. All that it is entitled to is to develop on its own any technology it desires.
    Of course, he is right in saying that saying that “You do not have the right to full enrichment and reprocessing cycle under your control.” is “blatantly a violation of the NPT’s letter and spirit”. Letter certainly but not spirit. In anycase Iran’s insistence on building enrichment facilities without declaring it IAEA on the grounds that no nuclear material has been introduced falls in the same category. It is a violation of the spirit but not the letter of NPT.
    In any case all these discussions are purely academic. Iran, that is personal opinion, is fully engaged in acquiring the capabilities to build a nuclear explosive device short of actually building it and testing it. It has uranium production that is not under safeguards. It has undeclared enrichment facilities. From the operational experience gained form running the declared facilities, it can improve the working of the undeclared facilities to improve its efficiency and work out the bugs. It can work all related aspects of nuclear explosive devices, not involving nuclear material, since there is no AP.
    It can do all these in full understanding that it will have the support of some major countries-Brazil, South Africa, Russia and China for whatever reason- that will prevent any meaningful action being taken by UN.
    The only bright spot in the whole affair is what is sauce for the goose is sauce for gander as well. If any state or group of states take upon themselves to take some meaningful action against Iran, neither can Iran depend on any meaningful UN action against the other party. Till then Iran will merrily progress towards its intention to acquire nuclear explosive capabilities and then one day opt out of NPT citing national security reasons and then overtly declare its nuclear capabilities.

  38. Alan (History)

    Hass – just to correct/clarify what I said earlier, that Iran remains in non-compliance because of the lack of co-operation over the Alleged Studies.

    Iran had expected to have that non-compliance status lifted in Feb 2008 (as you allude to), as all aspects of the Work Plan excluding the Alleged Studies had been resolved to the IAEA’s satisfaction by then.

    Iran never considered the Alleged Studies to be an outstanding issue on the Work Plan, however the IAEA did. Hence the non-compliant status remained.

    In every report, the IAEA only attests to the non-diversion of declared nuclear materials. They never attest to the absence of undeclared nuclear material.

  39. FSB

    Balachandran says “It is a violation of the spirit but not the letter of NPT.”

    The powers that are uncomfortable with states violating the spirit (but not the letter) of the NPT are welcome to re-negotiate another treaty.

    Arguably, the US has more explicitly violated (even the letter of) the NPT [Article I at that!] by giving help to India a non-NPT state, than anything Iran has done.

    As I quoted above the US DNI has repeatedly said that the US IC assesses that Iran has made no decision to start nuclear weapons production.

    On the other hand Brazil has said explicitly that they want nukes, as late as last year.

    Even-handedness is what is missing.

    On that note, let us not forget which nation started the nuclear arms race in the middle east ~40 yrs ago, and which NPT member helped it and/or looked the other way when that occurred.

    Let’s talk sometime about violations of the spirit of the NPT, shall we?

  40. Arnold Evans (History)

    Jeffrey, the question is what do you want.

    1) Do you want Iran to sign the Additional Protocols and to provide assurances that it is not building a weapon?

    2) Do you want Iran to accept that it cannot be “nuclear weapons capable”?

    If what you want is 1), then Iran is willing to do that if its right to a nuclear program like that of Japan or Brazil is respected. If you’re willing to respect that right, then anything that gives both sides a pretext to get to the table and hammer out an agreement is good.

    If you want 2) well, you’re never going to get it. You will not get it with this deal, you will not get it without this deal, you will not get it with sanctions, you will not get it with military strikes.

    You have to decide for yourself how important it is to prevent Iran from being nuclear capable like Japan or Brazil.

  41. Johnson

    The latest IAEA report clearly states that the IAEA cannot confirm the non-diversion of nuclear material.

  42. hass (History)

    I’m sorry Alan, you’re just not aware of the facts and legalities. Iran has never been held in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. After all, there’s a REASON why every IAEA report specifically states that there is no evidence of diversion of nuclear material in Iran. THey’re not saying that because they have to fillup some space in he report. THAT’s the applicable legal standard, explicitly stated in Iran’s safeguards agreement.

    As for past violations of safeguards (which is different from violations of the NPT): in August 2007 IRan and the IAEA agreed to a Modalities Agreement or “Workplan” to resolve outstanding issues, and by Feb 2008 the IAEA declared that all outstanding issues had been resolved with no evidence of any nuclear weapons.

    Indeed, the IAEA BOG acting under duress by the US (including a bribe of nuclear cooperation with India which was itself a blatant violation of the NPT) did demand that Iran do the following:

    “Implement transparency measures, as requested by the director-general, including in GOV/2005/67, which extends beyond the formal requirements of the Safeguards Agreements and Additional Protocol, which include such access to individuals, documentation relating to procurement, dual-use equipment, certain military-owned workshops, and research and development as the Agency may request in support of its ongoing investigations.”

    “Transparency measures” is IAEA talk for voluntary measures that are not obligatory. The fact is that Iran is not bound by the Additional Protocol, and certainly is not required to exceed even the requirements of a treaty that it has not ratified, and so the BOG’s demands on Iran are simply laughably illegal, ultravires and non-binding. Nevertheless, the fact is that Iran had voluntarily implemented the AP and had even allowed inspections beyond the rquirements of the AP anyway (at sites such as Parchin) with ZERO evidence of any nuclear weapons found, and yet the US still insisted on sanctioning Iran.

    Regarding the “Alleged Studies”, Elbaradie himself has said that it involved no nuclear material — meaning that it falls outside of the jurisdiction of the IAEA

    And I have been making it very clear that with regard to these alleged studies, we have not seen any use of nuclear material, we have not received any information that Iran has manufactured any part of a nuclear weapon or component. That’s why I say, to present the Iran threat as imminent is hype.

    Nevertheless, as part of the Workplan, Iran said it would address the Alelged Studies as soon as it receives the documentation. To date, the US has refused to provide the documentation that Iran is somehow supposed to refute. As Peter Casey has written

    [Saying] 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. 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. For example, the U.S. did not let the IAEA have copies of key documents concerning the “ballistic missile warhead” for a “nuclear weapon” … The agency was “therefore unfortunately unable to make them available to Iran.”

    There is simply no evidence of any nuclear weapons program in Iran:

    most U.S. intelligence shared with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency has proved inaccurate, and none has led to significant discoveries inside Iran, diplomats here said.

    And the demands on Iran have nothing to do with finding nuclear weapons

    A senior official close to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director Mohamed ElBaradei accused unnamed Western powers of using the same ‘hype’ tactics employed against Iraq before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion to justify imposing further sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program: “Some people do not want to see the Iran issue resolved because that would contradict their hidden agendas,” he said, adding that “people should have learned from their mistakes in the past, when all the hype over alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq turned out to be just that — hype.”

    Bottom line: it doesn’t matter what Iran does, or how many inspections it permits and the goalposts will be kept moving because none of this has anything to do with nuclear weapons, rather the goal of the US is to deprive Iran (and other developing nations) of their right to enrichment, in blatant violation of the NPT and international law. That’s the dirty secret that we’re not supposed to acknowledge with all the scare-talk about nukes.

  43. hass (History)

    Balachandran – I specifically quoted Elbaradei where he said that the they have no evidence of undeclared facilities in Iran. See above. Even when Iran implemented the Additional Protocol for more than 2 years, still no undeclared facilities were found (which is why the US accuses Iran, in the alternate, of seeking “breakout capacity” rather than actually having a nuclear weapons program.) If the US has the evidence, it is free to provide it to the IAEA BOG who can then demand special inspections.

    And I think that accusing people of having “sympathies” for Iran by insisting on accuracy is ridiculous. Need I remind everyone that pretty much every one of the “non-proliferation experts” totally failed to do their jobs when it came to the falsehoods on Iraq and were in fact complicit in the atrocity that occured there? Do we really need that experience again?

  44. shaheen

    Arnold, your comparison with Japan and Brazil is off the mark (though Iran would like it).
    Neither one or the other has been found in violation of its SA.
    Neither one or the other have secretly built enrichment facilities that have no economic rationale.
    Neither one or the other is enriching to 20% with zero rationale (recall that Iran would be unable to make fuel for the TRR).
    Neither one or the other has been found to undertake weaponization studies.
    Again, the issue is not whether or not Iran should be allowed to have an enrichment capability. This would not pose a problem to anyone if Iran had demonstrated its good faith. One way to do this might be to ratify and effectively implement the AP (though IAEA staff privately acknowledge that the AP is probably not even sufficient in a case like Iran).

  45. FSB

    Shaheen sez:

    “Neither one or the other has been found in violation of its SA. “

    uh, sure, and that’s because they have not been doggedly pursued by the weight of the US-Israel lobbies.

    Try this on for size

    Pursue that for a bit and you may be surprised.

  46. anon

    NYTimes reporting we have go for sanctions — I am certain they will work. yahoo.

  47. G.Balachandran (History)

    really hate to quibble on details. But FSB should read NPT more closely before making any comments on the India-US nuclear deal. Under NPT all that is required is that no NPT member should transfer any nuclear material or facilities or equipment to any other country without requring IAEA safeguards on the materials supplied, material derived from safeguarded materials etc. and everything that was supplied to India till today has been undersafeguards. It was the 1992 NSG amendment to its rules that went beyond NPT. All that the India-US deal did was to set the clock back to 1992 and restore the NPT supply condictions. Actually it went beyond the pre 1992 position, since prior to that date there was no requirement that in addition to the supplied being safeguarded, other facilities that did not involve any foreign supplied items need to be placed under safeguards, as India did in 2008.
    If according to FSB restoring pre 1992 environment is a violation of NPT, then violation of NPT started long before that when Canadians supplied the RAPS and the US TAPS. I do not recall anybody but anybody anywhere making the claim that the India US tarapur and Indian-Canada Rajastan Atomic Power station agreements were in violation of NPT. I have no idea about the chronological age of FSB but I am sure that, had he been of adult age, even he would not have made such a ststement then.
    There is a sayimg that a thorn can be taken out only with the help of a sharp needle/thorn like implement. Iran is on a program to acquire nuclear weapon acting strictly within the letter of NPT and its NPT committments. It banks on the inability of the international community to do anything about it because of whatever reason tye support it enjoysnfrom ceratin members of UN. The only way to delay its progress towards achieving its goal is for one or more nations also to act against the Iranian program without violating any of their international committments. there are many ways to do that. The question is who will do that?

  48. Arnold Evans (History)

    One similarity between Iran, Japan and Brazil: as of today, any of them, if they made the political decision that there was an urgent need, could produce at least one nuclear weapon relatively quickly.

    If this is a state of affairs you can tolerate, or that the US can tolerate, it will be easy to produce an agreement that puts Iran’s nuclear program under the most strict IAEA examination.

    If this (Iran being nuclear capable) is a state of affairs that the United States is going to try to reverse, it will just fail, and pay unnecessary costs in doing so.

    But if you’re worried, no, Iran is not going to build a weapon in the foreseeable future. The current inspection regime is enough to give pretty good assurance of that. More assurance will not be available until the United States accepts that Iran is nuclear capable.

  49. DZ (History)

    I am afraid that Hass has it all right…… Shaheen there are so many things wrong about your assesment regarding differences between Brazin and Iran that i will not even be bothered answering but your answer can be found on this blog in the numerous debated on this issue.

  50. hass (History)

    Actually Shaheen, there are many questions regarding Brazi’s nuclear program including allegations of involvment by Khan. Brazil has consistently blocked IAEA inspectors from viewing their centrifuges. In any case, Egypt and S.Korea were both found to have violated their safeguards agreement by engaging in very potentially weapons related nuclear experiments. The fact that a bigger deal was not made out of these countries only proves the political nature of the process nothing else. In the case of Egypt, there are still traces of highly-enriched, weapons-grade uranium that remain unexplained. The claim that Iran has “zero rationale” for enrichment is ridiculous. Even assuming arguendo that Iran cannot currently make fuel, it can probably do so in the near future and would have to start somewhere, let alone the negotiations leverage that the 20% enrichment provides. It been established that Iran has undertaken “weaponization studies” nor would such studies constitute a violation of the NPT or Iran’s safeguards. Iran has already offered to ratify the AP but has been told that it does not have a right to enrichment, contrary to your claim that enrichment is not the issue.

  51. Arnold Evans (History)

    Looking at an earlier query to Hass:

    A query. Are you asserting that Iran intended to declare either Natanz or Qom in time to avoid a safeguards violation?

    I assert that. Why would Iran not? What would Iran have fed those facilities with all of its uranium under seal by the IAEA?

    Do you assert that the United States intends to order its nuclear bombers to stand down before starting WWIII in 2012?

  52. Alan (History)

    I didn’t get the message that my previous reply was successfully posted, so am posting again – sorry if repetitive.

    Hass – you can argue all you like over whether you think Iran is compliant, but the irrefutable fact is that, as far as the IAEA are concerned, they are NOT, and have not been compliant since September 2005. Whether this is extrapolated to mean they are in violation of the NPT isn’t really the point. They are non-compliant with their Safeguards Agreement, the reason is the Alleged Studies, and a raft of measures have followed that finding that are still in effect.

    Now, I have a lot of sympathy for the argument that Iran should not be in that position, but the fact remains they are, and the position with regard to the NPT framework and the diplomatic framework is now a total mess. The parties cannot simply shake hands and do a deal. The whole legal web that has been built up – the sanctions, resolutions, IAEA-UNSC referral, and the IAEA finding of non-compliance all has to be unpicked before a deal can be done.

    So that all tends to suggest a TRR deal is all but impossible, unless there is a clear decoupling of the enrichment issue from the TRR issue.

  53. Shay Begorrah (History)

    There is the rank odour of hypocrisy about this entire discussion and it is now overpowering.

    Iran is being pursued because if it became nuclear capable it would curtail US freedom of action in the resource rich and strategically important middle east. If Iran was a US client state none of this would be happening.

    That is all there is to it. Why not just admit it and end the shameful and embarrassing pretence that this is in any way about honesty, morality or the common good?

  54. Arnold Evans

    Alan, what do you see as the relationship between the TRR deal and the enrichment issue?

    I’m not sure how you find that the legal position of Iran impacts the TRR deal at all.

    Purely humanitarian uses like nuclear technology for medical purposes, from memory, were specifically excluded from the resolutions.

  55. Azr@el (History)

    “-@Azrael But wouldn’t a design necessitate 25kg of material?”

    Benjamin considering the DPRK has a plutonium implosion design using 2 kg it would not be unreasonable to assume the IRI would employ a U235 implosion device of 5 kg.

    I believe the IAEA starts to get concerned at 25 kg; the mass of U235 needed for a gun type device that can forgo testing. It’s highly unlikely a contemporary third world proliferator with a limited enrichment capacity and access to the internet would shoot for a conservative fissile intensive design like South Africa did in the pre-InfoRevolution age. Fairly simple and robust designs can get below 10 kg of U235 for a tactical device.

  56. Azr@el (History)

    “The only way to delay its progress towards achieving its goal is for one or more nations also to act against the Iranian program without violating any of their international committments. there are many ways to do that. The question is who will do that?”

    Dear Mr. Balachandran your question begs the question, How? If you have a moment would you please care to share a few thoughts on possible courses of action. I do hope you are proposing something more politically tangible than military solutions or blockades.

  57. masoud (History)

    The fact that the US and it’s allies have an easy time stacking the BOG doesn’t grant their legal arguments validity. Article 19 of Iran’s safeguards agreements spell out exactly when the BOG can “report” the IAEA to then <acronym title="or as it puts it, take action under paragraph C of Article XII of the Statute”>UNSC:
    ———————————————————————— Article 19
    If the Board, upon examination of relevant information reported to it by the Director General, finds that the Agency is not able to verify that there has been no diversion of nuclear material required to be safeguarded under this Agreement, to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, it may make the reports provided for in paragraph C of Article XII of the Statute of the Agency (hereinafter
    referred to as “the Statute”) and may also take, where applicable, the other measures provided for in that paragraph. In taking such action the Board shall take account of the degree of assurance provided by the safeguards measures that have been applied and shall afford the Government of Iran every reasonable opportunity to furnish the Board with any necessary reassurance.

    Article 22 explicitly denies the Agency the authority to “report” Iran to the UNSC for any other disagreements, and establishes the proper procedure for handling such circumstances:
    Article 22
    Any dispute arising out of the interpretation or application of this Agreement, except a dispute with regard to a finding by the Board under Article 19 or an action taken by the Board pursuant to such a finding, which is not settled by negotiation or another procedure agreed to by the Government of Iran
    and the Agency shall, at the request of either, be submitted to an arbitral tribunal composed as follows:
    the Government of Iran and the Agency shall each designate one arbitrator, and the two arbitrators so designated shall elect a third, who shall be the Chairman. If, within thirty days of the request for arbitration, either the Government of Iran or the Agency has not designated an arbitrator, either the Government of Iran or the Agency may request the President of the International Court of Justice to appoint an arbitrator. The same procedure shall apply if, within thirty days of the designation or appointment of the second arbitrator, the third arbitrator has not been elected. A majority of the members of the arbitral tribunal shall constitute a quorum, and all decisions shall require the concurrence of two arbitrators. The arbitral procedure shall be fixed by the tribunal. The decisions of the tribunal shall be binding on the Government of Iran and the Agency.

    The Agency has never found that it “is not able to verify that there has been no diversion of nuclear material required to be safeguarded under this Agreement”, so the Agency has no authority to report the matter to either the security council or the General Assembly. The fact that it did so contrary to the agreements in force render it’s findings moot. It may just as well have found that you need a haircut and reported you Extreme Makeover. Neither does the UNSC “calling upon” Iran to take measures to “comply with provisional measures” that have been explicitly identified as being “without prejudice to the rights, claims, or position of the parties concerned” under article 40 of the UN charter create any obligation for Iran under the either the NPT the it’s safeguards agreement, the IAEA statute(which it has not even ratified) or any other relevant instrument. Iran remains in full compliance with it’s international obligations, US propaganda notwithstanding.

  58. masoud (History)


    Reading the NPT is actually good way to determine what it says. In the case of India, to whom the US is providing fissile material, so that it can divert it’s own material to weapons programs, you don’t even have to read very far to see what it says:
    Article I

    Each nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; and not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, or control over such weapons or explosive devices.

    That’s pretty self explanatory. It should hardly come as a surprise that the US is in blatant violation of this Article of the treaty; there are barely any substantive elements of the NPT that the US doesn’t flagrantly violate as a matter of policy.


  59. FSB

    What masoud said.


  60. Alan (History)

    Masoud – the answer is simple: the IAEA have NOT been able to confirm the non-diversion of nuclear material. They have been able to confirm the non-diversion of DECLARED nuclear material, which they repeatedly state in their reports, however they also repeatedly state that they are UNABLE to provide “credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.”

    That gives them the right to invoke Article 19 of the CSA. Whether you or I think they are justified in doing so is totally irrelevant. They have, and the situation that pertains as a result of it has to be dealt with.

    Arnold – the TRR deal needs to be treated as a fuel deal alone as you suggest, and not be used as a means to limit or restrict Iranian enrichment, or to enforce UNSC Resolutions. Up until now, that is how the US has used the proposed deal, either by getting Iran to ship out the LEU produced, or by extracting a concession that they won’t enrich to 20%, or by extracting a concession that they will suspend enrichment altogether, or a combination of all or some of the above.

    For their part, Iran has been seeking to use the TRR deal as a means of undermining the international legal process against them by stressing the deal permits them to continue enriching.

    A deal is simply not possible if this approach is taken by either side, firstly because Iran will not accept to curb their enrichment, and secondly because the US can’t just sit down and say OK you can enrich to 5%, because that flies in the face of all the legal framework built up over the last 5 years. It would undermine the entire NPT protocol.

    Thus what was needed originally was a humanitarian deal, stressed by both sides as being separate and distinct from the wider nuclear issue.

    Unfortunately, the way the TRR issue has been handled has given Iran a golden opportunity to commence enrichment to 20%, thus tying the enrichment issue even more closely to the TRR issue.

    The only way I see it working now is if Iran agrees to cease enrichment to 20% once finished fuel plates are delivered, and during the year that that will take, the two sides can work on reversing the legal steps taken against Iran, perhaps culminating in some kind of deal that agrees enrichment to 5%.

  61. Balachandran (History)

    I hate to flog a dead horse. two things. First, Hass again repeats his statement by quoting the DG IAEA as saying “we have not seen any use of nuclear material, we have not received any information that Iran has manufactured any part of a nuclear weapon or component.” Of course not when it was not given any access to places or people? Does this mean that IAEA is saying that Iran has no undeclared material or facilities? Hardly. Let me quote the various IAEA Annaul safeguard reports:
    “To conclude that there is no indication of undeclared nuclear material and activities in a State,
    the Agency carries out a comprehensive evaluation of the results of its verification activities under the relevant safeguards agreement and additional protocol, and an evaluation of all information available on the State’s nuclear and nuclear-related activities. In order to draw such a conclusion, the Agency needs to have:
    conducted a comprehensive State evaluation based on all information available to the
    Agency about the State’s nuclear and nuclear-related activities (including declarations
    submitted under the additional protocol, and information collected by the Agency through
    its verification activities and from other sources);
    implemented complementary access, as necessary, in accordance with the State’s additional
    addressed all anomalies, questions and inconsistencies identified in the course of its
    evaluation and verification activities.
    A conclusion relating to the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities can be drawn
    for a State only when these activities have been completed and no indication has been found by the Agency that, in its judgement, would give rise to a possible proliferation concern”
    As regards Iran IAEA is quite clear. “Unless Iran implements the above transparency measures and the Additional Protocol, as required by the Security Council, the Agency will not be in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.” So I am not at all clear how anyone can say that IAEA has given a clean chit to Iran. perhaps not only Indians and Americans spell words differently in English, perhaps even words have different meanings.
    As regards NPT and supplies to India, I see references to diversion of material etc.
    I am not yet clear how supplies to India undersafeguards is a violation of NPT.
    Are these correspondents implying that supply of nuclear items even under safeguards is a violation of NPT unless the receiving country has fullscope safeguards as required by the 1992 NSG amendment? If such exports are illegal under NPT there would have been hardly any need for the 1992 amendment as all the NSG members then were NPT contracting states as well.
    and if that is indeed the case, then a lot of illegal transactions had taken place much before the India -US agreement. Argentina was a not a NPT signatory when it built the Atucha and Embalsa nuclear power pants with German, French and Canadian assistance
    Brazil was a not a member of NPT when it first got Angra I as a turnkey project from US and Angra II from Germany. and at the time these countries imported these faciulities, NPT was already in place.
    and there are many many more such examples. I do not recall anyone complaining about the illegality of these transactions then. Incidentally both Argentina and Brazil were involved in experiments and nuclear research on nuclear explosive devices.

    At least in case of India, the India-US Tarapur agreement August 1963, India-Canada Rajasthan Power Plant agreement signed in December 1963 were concluded much before the NPT.

  62. FSB

    Read mine and masoud’s comments under Krepon’s latest post. The substance of the discussion is similar enough that I move to shift the commenting there.

  63. masoud (History)


    If they can confirm the non-diversion of declared nuclear material, that’s good enough. Because by definition, already existing illicit nuclear material can not be diverted; it’s going exactly where it was meant to go.
    If the Agency can’t verify the non-existence of undeclared nuclear material, well that’s a bit of a sad story, but it’s not grounds to find Iran in non-compliance.


  64. masoud (History)


    I never mentioned safeguards.
    The NPT is quite clear about what constitutes a violation of Article one. The criteria are actually rather broad. The US is committed to
    “not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices,”
    Providing India fuel and technical expertise for it’s civil reactors has the transparent purpose of allowing it to redirect it’s own resources to it’s weapons program. This constitutes assistance inducement and encouragement to manufacture a nuclear weapon. India is a non-nuclear weapons state as per Article IX paragraph 3:“For the purposes of this Treaty, a nuclear-weapon State is one which has manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device prior to 1 January 1967.”

    Assistance to Argentina or non-nuclear-weapons states does not have the same effect of inducement encouragement or assistance to manufacture nuclear weapons. Assistance to India before it went nuclear is similarly not bound by the same restrictions. Unless NPT review conference in question has unanimously voted to repeal or massively alter Article I(or i guess Article IX paragraph 3), any other conclusions it has come to have no bearing on the illegality of the US assistance program to India.

    Take Care,

  65. Mark

    Alan the IAEA does not confirm the absence of undeclared nuclear material or facilities for ANY country unless the are subject to the Additionsl Protocol. That’s all. The IAEA has not confirmed the absence of undeclared nuclear facilities for Egypt,Brazil, S Korea etc. However unlike those countries Iran temporarily implemented the AP with still no undeclared facilities found. Once again even the US dies not accuse Iran of having secret undeclared nuclear facilities. Rather they accuse Iran of “intending to seek the capability” to make nukes using it’s existing, overt nuclear program.

    Balachandaran: the IAEA is specifically on record denying rumors that Iran blocked inspections. And the IAEa head elbaradei himself said that the deal with India was a violation of the NPT. Even the US acknowledged that implicitly by claiming that it was nevertheless a supposedly justifiable violation.

  66. Mark

    I’m sorry Alan but by it’s explicit terms Irans safeguards applies exclusively to nuclear material, and so not to missiles and warhead designs and everything else in the Alleged Studies absent Some evidence that it involved a diversion of nuclear material (and the IAEA has said it did not) Thus Iran can’t be judged to be nomcompliant with it’s safeguards over the allged studies because it’s safeguards don’t even apply in the first place.

  67. G.Balachandran (History)

    Since you seem to be happy playing with words why don’t we take the game a bit further? You have quoted Art. 1 of NPT “not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices,”
    Let us parse it word by word.
    Before that let me enunciate some fundamentals that I don’t think anyone would object to:
    First, India is not a signatory to NPT;
    Two, it has its own uranium resources which it has been mining for long. The actual annual production does not matter. Let us say it is X.
    Three, India is, and has been engaged in building stocks for its weapon program for long, since its first test in 1974.
    Four, It has enough reactors capacity, and much more in fact, to use all this X tons of uranium in these reactors in production mode, since they are all PHWR and use the spent fuel from thereof, to extract Pu for its strategic program.
    Five, it has its own reprocessing plants to extract Pu from the spent fuel.
    Six, it has been building nuclear weapons since 1974. It has the manufacturing experience.
    Seven, it has acquired and can keep on acquiring nuclear weapons with its own natural uranium. Nobody can in any way influence its use of its own fuel. It can make weapons, it can produce power, sling shots or cricket balls or whatever as it chooses to do.
    Now all during the Indo-US deal and even before that it was India’s contention that it will
    Not in any manner compromise its strategic program. In fact, had this been insisted upon, it would have walked away from the deal.
    So does it need anybody to assist it in making weapons. I think I have established that it needs no assistance.
    Does it need encouragement? Has it been reluctant to manufacture weapons because of what others may think and hesitant. Does it need any inducement because it was reluctant to manufacture nuclear weapons? I don’t think. If you or anyone believe so, I can only quote the first Duke of Wellington’s reply when somebody accosted him and said “Mr. Jones, I believe” to which the Duke replied; “Sir, if you believe that, you would believe anything”.
    Does the India-US deal in any other manner enable India to acquire nuclear weapons? If you can enlighten me on this, it would be useful.
    By the way you state “Providing India fuel and technical expertise”. Fuel, I can understand. But even you, I would think, providing fuel under safeguards would help India increase the availability of natural uranium beyond its own indigenous production, to produce material for weapons. And as we have established if India wants to use all of its production of natural uranium, there is nothing anybody can do about it.
    So that leaves “technical expertise”. Now I have been following India’s nuclear program for some time. As established above, India has been making bombs, successfully I believe so far, and has no such need, unless it now wants to build bigger bombs, megaton size etc and may need some assistance. Are you suggesting that the “technical expertise” you mention is along these lines? If, in fact US does that, forget about NPT, it would be in violation of, I suspect, dozens of US laws. If that is not what you had in mind, can you elaborate on the “technical expertise” that is being provided. Now if the US were to offer India the latest reprocessing technology, then perhaps you may have a case since that may enable India to get more Pu from the reprocessing procedure than what it would have got from its own technology, enabling India to produce more weapons than would have been possible otherwise.
    But that is not the case.
    So after going through this elaborate analysis, I am still confused as to how Art. I is being violated. Perhaps you can explain that in an equally lucid and detailed manner rather than making vague and unsupported bland assertions.

  68. G.Balachandran (History)

    my apologies. But I trust in quoting Art. 1 of NPT you did not interpret “not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce” to mean that a NWS must actually hinder/prevent/discourage/deter/dissuade/restrain/impede/obstruct etc and since the US was not successful in doing any of these, it is a violation of Art 1.

  69. Alan (History)

    Mark – the Alleged Studies include the Green Salt project which does pertain to nuclear material.

    As I said on Michael’s thread, the CSA makes no distinction between declared and undeclared.

    It is Iran’s choice whether or not they adopt the AP. If they choose not to, with the consequence that the IAEA cannot confirm the absence of undeclared facilities and the absence of diversion of nuclear material from them, then they have only themselves to blame.

  70. FSB

    that is certainly a cute analysis. The (valid) point masoud was making is that India needs its own U (production=X) for both power and military.

    If US helps it get more (Y), then it has more to devote to nuclear weapons.

    Uranium, like money, is fungible.

    Since X+Y>X then US has assisted India’s nuclear weapons program indirectly which is also against Article I.

    Yes, India does not need assistance, but it sure appreciates it — otherwise why bother signing the deal.

    US has assited India’s nuclear weapons program indirectly by boosting the U allocated to it.


  71. G.Balachandran (History)

    Your logic baffles me. India had X to use for either weapons or power. No one can stop it from using the X for weapons. So Max weapon is X. Since nuclear power contributes about 1.5 % of Indian’s total electric genration, it is not really a critical component. If India is not using X fully for weapons it is out of choice. If needed the nuclear power can be easily dispensed with at present moment and the full X used for weapons.
    If Y is provided under safeguards, still only X is available for weapons. no more no less. the Y can be used for power that is just a by product. and in any case the Y can be only for the safeguarded reactors whose share in India’s total nuclear generating capacity is less than third i.e. less than 0.5 of total power generation in the country. and which canbe esaily dispensed with if neccessary.The Y is not critical for India’s power generation. It is X that is relevant for NPT Art 1 purpose and that does not get changed. Hence there is no way any thing that is provided that indirectly assist India’s weapon program. Hence no violation of NPT

  72. Andrew


    Do you think the U.S. should provide evidence to Iran about the alleged studies which it may or may not have conducted? It is hard to see how Iran would be able to respond otherwise.

    There are 151 member states in the IAEA, 100 of which have brought in to force an Additional Protocol with the Agency. The Agency is thus unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in 33.37% of its Member States, or 51 of its Member States. Your reading of the Additional Protocol seems to be somewhat novel.

    What do you think of the Of the 19 Non-Nuclear-Weapon States (NNWS) party to the NPT that have not yet brought into force a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the Agency?

  73. Alan (History)

    Andrew – I certainly think the US should provide the evidence, but if they don’t and the IAEA still wants to act on it, the IAEA must formulate specific questions. If the evidence upon which they are based is nonsense, it shouldn’t be that difficult to demonstrate it.

    I concede there would be a difficulty on Iran’s part if the evidence pertained to non-nuclear defence activities, and I think some of it does, but the Green Salt project I would have thought would be easy to dispel.

    On the wider point you make, it all comes down to suspicion. If there is no suspicion in a member state without the AP (or CSA), then nothing is ever likely to escalate.

    If there is suspicion, then the degree of political motive in referring for non-compliance can be exploited where a country does not have the AP (or CSA) in force.

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