Jeffrey LewisHeinonen Resigns

Olli Heinonen, IAEA Deputy Director for Safeguards, resigned today, effective at the end of August, for “personal reasons.”

No word yet on a replacement or how this relates to the past few years of internecine warfare
between Safeguards and Expo.

This blog has been more blunt than most in worrying about divisions within the IAEA, but I have always liked and respected Heinonen. I am definitely sorry to see him go.


  1. Philipp

    In this case, I think the “personal reasons” are genuine, rather than a cover for internecine squabbles or other dynamics. He’ll be missed; will be interesting to see who the replacement is.

  2. hass (History)

    If you remember, Heinonen also defended the 2007 “Modalities Agreement” to resolve outstanding issues between Iran and the IAEA which the US was highly critical of (accusing Iran of “manipulating” the IAEA and ElBaradei of “interfering in policy”)

    Specifically, Heinonen said

    All these measures which you see there for resolving our outstanding issues go beyond the requirements of the Additional Protocol…If the answers are not satisfactory, we are making new questions until we are satisfied with the answers and we can conclude technically that the matter is resolved—it is for us to judge when we think we have enough information. Once the matter is resolved, then the file is closed.

    And indeed by the Feb 2008 IAEA report, all of the outstanding issues were in fact resolved to the IAEA’s satisfaction except for the “Alleged Studies” which the US presented in part to the IAEA only a week before the IAEA report was to be published, and since then has simply failed to fully document and whose authenticity is doubted even at the IAEA. With respect to the alleged studies, ElBaradei himself said

    [W]e have made quite good progress in clarifying the outstanding issues that had to do with Iran´s past nuclear activities, with the exception of one issue, and that is the alleged weaponization studies that supposedly Iran has conducted in the past. We have managed to clarify all the remaining outstanding issues, including the most important issue, which is the scope and nature of Iran´s enrichment programme.

    And later, ElBaradei also said

    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.

    What was that about hype?

    “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”.

    And the bottom line remains, as always

    “I don’t see any evidence in IAEA official documents about this,” Yukiya Amano told Reuters in his first direct comment on Iran’s atomic program since his election, when asked whether he believed Tehran was seeking nuclear weapons capability.

  3. Gelfant

    Very sad. Harvard wins some real talent, let’s hope they’ll use it.

  4. mark hibbs

    Hass: Please keep in mind that the man worked for ElBaradei. There was a tightrope to walk, especially on Iran. The Iranians weren’t cooperating. ElBaradei was not willing to nail Iran for it. The IAEA is a complex institution and there were times when Heinonen had to compromise when he had very damning findings and people breathing down his neck for whom those findings were inconvenient. Regarding the “modalities agreement,” some day we will learn the full truth about how the Department of Safeguards had to let that happen and the truth will no doubt be ugly. Do not conflate what Heinonen said with what ElBaradei said on these issues. I know of other cases where OH was simply following orders and strong advice from other departments in not pursuing certain matters to the ultimate. And no, I won’t tell you what country dossiers they were in these cases.

  5. Mark (History)

    Mark Hibbs in response to Hass asserts a lot of innuendo and zero facts. The idea that Elbaradei was somehow biased in favor of Iran? Come. On. Hass quotes Amano in the end not Elbaradei. And the laptop of deaths allegations have never been vetted.

  6. Arnold Evans (History)

    Mark, it seems you are saying the modalities agreement was a bad thing. Please expand what you’ve written on that.

  7. archjr (History)

    Hass: Please. I can guarantee you Olli was not the “senior” IAEA official in the Reuters piece you quote, though you I am sure inadvertently make it seem as if it were so. As Mark correctly notes, the Agency is a far more complicated (and interesting) place than most people think, and all conclusions reached are a product of countless interactions among lots of smart people with sometimes very different points of view. If you have some special knowledge of these matters, please enlighten us.

    Here’s a point of fact all too commonly the case at the IAEA: the retirement age for Ollie is 62, so he’s past time. The oft-ignored rule at the IAEA is 7 years and out, unless you get a long-term contract. And Mr. Heinonen has been there a long time, and perhaps it’s just time for him to go, for his own reasons, as he said. Trying to turn this into something political does injury to an honest man and has nothing to do with much of anything.

    But it highlights an important issue: lots of the folks who figured out clandestine nuclear programs are sadly aging like the rest of us. There is a serious question about continuity of knowledge and experience among the great staff of the inspectorate. Fortunately for us, most inspectors are quite serious about their craft, although most spend their time checking reactors in Spain rather than the DPRK or Iran.

    By the way, remember that Iran has been found in violation of its safeguards obligations. Please explain.

  8. mark hibbs

    I’m not going to get into selective quoting to walk your minefield. There are people who plainly say “There is no laptop of death.” I didn’t refer to it in my remarks to Hass. I also did NOT say that ElBaradei was biased IN FAVOR OF IRAN. That is NOT the same as saying that there were diplomatic reasons why MEB didn’t nail Iran for violations and transgressions which clearly constitute non-compliance with an Infcirc-153 SG agreement.

  9. Beta

    Some people are probably less sorry that Heinonen has resigned.