Mark HibbsClosing the Iran File

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei, is the most important player in decisions on Iran’s nuclear program. For anything that Iran’s new president-elect, Hassan Rouhani, may propose to the outside world to solve the Iranian nuclear crisis, we won’t know for a fact whether Rouhani will be acting upon specific instructions from Khamenei. But we do know that any nuclear initiative sponsored by Rouhani will have the endorsement of the Supreme Leader. So in the aftermath of Rouhani’s election, we had better pay close attention to what Khamenei says.

Including this item from last week, for example:

In regard to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Khamenei said, “The agency has acknowledged that the problems it has had with Iran’s nuclear program have been resolved; therefore, Iran’s nuclear case should be closed.”

Iranian officials have frequently employed language like this to urge the IAEA to terminate its ten-year investigation of Iran’s nuclear history and activities and return to what Iran calls “routine safeguards.” But on this point, the Supreme Leader has been misinformed.

The IAEA has not “acknowledged that the problems it has had with Iran’s nuclear program have been resolved.”

The IAEA Board of Governors, from its first Iran resolution in September 2003 has called on Iran to cooperate fully with IAEA to ensure verification of compliance with Iran’s safeguards agreement [operative paragraph 4] and requested Iran to fully implement its Additional Protocol [operative paragraph 6]. As the IAEA has investigated Iran’s nuclear program at the behest of the IAEA Board of Governors since 2003, some issues included in the Agreed Workplan of August 2007 have been understood well enough for IAEA to say they were “not outstanding at this stage” of their investigation, but not resolved. These issues included contamination on P1 and P2 centrifuges, polonium-210, and the Gchine uranium mine.  The IAEA resolved questions about Iran’s plutonium experiments. But the key issue – possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear activities – has not been resolved.

The IAEA has a list of questions it wants answers to from Iran. What’s on the list? We don’t exactly know since the IAEA has not made public its compendium of questions. Based on what the IAEA has told its Board of Governors over time, we can assume that there are outstanding questions about “alleged studies” on UF4/”green salt” production, high-explosives testing, and missile re-entry vehicle projects [GOV/2008/4 paragraph 35]; acquisition of uranium metal [paragraph 19] R&D activities of military-related institutes and companies that could be nuclear-related [paragraph 40-41]; and about production of components by companies owned by Iran’s national defense industry [GOV/2004/11 paragraph 37 and GOV/2004/34 paragraph 22]. These issues cited here were included in IAEA reports from the period 2003-2008. They and additional questions concerning the “possible military dimension” of Iran’s nuclear program were elaborated by the IAEA in a report to the board in November 2011. The IAEA is also interested in pyroprocessing, irradiation of uranium targets, and recovery of uranium from ash.

States with Additional Protocol

For a state that has an Additional Protocol in force, after the state provides a so-called initial expanded declaration of its nuclear-related activities, questions and inconsistencies would be evaluated by the IAEA in consultation with the state.

The IAEA began implementing the Additional Protocol in states with comprehensive safeguards agreements (CSA) soon after approval by the IAEA Board of Governors in 1997. Since then the record shows that doing the evaluation can take many years for countries like Iran with complex nuclear programs including R&D and fuel processing installations.

At the end of this process, the IAEA reaches a so-called “broader conclusion” which is defined by the IAEA Safeguards Glossary as follows:

For each State with a CSA and an additional protocol based on [Infcirc/540] in force, a broader conclusion can be drawn for the year concerned that all of the nuclear material in the State had been placed under safeguards and remained in peaceful nuclear activities or was otherwise adequately accounted for. To be able to draw this conclusion, the IAEA must draw the conclusions of both the non-diversion of the nuclear material placed under safeguards and the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities for the State as a whole. The conclusion of the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities is drawn when the activities performed under an additional protocol have been completed, when relevant questions and inconsistencies have been addressed, and when no indications have been found by the IAEA that, in its judgment, would constitute a safeguards concern.

The broader conclusion for each state is reviewed annually. For 2012, the IAEA provided the broader conclusion for 60 of the 114 states that have both a CSA and an AP. For the other 54 states with CSA/AP, in 2012 the IAEA found “no diversion of declared nuclear material from peaceful nuclear activities.” Because verification in these states was incomplete by the end of 2012, however, the IAEA told the board last month that “evaluations regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities remained ongoing.”

AP and Iran

What’s all this got to do with Iran?

In December 2003, Iran and the IAEA signed an Additional Protocol for Iran, and in May 2004, Iran submitted an initial expanded declaration to the IAEA. Iran however never ratified the Additional Protocol and has suspended its implementation since 2006.

Given Iran’s past track record of systematic omissions and failure to declare nuclear activities to the IAEA, the international community wants Iran to ratify and implement its Additional Protocol to provide confidence that all of Iran’s nuclear activities are dedicated to peaceful use. In return, successful implementation of the Protocol should mean that over time the IAEA’s verification of Iran’s nuclear program would gradually be reduced to the level of other states that have CSAs and APs in force and similar nuclear programs.

Moving forward with Rouhani means making progress on two tracks–the political track and the IAEA track.

The political track requires negotiation of a political agreement between Iran and the powers—this should be in parallel with U.S. bilateral discussions with Iran— which should include agreement about what nuclear activities Iran will do and what other activities Iran agrees not to do. The agreement may include incentives provided to Iran (such as these incentives for future nuclear cooperation) and a confidence-building verification protocol; it will have to resolve how the United Nations Security Council’s demand for suspension of all Iranian enrichment-related and reprocessing activities will be handled; and, last but not least, it must incorporate a robust verification mandate for the IAEA in Iran. In practice such a political agreement will depend on Iran’s political will, bolstered by incentives in the deal Iran makes with the powers.

How could IAEA verification go forward under such an agreement?  One roadmap to resolution looks something like this:


  • Iran voluntarily brings into force its Additional Protocol, and submits an updated expanded declaration to the IAEA, including information on unreported activities prior to 2003;


  • In parallel, Iran voluntarily adopts the modified Code 3.1 of its Subsidiary Arrangements General Part on early design information and submits declarations under it to the IAEA on new reactors and enrichment facilities, as well as on the IR-40 heavy water reactor at Arak;


  • The IAEA, after receiving the expanded declaration for the Additional Protocol submitted by Iran, begins the process that can lead to a broader conclusion, with the recognition by Iran that getting to the broader conclusion will take a long period of time;


  • The IAEA will consider issues related to the “possible military dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear program prior to 2003 (including access to the Parchin site) as part of the evaluation of Iran’s AP expanded declaration. These issues may not be resolved quickly but they would have to be resolved prior to the IAEA giving Iran a broader conclusion.


It would be fair to say that for a few states with complex nuclear fuel cycle programs, some issues have been evaluated by the IAEA during implementation of the Additional Protocol whose resolution required about five years. In the case of Iran, given that the IAEA has since 2003 learned quite a bit about Iran’s nuclear program, it might be possible to arrive at a broader conclusion in two to three years—provided that Iran fully cooperates with the IAEA.

The IAEA does not “close files.” Terms of its safeguards agreements and Additional Protocols obligate the IAEA to perform ongoing evaluation that all nuclear material remains in peaceful activities. This may include requests for access to locations and information on the basis of new information raising questions about the correctness and completeness of the state’s declarations.

As Iran implements the above steps, and the international community develops growing confidence in the fully peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear activities, the intensity of IAEA safeguards implementation on declared nuclear material in Iran will come into accordance with the practice in other NPT states which have an Additional Protocol. That assumes however that Iran’s leaders’ repeated statements that Iran is only interested in peaceful uses of nuclear energy are true.



  1. Rene (History)

    I think there is a rather important problem with al-Monitor’s translation. Khamenei didn’t use the Present Perfect “the agency *has* acknowledged.” He used the Simple Past: “The Agency signed, accepted that the problems that existed were clarified [lit., ‘were put to the side/periphery’] … So, the controversy should have ended, the nuclear file should have been closed. [But] the Americans immediately introduced something new.” I believe by ‘something new’ he is referring to the Alleged Studies (later morphed into PMD).
    (The full speech:

    Btw, Khamenei’s title is not ‘Supreme Leader’. He is simply the Leader. In Iranian media, those who want to be extra respectful or sycophant call him the Supreme Leader. Most reformists call him the Leader, or Ayatollah Khamenei.

    • Mohammad (History)

      Rene, I think you are being overly literal in the translation, though Al-Monitor’s translation is a bit misleading, too. IMO, the official translation of Khamenei’s office is more accurate than both, though not completely accurate: “On many occasions, we came very close to a solution. They signed the agreements. The International Atomic Energy Agency signed the agreements. It admitted that the problems had been eliminated. The documents exist. These things cannot be denied. Well, the issue should have ended. The nuclear file should have been closed. But the Americans immediately created a new problem. They do not want the nuclear issue to end.”

      My translation: “On many occasions, we came very close to a solution. The [International] Atomic [Energy] Agency signed [the agreements]. It accepted that the problems which existed, have been resolved. These [documents] exist, there are documents. They cannot be denied. So, the issue should have ended. The nuclear dossier should have been closed. But the Americans immediately created and brought on a new thing. They don’t want the issue to be ended.”

      The sentence in bold, when read in Persian, is not explicit as to whether he meant “all problems” have “completely been resolved” in a legal sense, i.e. bearing in mind the distinction between “not outstanding” and “resolved”. He did not use a legal term for “resolved”, and as Rene said, the Persian verb can even be very literally translated to “being put aside”. The same consideration applies to Khamenei referring to Iran’s nuclear dossier being “closed”. I don’t believe he meant that Iran’s nuclear dossier should be “closed” in a legal sense, he was referring to Iran’s case ceasing to be a “crisis” case.

      Then, Khamenei evidently goes on to refer to the Alleged Studies / PMD issue as the “new thing”, something “created, brought on by the Americans so that Iran’s nuclear dossier would not be closed”. This also seems to allude to the doubts on the validity of the Alleged Studies documents which were often expressed under El-Baradei’s tenure, which often kept them away from the spotlight and the central points of the IAEA’s publicly expressed concerns.

      On the title of the “Supreme Leader”, while Rene is right that there’s no such official title in Iran’s constitution, it’s noteworthy that the English websites run by his offices ( and refer to him by that title, though I think their translators have adopted this title from Western media. It is not even a translation of the honorary title he is usually referred to by officials, i.e. “مقام معظم رهبری” which can be loosely translated as “The Eminent Leadership”.

    • Rene (History)

      Thank you, Mohammad! The main point I was trying to make was that the Present Perfect translation makes it look like Khamenei thinks that the Agency still believes that the problems have been eliminated, which is not the implication of Khamenei’s sentence.

      It’s interesting that his websites call him the ‘Supreme Leader’; I didn’t know that.

  2. tms5510 (History)

    Why should Iran give more than it is obliged under NPT? Additional protocol is an addition as its name says. I think Iran should not accept any more agreement unless we get something with similar weight (total sanction relief + acceptance of the additional protocol by all ME states including Israel) in return.

  3. BK (History)

    What if Iranian decision makers come to the conclusion that the process which Mr. Hibbs described, in combination with ever growing list of sanctions put forward by US congress (which practically speaking, won’t be rolled back) doesn’t add up and leave the NPT altogether? Is this what US is looking for?

  4. NAJ Taylor (History)

    Cracking article. I think you deftly temper your strategic expertise with sound words on the political and cultural climate within Iran. Often the latter two dimensions are mis-stated or misunderstood in the broader media, so I think this piece does a really good service.

    I particularly liked your closing section – except the jolt of “the international community develops growing confidence”. My only comment would be that the allegations and problems aren’t really from any so-called “international community” (nearly always a problematic phrase if one thinks about it) but instead a few select states led by the US, Israel, UK, … etc. and of course marshalled through the politicisation of the IAEA. Regardless of the flack that counter-assertion brings, I am still unsure what the repeated use of that phrase really achieves.

    The idea of “growing confidence” is a very sound one. Importantly it suggests that this must be what I’d called a “dialogical exchange” – which would also demand concessions and a shift in disposition from the US.

    • mark (History)


      I’m quite sure that the desire of what I called the “international community” that Iran ratifies and implements its Additional Protocol goes beyond “a few select states led by the US, Israel, UK…”

      In 2010, the NPT Review Conference adopted a Final Document by consensus.

      Action 28 of that Final Document says this:

      The Conference encourages all States parties which have not yet done so to conclude and to bring into force additional protocols as soon as possible and to implement them provisionally pending their entry into force.

      The Final Document including Action 28 represented the resolve of 190 state parties to the NPT, including Iran.

      So does the “international community” want to see an Additional Protocol being ratified and implemented in Iran? I think the record is clear.

  5. yousaf (History)

    “What’s on the list? We don’t exactly know since the IAEA has not made public its compendium of questions.”

    I got a copy of the IAEA’s list of concerns, and published them here:

    (half-way into the piece)

    I tend to disagree with you that Iran has to answer to all and sundry vague extrajudicial “concerns” du jour of the IAEA.

    There are legal issues, and everything else: e.g. the “concerns” not having to do with nuclear material diversion.

    The IAEA itself admits that “absent some nexus to nuclear material the agency’s legal authority to pursue the verification of possible nuclear weapons related activity is limited.”

    I agree with the IAEA when it says that.

    Of course, it trips over itself and contradicts itself repeatedly and often, so the only real compass to use in navigating this issue is the legal one.

    • George William Herbert (History)

      Question of our time:

      Is it the remit of the IAEA to enforce the totality of the NPT, including AP type things (non-fissile-materials-related, etc), or not?

      If not them, then who?

      If nobody, then why on earth would anyone think nonproliferation has a chance in hades of being effective?

    • yousaf (History)

      Good question: the answer is — No it is not the remit of the IAEA to enforce the NPT.

      It is the remit of the IAEA to carry out inspections in accordance with the bilateral IAEA- Safeguards Agreements. There are 140 or so such “treaties”.

      There is much confusion about this point but the NPT and IAEA CSAs are legally separate treaties: one is a multilateral one and the others are bilateral ones.

      There is no entity that enforces the NPT.

      There is also no entity that enforces the Outer Space Treaty.

      Both the NPT and OST are old treaties without enforcement.

      Newer treaties do often have verification mechanisms and associated international organizations to operate them. The best example of course being the CWC/OPCW.

      The International Court of Justice could try to step in if a specific issue arose in the “enforcement” of the NPT.

      BTW, the International Court of Justice interprets the NPT’s nuclear disarmament clause as a legally binding obligation — although, admittedly, it too does not impose any timeframe to accomplish this goal.

    • Nick (History)

      Yousaf, I think in the past I have read you say that: the IAEA is a fissile material accounting agency; I really like this definition which explains your argument here.

    • mark (History)


      The list you are referring to in your published article which you link was more than a year old when you published that article. My understanding is that it is not complete.

      Of course the IAEA’s concerns referred to in the PMD annex from November 2011 are “extrajudicial” in the strict and very narrow sense of that term.

      ex·tra·ju·di·cial (kstr-j-dshl)
      1. Outside of the authority of a court.
      2. Outside of the usual judicial proceedings.

      That does not mean or imply that the IAEA has no mandate or authority to raise these issues with Iran.

      There can be no question that the IAEA has that authority to pursue these issues in the case–as I outline in the blog post–should Iran volunteer to ratify, bring into force, and implement its Additional Protocol.

      I’ve explained in the blog post that without answers to questions about these issues there can be no broader conclusion under the AP. The AP spells out the process by which these questions can be addressed and resolved by Iran.

      Regarding the “nexus” issue you raise: It would fairly straightforward to understand that there is a relationship or nexus insofar as these outstanding issues raise questions about the correctness and completeness of Iran’s nuclear material declaration. But you know that already. I don’t need to keep repeating it. A thorough expression of this view is here:

    • Cyrus (History)

      Mark, on what basis do you say that the IAEA has authority to do things that neither the NPT nor Iran’s safguards agreement authorize it to do? You can’t just say “there can be no question” — there are in fact plenty of questions.

      MH: READ the blog post. It is about what Iran would commit to if it volunteered to ratify and bring into force its Additional Protocol. I would also recommend that you read that document.

    • yousaf (History)

      There is a difference between a mandate and the legal authority, however.

      e.g. The police have a mandate to stop crime.

      But they do not have the legal authority to poke around your bedroom at 3am to carry out their mandate to stop crime.

      A similar situation occurs with the IAEA.

      IAEA does have such a mandate, but they are still restricted in their legal authority.

      With an AP their authority is increased (but still insufficient).

      You can perhaps talk to your colleague Pierre Goldschmidt at Carnegie about the subtle distinction:

      Pierre Goldschmidt, former deputy director of the IAEA Safeguards Department, has summed it up well:

      “the Department of Safeguards doesn’t have the legal authority it needs to fulfill its mandate and to provide the assurances the international community is expecting ”

      i.e. the expectations are misplaced.

      To settle this issue of declared versus all material, one can see what the IAEA itself says — The IAEA is pretty crystal clear on this point:


      “Basically, two sets of measures are carried out in accordance with the type of safeguards agreements in force with a State.

      One set relates to verifying State reports of ****declared**** nuclear material and activities. These measures – authorized under NPT-type comprehensive safeguards agreements – largely are based on nuclear material accountancy, complemented by containment and surveillance techniques, such as tamper-proof seals and cameras that the IAEA installs at facilities.

      Another set adds measures to strengthen the IAEA’s inspection capabilities. They include those incorporated in what is known as an “Additional Protocol” – this is a legal document complementing comprehensive safeguards agreements. The measures enable the IAEA not only to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material but also to provide assurances as to the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in a State.”

      Again, if the benefits of the Additional Protocol were available to the IAEA without a state having ratified the AP, then there would be no need for the AP.

      Furthermore, the UNSC has not imposed the AP on Iran (as it cannot do so), and only “calls upon” Iran to consider doing so. The AP is a voluntary measure.

      Moreover, there is no one who has tasked the IAEA with proving that a nation’s nuclear program is purely peaceful.

      This would be an impossible task in any nation.

      In their reports on Iran, the IAEA is simply making a tautological statement that the “Agency is unable to provide credible assurance….to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.”

      That is of course true, as it is also for 70 or so other states. The Agency cannot also verify the purely peaceful nature of Brazil’s and Argentina’s nuclear program. Not a problem.

      The problem, I think, is that the media and many pundits think that the IAEA is castigating Iran by stating this. The IAEA is simply making a statement of the limits of their ability. i.e. It is a CYA type of statement.

      For 70 or so other states, the IAEA also finds “no indication of the diversion of declared nuclear material from peaceful nuclear activities. Evaluations regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities for each of these States remained ongoing.”

      [See “Safeguards and Verification Safeguards Statement for 2011 and Background to the Safeguards Statement Safeguards Statement for 2011”]

      The report you refer to was not written by lawyers, and since it has an ex-IAEA person on it it can hardly be considered objective in trying to get at the truth in an argument between the IAEA and IRI.

      This is a response to that piece:

      I also recommend:


      This is why the report’s findings are so indeterminate. Since the IAEA is acting outside of its legal authority in this section of the report, it does not have a legal standard to apply to its conclusions regarding possible nuclear weapons related activities not involving fissile material.

      Throughout the report, the Director General expresses “concern” about the information being presented, and requests “clarification” from Iran in order to address these concerns. However, since there is no treaty language in Iran’s, or any other state’s, safeguards agreement that deals with non-fissile-material activities related to nuclear weapons, there is no prohibitive or regulatory standard that the Director General can point to against which to make a conclusion of compliance or non-compliance. In short, as the ancient legal maxim states, there can be no illegality where there is no law. The IAEA is simply “concerned.”

      Why they are concerned is itself a matter of curiosity. There is no knowledge or technical ability related to nuclear weapons detailed in this report, and allegedly possessed by Iran, which other technologically advanced non-nuclear-weapon states like Japan or Germany do not possess. These are specialized bodies of knowledge and technical capabilities, to be sure, but they are well within the knowledge base and technical abilities of these advanced industrial states.


      Thank you for the valuable forum for this interesting debate. It is very useful to see the various points of view being expressed.

    • George William Herbert (History)

      Yousaf writes (at much more depth, but summarized by his introduction):
      “Good question: the answer is — No it is not the remit of the IAEA to enforce the NPT.”

      I submit to you that this is true of the original NPT other than fissile material / facility accounting roles. You describe this situation in depth and I don’t disagree, as originally constituted.

      I also submit to you that the lack of a total NPT enforcement agency was identified and the reason for the Additional Protocol work, which is obviously a sticking point with Iran, but has been signed up for by (nearly) everyone else on earth.

      Based on that assertion/assumption, I believe that the AP has caused the international standard / legal expectation to be that the IAEA becomes the NPT enforcer. Iran is standing on principle on objecting to the AP, the IAEA’s new role, and more intrusive review can be seen as principled, or tactical. Again going to motives, which nobody seems to agree on most likely / probable range.

  6. Johnboy (History)

    I would suggest that both Rene and Mohammad have put their finger on the flaw in this article i.e. Iran’s complaint isn’t that “we have satisfied the IAEA” but, rather, that whenever a specific issue is resolved then a new accusation is levelled.

    So AS FAR AS THE IRANIANS are concerned the process is *designed* to be never-ending, in which case Mark’s suggested remedy would be seen by them as an exercise in pointlessness.

    Worse, actually, since it would involve the Iranians actually agreeing to jump onto a treadmill that is controlled by those who are intent upon Running Them Into The Ground.

    Mark concludes that the aim is to get to a place where “the international community develops growing confidence in the fully peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear activities”.

    That assumes however that the aims of the “international community” (??) is really that benign. Which is something that I doubt.

    • kme (History)

      This sounds like the Iranians would agree with Mark that as a practical matter a political solution must be found before the IAEA process can be resolved, although perhaps not as to the reason why.

    • George William Herbert (History)

      “So AS FAR AS THE IRANIANS are concerned the process is *designed* to be never-ending, in which case Mark’s suggested remedy would be seen by them as an exercise in pointlessness.”

      This is a fair criticism. But gets us right to the point… the whole exercise is to demonstrate in a fairly transparent manner to all parties that proliferation isn’t (or if it was, it’s not now and has been rolled back). It’s about confidence building. For success it requires transparency and trust.

      Trust will generally come from transparency, even if there’s animosity. The US and USSR did generations of arms control while locked and loaded ready for war with each other.

      Saddam’s great failing was that his transparency came too late to be credible at the time, and the war happened anyways.

      Libya became (within the governmental / IAEA circles) transparent and de-proliferated, and was accepted as such and walked down off a bunch of lists. Had he not had a dirty civil war erupt he’d still be there today.

      North Korea has just never been transparent.

      Iran… Currently, is a mirror for everyone’s fears, whether those are of proliferation or of hegemonic misbehavior by superpowers. Scarily, those all could be right.

    • Cyrus (History)

      George, Iran suspended enrichment entirely for 3 years, and repeatedly offered to cease 20% enrichment, and has allowed far more inspections than the NPT requires. And at every step the demands on Iran have been increased and the goalposts moved. Iran is not the problem here.

      MH: Yours and Iran’s narrative in the IAEA boardroom (I don’t see any difference) illustrates one point above all: The Board of Governors made a big mistake in not responding to the IAEA’s 2003 findings of 18 years of systematic deception by Iran, by passing a resolution stating clearly and without further ado, in 2003, that Iran was in non-compliance with its safeguards obligations and then ordering Iran to suspend sensitive nuclear activities pending clarification of outstanding issues related to the non-compliance finding.

      Here’s an alternative narrative which you may try on. It may be as loaded with half-truths as yours and Iran’s. Or perhaps it may be closer to the truth:

      Both the IAEA and the member states, above all the U.S.–wrongly focused on Iraq–and the European Union powers–who had their own unique interests in the Middle East–bear considerable responsibility for not pursuing Iran’s non-compliance in a timely and effective manner. Instead, as has happened more than once in a multilateral nuclear crisis, the incurable negotiators were permitted to take over in the West, a state of affairs which allowed Iran to talk itself out of a jam from which it emerged when it lifted its voluntary suspension of enrichment three years later.

      The IAEA Secretariat and the Board of Governors have been paying the price for that mistake ever since. In 2003, as Mousavian’s memoires testify, Iran aimed to get the EU-3 with the backing of MEB into a negotiation which would save Iran’s neck, and permit Iran to divide and rule in Vienna. Iran succeeded.

    • Johnboy (History)

      Mark, I’m curious about your reply to Cyrus since it concentrates almost entirely upon accusation regarding events prior to 2003.

      It appears (correct me if I’m wrong) that there hasn’t been any substantiated evidence of any continued nuclear weapons development in the 10 years that have elapsed since then.

      Isn’t there a point where this become a pointless exercise, perhaps even an exercise in vindictiveness?

      Surely if Iran has kept its nose clean for 10 years (and, again, is there any substantiated evidence to the contrary?) then maybe, just maybe, that’s because there really hasn’t been an Iranian nuclear weapons program for at least a decade, if ever.

      But fixating upon the “if ever” part brings to mind the phrase “flogging a dead horse”.

      And doing so to the detriment of the Here And Now brings to mind the phrase regarding noses, spite, and faces.

    • Johnboy (History)

      MH: “that Iran was in non-compliance with its safeguards obligations and then ordering Iran to suspend sensitive nuclear activities pending clarification of outstanding issues related to the non-compliance finding”

      I must have missed something here, but where did the BoG gain the authority to tell a signatory to shut off their nuclear enrichment plants?

      The IAEA can find a finding of non-compliance with safeguards obligations, no question.

      The BoG can then take up that issue, sure, it can.

      But I’m curious regarding where the Board gained the authority to be Judge, Jury and Executor of a signatory nation’s nuclear enrichment program.

  7. FlamesInTheDesert (History)

    “The Conference encourages all States parties which have not yet done so to conclude and to bring into force additional protocols as soon as possible and to implement them provisionally pending their entry into force”

    The key word in that statement being ALL,not just iran.Just out of curiosity how many other states have yet to implement the AP?,as for the term “international community”,well it could be worse they could be calling themselves “the free world”

    • Cyrus (History)

      The keyword is actuall “encourages”. No countri is OBLIGATED to sign the AP, and the UNSC certainly has no authority to demand that of Iran or anyone else.

  8. yousaf (History)

    One year ago, Patrick Disney wrote about this concocted non-crisis in the Non-proliferation Review:

    From the abstract:

    “This article will demonstrate that the concept of nuclear ambivalence applies in the case of Iran, suggesting that current international nonproliferation efforts run the risk of encouraging rather than discouraging Iranian weaponization.”


    From the text:

    “Complete control over a state’s nuclear development is…impossible.

    This complicates efforts by the international community to interpret and respond to perceived risks of new nuclear developments by potential proliferating states. In the worst case, uncertainty about a potential proliferator’s ‘‘true’’ intentions leads nonproliferation advocates to pursue an exceedingly hardline approach, creating strong incentives for resistance on the part of the targeted state and actually contributing to proliferation.”

  9. Nick (History)

    IRI would be dumb to accept the AP again, in the midst of all these threats of “all options are on the table.”

    By revealing or reconfirming the location of all the facilities that are used for assembly and R&D of centrifuges, which is expected from the AP, IAEA recent reports, and the P5+1 proposal at Almaty II, IRI will be delivering on a silver platter additional targets. It will also jeopardize those civilians that are working on these nuclear facilities.

    Come to think of it, IRI takes these threats very lightly and naively. They have a track record of giving medals to nuclear scientists and then these folks end up on the sanction list or get killed.

  10. Arch (History)

    Mousavian is consistent in his memoirs and elsewhere in explaining at least his own view, and he is a bulldog, and the most creative guy so far, in search of an “out.” Iran, for a host of reasons, wants to be Japan or Germany technologically but not politically. They want a breakout capability, but no economic sanctions for pursuing the same. They make hay out of threatening the current political consensus, as they apprise it. Maybe we should all trust the fatwa, but there are plenty of ways Iran can build trust (like the IAEA, sitting right in front of them). Official Iranians apparently think, and have thought since their sneakiness was revealed ten years ago, that their statements must be taken at face value. They have failed to convince. For now, they have the votes, because they turned a verification issue into a North-South issue. The NAM chapter in Vienna was formed around the time Iran got into trouble with the IAEA, and quickly and expertly turned this into an issue of “haves” versus “have-nots.” And they had the votes in the IAEA Board, eventually, which had never decided anything by other than consensus until the Iran file hit the fan. You combine the dogmatists in Iran and those in DC, i.e., John Bolton, and this is the result you get.
    8 minutes ago · Like

    • mark (History)


      Without any verification, the Fatwa is a dead letter. Iran quits the NPT, declares the Fatwa, and the inspectors pack their bags?

      The Quran forbids nuclear weapons, we hear. There are nuclear weapons in Pakistan. I confess not to know anything about the fine points of Islamic law. But I don’t get it.

    • yousaf (History)

      The problem is that, as written, there are huge holes in the CSAs (and the NPT) that legally allow a nation to get to the red-line of weaponization via dual use equipment.

      It is unfortunate and regrettable but legal.

      Just like possession of nukes by the UNSC.

      Think of the fatwa as a non-binding CBM if that helps.

      If one doesn’t like the current treaties and CSAs and CBMs and Fatwas, one can propose new treaties and verification methods as I have done:


    • Rene (History)


      Allow me to shed some light on some not-too-fine points of Islamic law:

      1) The Qur’an does NOT forbid nuclear weapons. (Obviously.)

      2) A fatwa is a formal legal opinion expressed by a competent jurist. In Twelver Shi’i jurisprudence, a fatwa is supposed to be based on the Qur’an, the corpus of reports describing the sayings and actions of Muhammad and the Imams, the consensus of legal scholars (usually defined narrowly as Twelver Shi’i scholars), and the intellect. Not least because of the intellect as source, a great deal of subjectivity goes into the production of a fatwa. So, even two jurists from the Twelver Shi’i sect may arrive at two different opinions, let alone jurists from different theological or legal schools.

      3) For the government of Iran, it is the fatwas of the Leader(s) which are binding. Other Shi’i jurists, Sunni jurists, etc., don’t matter. Their fatwas are respected for their own followers, but the government of Iran is not among their followers. So, the fact that the majority-Sunni Pakistan has nukes doesn’t mean anything about the position of Iran’s Twelver Shi’i government. It is the opinion of the Leader that matters, and we all know what that is.

      4) Having said all of this, it would be too much to ask from a policy maker to believe in the complete efficacy of the fatwa. When the hermeneutics of suspicion rules supreme, one does not trust even one’s own party members, let alone a system halfway across the world.

      5) However, the fatwa is indeed important inside Iran. It’s violation would seriously harm the credibility of the Leader, and won’t be tolerated. Also, due to legal inertia and the authority of Khomeini and Khamenei, it would be extremely difficult for a future Leader to change course and promulgate a different fatwa on nukes. So, I think the fatwa is going to constrain the behavior of Iran’s government in the foreseeable future.

    • shaheen (History)

      Arch –

      I’m aware that many Iranians say that they just want to be Japan or Germany. The problem is that Iran is way beyond “Japan or Germany”. (1) There is no evidence of any weaponization-related activities in either of those two countries. (2) Their enrichment capabilities are consistent with their nuclear-generated electricity programs. (3) They have no Arak-type reactor, ideally suited to make weapons-usable Pu. Etc.

      If Iran behaved like Germany, most of us would have no problems with Tehran having an enrichment capability.

    • Mohammad (History)

      Rene is correct and accurate on every single point he raises in his comment which discusses Shia jurisprudence and the significance of Khamenei’s fatwa on nukes.

  11. Cyrus (History)

    The IAEA and Iran made a list of outstanding issues in Aug 2007. This was meant to be a comprehensive list of all outstanding issues, and the agreement itself specifically stated: “These modalities cover all remaining issues and the Agency confirmed that there
    are no other remaining issues and ambiguities regarding Iran’s past nuclear program and

    And by Feb 2008, the IAEA had verified that EVERY SINGLE ITEM on that list had in fact been resolved, with zero evidence of any nuclear weapons.

    The only outstanding issue were the “Alleged Studies” which the IAEA itself has stated involved no diversion of nuclear material, and hence fall outside of the IAEA’s inspection authority, nevermind that the US has never corroborated the allegations nor made the material fully available to the IAEA itself (nevermind Iran, which is supposed to refute it anyway.)

    So, in fact the IAEA has done everything it is supposed to do, and any other demands on Iran including the demand to sign the AP, are illegal and ultra vires.

  12. Arch (History)

    I overspoke about votes in the Board of Governors, whose resolutions, particularly now that they have followed the dotted-line to the UNSC, can be said to be a UNSC matter, not one for the subservient IAEA to decide. Suffice it, sadly, to say that whatever the IAEA BOG decides only builds the legal register of offenses that has been consistently ignored by Iran.

    Mousavian tries hard to find a way out, but I don’t see it being accepted by the west. The Agency is doing its best under the circumstances. But when a conciliator from Iran, somebody who sounds reasonable, points out his good reasons for Iran to go nuclear (and has apparently no influence on government policy, so he becomes a mainstream guy), I think we’re into that old conundrum of “managing,” versus “preventing,” proliferation.

    • yousaf (History)

      If a given country is not happy with a treaty it signed e.g. the US with the ABM treaty, then it can withdraw from that treaty.

      Similarly, voices in Iran are calling for Iran to withdraw from the NPT because they are not seeing the national security (or civilian energy) benefits:

      Your comment that “I don’t see it being accepted by the west” is likely accurate but not legally relevant.

  13. Memandoost (History)

    Please! Let’s remember what got us here in the first place!

    Iran initially proposed to ratify the Additional Protocols as long as objections to its enriching uranium to 5% were dropped. Some of the EU countries were amenable, but could not accept it because they wanted a solution acceptable to the U.S. The US was firmly opposed to a civilian enrichment program, and the Europeans followed the US in this.

    Iran’s initial idea was that its temporary suspension of enrichment, its voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocols, and the promise of its ratifying the Additional Protocols would be a huge confidence building measure that should convince the US & Europe to drop their objections to Iran’s exercise of its nuclear rights under the NPT.

    However, it became quickly clear that the US and EU had no intention of allowing civilian enrichment EVER. For the US and Europe, the suspension of enrichment was not just a confidence building measure; it was the ultimate result they were seeking; for them, suspension had to be final and irreversible.

    Iran could not accept this, seeing it as a violation of its rights. Iranian leaders see independence as the heart of the revolution, and they’re fighters and survivors; most of them have injuries from the Iran-Iraq war, from assassination attempts, or from torture in the Shah’s prisons. They do not want war at all, but they would prefer war and poverty to Iran becoming a puppet state controlled by foreign powers and being forced to forgo its rights and dignity.

    The situation, now, has changed quite a lot. The US now holds leverage against Iran in the form of sanctions, enrichment to 5% is a basic and irreversible fact on the ground, and 20% enrichment is thought of as a bargaining chip by both sides. The only way out of the impasse is for the West to recognize Iran’s right of civilian enrichment and drop the sanctions as Iran ratifies and implements the Additional Protocols.