Andy GrottoThe IAEA Report on Iran

The Institute for Science and International Security has obtained a copy of IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei’s report on Iran.

The report makes it clear that Iran has no intention of addressing the most sensitive of the outstanding questions, namely those that are most closely associated with a nuclear weapons development program. Iran continues to insist that it never had any such program, and considers allegations to this effect to be entirely baseless and not worth addressing. If that’s the case, then ElBaradei’s transparency process may have reached its limits. At any rate, it is high time for a third UNSC sanctions resolution coupled with a real multilateral negotiation process.

The report does not give Iran a clean bill of health, but it does say that Iran has addressed certain issues to the IAEA’s satisfaction. In the past six weeks, Iran has suddenly come up with a raft of documents, reports, and other physical evidence in support of its claim that the polonium-210 experiments, the Gchine uranium mine complex, uranium particle contamination at a technical university, and suspicious procurement activities by the former head of Iran’s Physics Research Center are all civilian in nature. The IAEA now considers these matters closed, but Iran’s sudden change of heart really stinks: why has it waited so long to address these activities and put up with so much grief if it possessed such a convenient array of exculpatory documents? I wonder…

Iran continues to refuse to address evidence of activities that have a much more clear-cut weapons purpose, such as the green salt project, high explosive testing and the design of a missile re-entry vehicle. The IAEA report says much of the evidence comes from an unnamed “Member State,” probably the United States. Iran asserts that the evidence is fabricated and, according to the report, has made it abundantly clear that it has no intention of entertaining these matters any further.

There is a clear pattern here. For activities that have a colorable civilian rationale, Iran is suddenly happy to offer one. Since the IAEA is not in the business of second-guessing the sincerity of its member states in the absence of a technical rationale, it must accept these explanations unless and until new data comes along that calls the original rationale into question. And for activities that only have a weapons purpose, Iran plays the “How can you trust the Americans?’ card and simply refuses to engage the evidence.

It is hard to see what happens next in this process. There are a few lingering issues that the report suggests could be resolved, such as the uranium metal document (the report says that Pakistan is the roadblock). But on the most sensitive issues relating to alleged weapons-related activities, this report makes it clear that Iran has no interest in addressing them.

So what next? The UNSC should enact the third sanctions resolution, but this won’t be enough to induce a change of behavior in Iran. I can’t imagine Iran ever coming fully clean—or adopting the kinds of transparency measures needed to verify the peaceful nature of its program, such as the IAEA Additional Protocol—unless it is given a face-saving way out of this mess. Such a pathway cannot emerge until the United States gets serious about meaningful multilateral diplomacy with Iran that includes credible incentives to accompany the sanctions.


  1. Ataune (History)

    Around August 2007, Iran, the IAEA and Solana, reached an agreement (most probably written) to resolve 6 outstanding issues that the Agency was presenting as the only remaining ones which should be answered by Iran to the satisfaction of the IAEA. Since all parties were aware of the fact that the list of issues could not remain open ended, it was agreed that the agency will close the list and will address any additional “allegations” as such, with Iran not having any legal obligation to “respond”.

    The report proclaim the six issues closed and El-Baradei himself talks about “alleged weaponization studies that supposedly Iran has conducted in the past”.


  2. hass (History)

    Nonsense. Accusing Iran of having “no intention” of clearing up outstanding issues is laughable when the IAEA has only now obtained the evidence of the “alleged studies” from the US — years after the US has been shopping this “Laptop of Death” around without allowing the IAEA to see it.

    And according to the IAEA report, Iran has cleared up everything else listed in the Aug 2007 Modalities agreement, exactly as it was supposed to do — with still no evidence of any nuclear weapons program.

  3. hass (History)

    Note what else you failed to mention: regarding the “Green Salt” project and “alleged studies” that you claim Iran has “no intention of entertaining”, the IAEA report itself says:

    “However, it should be noted that the Agency has not detected the use of nuclear material in connection with the alleged studies, nor does it have credible information in this regard.”

    And note the follow-up in Paragraph 57: “With the exception of the issue of the alleged studies, which remains outstanding, the Agency has no concrete information about possible current undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.”

    And you say that the IAEA is forced to “accept these explanations unless new data comes along” – The IAEA is treating Iran on this matter the same as with other nations under similar IAEA safeguards. Iran has provided data, the IAEA says it checks out. Do you suggest that the IAEA should condemn Iran without any contradictory data instead?

  4. Frank (History)

    can someone check my math?

    100kg of NU -> 10kg of LEU -> could further be enriched to 0.42kg of HEU.

    Need 15kg HEU for a warhead, therefore they could be about 1/35th of the way there?

    3,000 P1s could put out 1.5 warheads per year at full capacity.

    1/35th of a warhead in 6 months divided by 1.5 warheads in 12 month = currently running at ~4% capacity?

    I guess that doesn’t include the SWU needed to get from LEU to HEU either, so that is an overestimation.

  5. SQ

    Satisfying the terms of the IAEA-Iran work plan is a good start. Complying with the UNSC Resolution demanding suspension of enrichment — rather than adding new centrifuge types! — is clearly what it will take for Iran to get out from under sanctions. And as the Iranian leadership has made abundantly clear, they’re not about to do that.

    It is their frequent contention that only the IAEA should deal with the Iran nuclear dossier, and not the UN Security Council. Unfortunately for Iran, its leaders do not have the luxury of making that decision unilaterally.

  6. abcd (History)

    Hass: The beginning of para 57 is indeed important, but, as always with the IAEA safeguards reports on Iran, there’s something in it for everyone. Go down a few sentences:

    “Although Iran has provided some additional detailed information about its current activities on an ad hoc basis, the Agency will not be in a position to make progress towards providing credible assurances about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran before reaching some clarity about the nature of the alleged studies, and without implementation of the Additional Protocol. This is especially important in the light of the many years of undeclared activities in Iran and the confidence deficit created as a result.”

    So, as you mentioned above, “Note what else you failed to mention.”

  7. AWR (History)

    Iran is quibbling again, as always: it’s like being nibbled to death by a duck. We are negotiating with Iran not only over facts but over its obligations under the NPT, which are clear. Russia and China do not bear the full brunt of criticism for their refusal to take meaningful, non-military action, although their behavior belies their hortatory dedication to the principles of the NPT. The G-77, the NAM, the “South,” as it were, bought into Iran’s rhetoric that this is another instance where the “North” wants to deprive the “south” of technology in order to prolong the latter’s subservience. This is why it took the IAEA Board (and ElBaradei) so long to take even the most obvious steps in response to Iran’s covert nuclear weapons program. Maybe it’s a virtual weapons program at this point, but it could become real almost any time. THIS sure was interesting to read over coffee this morning:,1518,536914,00.html

    Nineteen years of clandestine activities, plus another six since the NCRI blew the whistle in 2002, has provided Iran’s leadership with ample time to develop its nuclear strategy: to prepare for a breakout if and when necessary, but to milk the threat of weapons development for all it’s worth in the meantime. It’s a dangerous game played by folks who are experts, and the ultimate nonconformists by “Western” standards, in a global environment that rewards this behavior rather than confronting it with whatever positive and negative inducements would be required for Iran to back down. Alas, that bar has been set too high, and the international community, such as it is, has been unable to agree on anything approaching a comprehensive security and economic framework for the Middle East that might damp down the regional nuclear ambitions that will only grow as this drama plays out. Iran has played its dangerous game to perfection, and only gets better at it, while the rest of us sit by wringing our hands and arguing about what to do.

  8. hass (History)

    abcd — note what exactly the IAEA is referring to when it speaks of “ad hoc” cooperation: it is referring the ADDITIONAL cooperation (beyond its safeguards) that Iran was providing which is mentioned in Para. 55. – “similar to that which Iran had previously provided pursuant to the Additional Protocol.”

    Considering that Iran is under no obligation to provide ANY information beyond its existing safeguards, even the “ad hoc” information it provides beyond that limit is laudatory and exculpatory rather than a reason for suspicion.

  9. hass (History)

    With respect to the report, IAEA Director Mohammad ElBaradei stated that “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” with the exception of a single issue, “and that is the alleged weaponization studies that supposedly Iran has conducted in the past.”


    And how valuable was this weaponization intelligence anyway?

  10. matt (History)

    As ElBaradei said, it’s not about Iran’s program. He says the problem is about mistrust between Iran and West (mainly US), but the problem is the strategic advantage Iran will gain after this game in the middle east. Of course US can not tolerate her arch-enemy defeat her. It’s a game for power. That’s the facts. Now you can continue your game of judging intentions.

  11. hass (History)

    Actually Matt, you’re more right than you realize. This isn’t about nukes or nuclear power — if it was then the US would have accepted Iran’s various proposals including the Iranian offer to suspend enrichment and the 2003 peace feeler. This is about regime change, and the nuclear issue presents a good pretext. The Iranians have come to believe that no matter what they do, even if they accept the UNSC suspension and even if the IAEA gives Iran a clean bill of health, something else will be ginned up. That’s not an irrational conclusion.

  12. AWR (History)


    “Judging intentions” is far from a game: we need a new generation of folks capable of divining the intent of Khamenei, the Council of Guardians/Council of Expediency, etc., much like we had some excellent Kremlin-watchers in the past. But very few in the USG speak Farsi; fewer still have the experience of living in Iran and understanding the peculiar way that decisions are made there. The intel on Iran is horrifically bad, as the recent NIE notes, in spite of efforts by the much-maligned former CIA Director Goss to put more into HUMINT. Having to rely on the NCRI (or the Mossad) for insights into what Iran is up to is a poor substitute for a home-grown understanding of what Iran wants.

    A great first step to restore confidence, as the others have noted, the -sine qua non – for Iran, is acceptance of the Additional Protocol. Too bad if they have said “no;” nobody believes them at this point, even those like the Russians and Chinese who are willing to put bucks in front of bombs. Certainly all of the neighbors are nervous, and primed to take countervailing action. Whatever reasonable combination of substantive inducements can be used should be put forth in exchange for the AP. Without Good IAEA access, there are two alternatives: continue to sit on our hands; or acquiesce in a nuclear weapon or the capability therefore. I don’t want to have to make that choice. So the Security Council maybe should think about positive incentives for the AP, instead of another round of feckless sanctions.

  13. hass (History)

    AWR forgets that Iran suspended enrichment and implemented the AP for 2 year — and all that got Iran was a demand to permanently give up enrichment. A case of moving goal posts. The US has already made it clear that the Iranians aren’t even to have the “knowledge” of Uranium enrichment, and won’t tolerate a single spinning centrifuge – AP or no AP. Thus, it is Iran whose confidence needs restoring especially after being cheated in the Paris Agreement.

    And the neighbors are more worried about Bush than Iran.

    Take Egypt – violated it safeguards, flatly refuses to sign the AP – and held up as a model nuclear program by Rice. The dishonesty is palpable.

  14. James (History)

    Alas, the “restoration of confidence” must always rest upon the shoulders of the Other.

    Iran has resolved all of the outstanding issues brought to her, only to find a new set of accusations. Is it unreasonable for them to ask what is the basis of the new complaint?

    US: We have evidence.
    Iran: May we see it?
    US: Er…no. But it is very compelling.
    Iran: Where did it come from?
    US: That’s a secret.

    It amounts to a Monty Python routine written by Kafka. The IAEA dutifully makes its complaint based on evidence it has not seen and Iran is expected to answer. And if Iran somehow manages to prove her innocence without seeing the evidence against her fresh charges will be made to ensure she is never really cleared. The US will keep moving the goalposts until Iran finds herself unable to prove a negative, which is inevitable, regardless of where the truth lies.

    We all know that no amount of evidence can prove innocence when the intelligence is being fixed around the policy. Why is US credibility so much greater than that of Iran? In both Iraq and North Korea the US has embarked on a dangerous, confrontational policy based not upon new information, but upon new analysis intended to magnify the threat.

    How about “building confidence” by allowing the IAEA to inspect the notorious Laptop of Death? If all of this rests upon assertions by the US then it is not unreasonable for the international community to demand specifics after the experience of the last five years.

  15. Karl Schenzig (History)

    Dear AWR,

    What we do not need is Kremlinologists. Those made guesses as to Soviet intentions based on their own experience, which is a failed approach. We need people who understand business, organised crime, the military and religion, that is not CIA analysts.

    I have never lived in Iran, nor do I speak Farsi, but I am very confident that I understand their intentions perfectly. This is because I have seen and talked to people of similar background to the leaders of Iran on numerous occasions.

    I will now repeat what I have stated in the past. The leadership of Iran thinks in absolutes. It seeks regional dominance and believes that should it fail to achieve that, it will perish from the Earth. Therefore, it will never even consider abandoning the pursuit of nuclear weapons. What is more, it intends to use those weapons, directly or indirectly, to achieve dominance.

    War between Iran and the West is now inevitable. What is needed is a strategic plan for the prosecution of that conflict, not futile attempts to prevent it.

  16. ataune (History)

    Here is the technical/scientific side of the story :
    Iran is now a nuclear capable country, mastering the entire fuel cycle.

    Here is the legal side of the story :
    Enriching uranium is Iran’s sovereign right according to its treaty obligations and rights. The latest IAEA report states that Iran has responded, to the satisfaction of the Agency, to all the remaining open questions. Some allegations of weaponization exist, but as we all know, in any legal framework, the burden of proof for allegations is on the shoulder of the ones who put them forward (otherwise lets all go back and live in the jungles and bushes)

    Here is the political side of the story :
    The combined interests of the big players, US, Russia, China and EU, can go no harsher than this mild third resolution text. The reason: Iran, as an emerging regional power, can no longer be contained the way Irak was (this, mainly but not only, thanks to the disastrous “offensive” strategy of the current administration.) Russia and China, each for their own reason, prefer keeping the Iranian nuclear dossier mildely hot so that the US remain busy with its offensive against “radical islam”. EU is on the sideline, licking its wounds after the popular defeat of the constitutional text. US administration is a lame duck and it’s strategy in a dire need of a radical uplifting. Iran is mainly satisfied with the current situation where it can balance-out different big powers against each other.

    Here is what I can say based on those premises :
    Big winners, Russia and China;
    Potential winner, Iran;
    Potential Looser, US;
    Big looser, EU.

  17. Mark Gubrud

    AWR – The Spiegel article you linked describes “a new computer simulation undertaken by European Union experts” … “a detailed simulation of the centrifuges” … “one scenario… assumed the centrifuges in Natanz were operating at 100 percent efficiency…. Another scenario assumed a much lower efficiency — just 25 percent….”

    The only thing this shows is how computer simulations can now be used to lend a claim of authority to otherwise empty speculation. The results of such a “detailed simulation” are obviously of no greater significance than the back-of-the-envelope calculations any of us can do, since the the range of uncertainty in starting assumptions is much worse than the accuracy of the crude estimates.

    It actually is not known if the Iranian centrifuges are currently operating at anything close to even 25% of design capacity, although it is unrealistic to think the Iranians can’t work out the bugs and get them running reasonably well within a few years at most.

    Yale Simkin pointed out in this forum that if you make the worst-case plausible assumptions based on what we know, it looks like Iran could produce enough HEU for a bomb in as little as a year, but it does not look like they could do so covertly at this time.

  18. matt (History)

    Iranians will never accept to end their nuclear enrichment program, and moreover they are using the defiance of US pressure as a strategical win. US has said that they will not accept Iranians to have the cycle. That’s it. No incentives will change that.
    Both sides are trying to win the support of other countries, so they can force the other to accept their conditions.
    The question is how other players will play. West naturally stands by US, but it also has to convince their own citizen about that stand. What we see is exactly this.
    Anyone comparing this report with the previous one can judge very well what’s going on here.

  19. AWR (History)

    Great observations all, and all across the spectrum. Wow. But it is not true that “all that got Iran was a demand to permanently give up enrichment.” They have been offered secure supplies of LEU fuel, with a takeback to Russia, and even an ownership stake in a new multinational enrichment consortium, perhaps even located in Iran. There has also been serious informal discussion of allowing Iran to enrich to 5% under an AP safeguards regime. Iran has chosen to reject all of these proposals, and who knows what else, out of hand, instead of seizing opportunities proffered at every opportunity to build the confidence it has shattered by 25 years of bad behavior. It is also decidedly not true that Iran “implemented the AP for 2 years:” the IAEA played as forceful a role as it ever has in pushing the envelope, but all it got was, I think, one “surprise” inspection where it offered up 4 facilities of its own choosing and asked the IAEA to choose one. ElBaradei has moved in his usual cautious and legalistic fashion, wary of pushing Iran into a tougher position and spoiling a chance for a real AP implementation.

    As to whether Iran’s neighbors are more afraid of Bush, I suggest Hass ask them: they know very well how close 20 January 2009 is, and they know they will have to live with Iran’s choices for a long time after that.

    And Iran’s behavior, left unaddressed in any forceful way, undermines not only the goal of universal adherence to the AP, but also provides cover in the shorter term for others: Egypt, sure, which has no real nuclear program at the moment and can’t decide whether to build a reactor or a desalination plant; Brazil, too, which has resisted safeguards on its Navy-run enrichment facility, citing concerns over commercial espionage. Who else is out there planning and engaging in covert research to guard against what can only be construed as an Iranian breakout strategy?

    As for the speculative nature of computer simulation, what else is there? What can be done to convince Iran to end this “empty speculation?” Accept the AP. The alternatives are acquiescence or war, as Karl Schenzig has noted above.

  20. steve (History)

    Is it just me, or through all the technicalities we are seeing some plain old nationalism? They give a little until they reach a no go nationalism point…we let them settle down a little and then get some more information.

    U.S rancor, Israeli paranoia, and loud application of Bushist codswallop and hysteria brought us the dopey Ahmadinijad in the first place. Cajoling and talking have slowly brought forth information.

    Umm, let’s keep talking, and forget the Bushist asininity, and right wing codswallop propaganda. We can ruminate on this with less cost, less mass murder, fewer war crimes, and much better results.

    The world expects the US to act like heavy handed brutes…let’s surprise them and behave rationally, in spite of right wing gibbering.

  21. Karl Schenzig (History)

    Dear AWR,

    You have not quite understood what I have written. The current regime in Iran will never, under any circumstances whatsoever, cease enriching uranium. So acceptance of the additional protocol, or any other agreement, is not an alternative.

    As for acquiescence, that policy is acquiescence not to Iranian nuclear weapons, but to war. The Iranian regime openly supports organisations which seek to commit genocide. It will never stop supporting these organisations, so acquiescence is not an option. All and any means must be used to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

    Regardless of what the West does or does not do, it will be at war with Iran within four years at the most. Because of the certainty of this war, it is time to plan for it. The better part of six years has already been wasted, so there is no time left for dithering.

  22. Mark Pyruz (History)

    “War between Iran and the West is now inevitable. What is needed is a strategic plan for the prosecution of that conflict, not futile attempts to prevent it.”—Karl Schenzig

    Just because of the latest IAEA report? Huh? How about identifying a “strategic plan” for the successful prosecution of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, before trying to tackle a heavy like Iran.

    Iran now possesses fully operational, hardened missile silos near Tabriz. Check it out at:

  23. Hass (History)

    AWR doesn’t seem to be familiar with the facts. Rather than “rejecting” multinational facilities, it was Iran (even Ahmadinejad himself, when he visited the UN) that suggested creating a multinational enrichment facility in Iran in the first place – and prior to that, a “limited” non-industrual scale enrichment program. The US shot down both proposals saying there shouldn’t be a single centrifuge in Iran.

    And yes Iran did implement the AP for 2 years, and the IAEA reported on Jan 31, 2006 that “Iran has continued to facilitate access under its Safeguards Agreement as requested by the Agency, and to act as if the Additional Protocol is in force, including by providing in a timely manner the requisite declarations and access to locations.” And, Iran has offered to ratify the AP once its rights are recognized.

    Finally, note that Argentina and Brazil just announced an joint enrichment program. South Africa and Australia are planning enrichment too. “Driving this process, in part, is the perception that all countries will soon be divided into uranium enrichment ‘haves’ (suppliers) and ‘have-nots’ (customers) under various proposals to establish multinational nuclear fuel centers and fuel-supply arrangements.” (Lining Up to Enrich Uranium )

  24. Arnold Evans (History)

    There has also been serious informal discussion of allowing Iran to enrich to 5% under an AP safeguards regime. Iran has chosen to reject all of these proposals, and who knows what else, out of hand

    This in particular is a situation where if the US believed Iran would reject this offer, it would make the offer publicly.

    Israel has decided that any Iranian enrichment at all, under any circumstances, would give Iran “nuclear capability” and the United States is following Israel on this one.

    For the US and Israel, this is purely a strategic/political issue. It is absolutely not the case that Iran would be allowed to enrich uranium but for its access to the Khan network or the laptop or whatever else.

    The Israel/US policy that Iran must not enrich uranium came into effect immediately after the Iranian revolution – and reversed the policy in effect under Iran’s Shah.

    The US can announce that it will accept 5% enrichment under AP inspections and end this “crisis” today. It has not and will not only because of strategic and political considerations.

  25. Neil (History)

    “but Iran’s sudden change of heart really stinks: why has it waited so long to address these activities and put up with so much grief if it possessed such a convenient array of exculpatory documents? I wonder…”

    Uhhh, strategic issues aside, maybe because the process of auditing, vetting, and clearing documents from across an entire nation involves more than the Supreme Leader opening the top drawer of his filing cabinet?

  26. Hass (History)

    Actually Arnold, despite what AWR claims, setting an enrichment ceiling was also an IRANIAN offer that the US refused to even acknowledge.

    Look, people, before you go around accusing the Iranians of rejecting US offers, you should make the effort to familiarize yourselves with the facts. Javad Zarif summarized some of Iran’s offers in the International Herald Tribune thus:

    Reportedly other offers included operating self-destructing centrifuges. To all these offers, we have a single response from the US: no enrichment by Iran. Knowing full well that’s Iran’s redline, the suggestion is that the US doesn’t actually really want a compromise solution.

  27. Andy Grotto

    Neil — three years dude. Three years. A government that has nothing to hide doesn’t take that long to produce exculpatory evidence.

    Hass — I’ll be the first to admit that the United States and Iran have decades of dysfunction in their relationship. But the beef with the fuel cycle programs is not simply a U.S. concern. It is a world concern. Hence a UNSC resolution demanding that Iran suspend these activities and two sanctions resolutions, with a third on-deck.

    Iran’s tactic is to make this whole affair out to be merely a US-Iran issue, which it hopes will generate sympathy because the US is not all that popular these days. I can’t blame Iran for taking this tactic, but independent analysts should know better. The “no enrichment in Iran” mantra is repeated publicly in Moscow, Beijing, Paris and London, to name just the five permanent UNSC members; you hear it privately as well, from Cairo to Tokyo.

    In the debate over Iran’s fuel cycle program, I’m continually struck by the amateurish readings of international law. The NPT’s peaceful use clause, Article IV, conditions the exercise of the right to engage in civilian nuclear activities on compliance with Article II, the NPT’s nonproliferation obligation. Iran’s extensive safeguards violations, as documented by the IAEA, raise questions about whether Iran’s program is for peaceful purposes. That is why it is before the UNSC, and not because it is pursuing a nuclear fuel cycle.

    Remarkably, if Iran had simply come clean from the beginning, explained its program in todo, then there would be no UNSC resolution. Period. Iran’s failure to choose this path means either that it is incredibly stupid (which I very much doubt) or that the program emerged from a weapons effort.

  28. M B

    As usual the accusations are laughable and outright hypocritical coming from individuals and governments that have no integrity, are politically and morally bankrupt and have a history of lies and criminality.

    Please stop regurgitating nonsense and lies and present these lies as truth, unbiased analysis by peace loving ….. and etc.

    You are exposed.

    Iran by all accounts has the NAM solidly behind it. Granted that NAM resources, economical power, military muscle does not match the so called International community but they do constitute a very large majority of the population of this planet.

    So, the way I read these IAEA reports, Iran has no legal obligation to prove a negative. Has no obligation to sign and ratify the additional protocols, has no obligation to answer endless accusations by those who possess nuclear weapons and have actually used it and for the past 50 years have threatened other non nuclear countries with the use of nuclear weapons.

    Iran has not diverted any materials towards a weapons or military program.

    But then again the neo crazies and their allies dont care much about fact, truth and anything to further their war plans is fair game.


  29. James (History)

    Andy: I don’t know about “three years.” Governments keep secrets just on principle. Note the hostile, confrontational nature of the demands and it’s not so surprising that they would respond in a hostile, confrontational manner. Your logic is similar to those who insisted that the Iraqis MUST be up to something or they wouldn’t make such an issue about inspections.

    After all, the US President insists that Guantanamo detainees are not being tortured, yet has spent the last five years stonewalling on the details…by your logic Dear Leader is a liar. Surely you don’t believe that!

    And all this could advance quite quickly if the US would only come clean with regard to what THEY know about the alleged weapons program. While the Iranians are being accused of dribbling out exculpatory evidence, the Americans are clearly open to the charge of dribbling out accusations. The Iranians have no particular reason to be forthcoming: the fix is in and they are to be forbidden enrichment no matter what they do, so why knock themselves out? But the Americans seem curiously reticent. Either there’s nothing there or they’re holding back a smoking gun as a casus belli. Neither reflects well on them; if the US government wants to reclaim its once proud role as most authoritative source it’s simply going to have to deal honestly.

  30. Karl Schenzig (History)

    Dear Mr. Pyruz,

    The IAEA report’s only relevance lies in the fact that it allows Iran to use up more time. It would have wider significance only if war was not inevitable.

    As for Iraq and Afghanistan, the situation there will always be recoverable, since al-Qaeda and its allies do not posess weapons of mass destruction or significant conventional weapons. On the other hand, should Iran acquire nuclear weapons, the situation will be irrecoverable.

    The existence of Iran’s silos is an argument for taking action as soon as possible, for they will arm themselves more heavily with every passing day.

  31. Hass (History)

    Actually Andy, the no enrichment in Iran mantra is not repeated across the world (nor would such a “bandwagon appeal” be a valid argument) Note that The German Minister of Defense Franz Josef Jung stated that a ban on Iranian enrichment work was unrealistic, that “One cannot forbid Iran from doing what other countries in the world are doing in accordance with international law” and that IAEA oversight of any Iranian enrichment activities would provide the necessary assurances to the international community that Iran could not secretly divert the program of weapons use. The NonAligneds have sided with Iran too. We had to bribe India with the prospect of nuclear aid (in violation of our NPT obligations) to get them to vote with us at the IAEA BOG.

    As for the internatinal law issue, actually a country’s right to have nuclear technology is not derived from the NPT — the NPT merely recognizes that right. That’s why countries which didn’t sign the NPT, and countries that developed their nuclear program before the NPT, all did so quite legally.

    You seem to disregard the atmosphere of intense hostility that this process has involved, which goes back long before the “exposure” of the not-really-clandestine sites at Natanz/Arak. If you check the old news articles you’d see that the US was screaming “BOMBS!” over the Bushehr reactor. Incidentally, even with the AP in place, how long did it take for the IAEA to give, say, Japan a clean bill of health? And even if it took 3 years, the bottom line is that there is still no evidence of any nukes and you can see “hints” all you want.

  32. John McGlynn (History)

    In their Feb. 22 ISIS comment Albright/Shire make the rather bizarre point that the IAEA, in regard to making a judgment about Iran’s procurement through the Physics Research Center, is using “safeguards-speak” to say “that while the IAEA is, for now, accepting Iran’s statements, it is continuing to evaluate them against other information to determine if the Iranian information is the complete truth. Traditionally this step is the more important and far more difficult one, particularly if the country is not cooperating adequately, as is the case with Iran.” Doesn’t this mean the “other information” is going to come from non-Iranian sources? If gathering that information is going to be “far more difficult” than getting information directly from Iran, why is that Iran’s fault (a “country [that] is not cooperating adequately”)? Why is Iran obligated to fork over more information that goes beyond that already provided, which was enough to resolve an outstanding issue to IAEA satisfaction?

  33. abcd (History)

    Thanks, Andy. I’ve noticed there is a certain tendency here among those who do not perceive Iran’s past/present nuclear activities of any concern to conflate the position of those who do with that of the Bush administration’s “negotiating posture.” The insistence on no spinning centrifuges in Iran was never really realistic or defensible past mid 2006. Furthermore, the efforts to coerce Iran to suspend enrichment are going nowhere and one gets the feeling they are continued today merely out of procedure. The “suspension first” policy has become just another obstacle to a negotiable solution.

    There needs to be a full understanding of all nuclear activities of Iran – pre and post 2003 – but getting there requires a credible incentive clearly communicated to Iran, and one that is part of a larger package acceptable to all parties. That will first require a willingness among all involved.

    As to the NAM countries, it could easily be said that they are siding with Iran (or at least against the current US position) for fear of conceding “rights” under Article IV and avoiding being an enabler of a further split between suppliers and users in nuclear technology. Either way, a good indication of where the NAM stands on Iran’s file will be how Vietnam and Libya vote on the upcoming sanctions resolution against Tehran.

  34. Andy Grotto (History)

    James — Iran was caught cheating red-handed on its safeguards obligations, so the burden is on it to demonstrate that their program is of a peaceful nature. I’ll be the first to say that the Bush administration has bungled this issue from our end, but at the end of the day Iran is the country that has stalled, hemmed, hawed and obfuscated. If it had come clean from the beginning, there is no way the UNSC would have enacted a single resolution. Why it chose a different path can only mean one thing: it has more to hide.

    Hass — the German government repudiated Jung’s ’06 statement. Anyway, we’ll just have to see how the voting goes down at the UNSC.

    But I’m puzzled by your legal point. Once a country has signed the NPT, they are bound by it. Peaceful use of nuclear technology by NNWS NPT parties is subject to compliance with Article II. Period. That’s the whole point of the NPT, after all. If you don’t believe me, read the treaty text for yourself.

  35. James (History)

    Andy: there is no mechanism in the NPT for permanent denial of enrichment. And this makes perfect sense, since it would tend to push nations out of the treaty the moment there was a dispute.

    It’s worth noting that many of the accusations are based on clauses that were inserted after Iran signed its safeguards agreement with IAEA. Iran refused to acknowledge this one-sided change of the agreement until 2003. It’s fashionable to roll all the violations together to promote a “pattern,” yet some of the more damning ones were not actual violations under the agreement Iran originally signed.

    Nor is Iran the only nation ever to violate the safeguards. In 2000 South Korea secretly enriched uranium to 77 percent and barred inspectors from entering the facility where the activity was taking place. They were allowed to “clear up the matter” under much more understanding circumstances. In fact, the IAEA considered the matter one of “serious concern” but there was never any talk of permanently barring them from enrichment.

    Not that there should have been, but if international institutions are to be taken seriously there has to be the appearance of dispassionate and disinterested justice. The circus surrounding the Iranian nuclear program has all the hallmarks of a witch hunt, with the US manipulating the disclosure of evidence and accusations so that Iran can never be truly cleared. Facing such a hostile process it is hardly surprising that they would lawyer up.

  36. Ataune (History)

    Andy – If I understand correctly your logic, if a prosecutor has prooved that you have broken the law, the next time around, he won’t have to do anything to win his case against you, it will be up to you to prove a negative in court.

  37. Andy Grotto (History)

    James — You say “there is no mechanism in the NPT for permanent denial of enrichment.” That is true for states that are in compliance with their NPT nonproliferation and safeguards obligations, but Iran is not in compliance with its safeguards obligations, and Article IV clearly conditions the peaceful use of nuclear technology on compliance with these obligations.

    You mention South Korea. Unlike Iran, South Korea decided not to play games with the IAEA and the UNSC and came completely clean. Iran would do well to follow its example. If it did, the UNSC consensus would crumble and Iran would win. So I repeat: the fact that it hasn’t come clean can only mean it has a lot to hide.

    Ataune — Your analogy is weak. There has been no “next time around” with Iran because Iran has yet to resolve the issues that got it into trouble in the first place — its extensive safeguards obligations and evidence of a number of activities that suggest a weapons program.

    Best wishes…Andy

  38. Ataune (History)

    Why Iran has to respond to any open-ended list of accusations, this will drag on the process for whatever length of time that the political oponent wants. And besides, is completely against the basic nature of the Law. They sat down in August 2007 and talked seriously with the “judge” of the case, he gave them the final list of past “issues” that need to be clarified (6 of them), Iran responded to them to the satisfaction of the “judge”. The report is out saying that the case is back to normal. Now, 1 week before the pronouncement of the “judge”, the political opnonent comes-up with some “alleged studies” and ask it to be included in the judge’s report. Who do you want to believe: The judge or the political oponent that lied times and times before and whom his own intelligence community, in its entirety, assert with high confidence that Iran doesn’t have any nuke weoponization program since 2003.

  39. AWR (History)

    Hass –

    2 points on the AP issue:

    1) INFCIRC/540 (corrected) (1997), the “Model Additional Protocol,” states in one pertinent part, “the Agency shall have access to … Any location … on a selective basis in order to assure the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities;”.

    Iran did not and has not adhered to this construct, no matter who urged them to, so to say they adhered to the AP for 2 years is simply wrong. As you might imagine, the language the IAEA used vis-a-vis Iran was deliberately fuzzed over so the dialogue could continue, under the difficult political circumstances you repeatedly point out. You thus overstate both what Iran has done and the influence of The Great Satan in these discussions. Iran knows full well what its options are, and I agree with Andy that Iran has successfully portayed its behavior as a response to the bellicosity of the US, rather than adhering to what is expected of it by the IAEA Board and other interlocutors. Europe and Japan are asking nothing more of Iran than what they themselves have agreed to, so why can’t Iran just go along? Instead, it chooses to blather about discrimination and threats and refuse what others have agreed to do.

    2) The fact that it took the Agency 3 years to do its assessment of Japan’s AP is a result of the complexity of Japan’s nuclear program. As far as I know, Japan has fully cooperated with the Agency in resolving any anomalies that arose. Iran, on the other hand, not only exploits anomalies for reasons of power politics, it deliberately creates more inconsistency and raises more questions about its behavior by failing to deal honestly even with ElBaradei, who is doing the best he can to defuse the crisis.

    As the old (Chinese, I think) proverb goes, “You tie the knot, you [must] untie the knot.”

  40. Ataune (History)

    AWR – Lavizan was not a nuclear site. At the time when Iran was abiding by the AP, withouth having ratified it, the IAEA requested a visit to the site based on allegations from the US side. Iran granted permission on the basis of the AP. The agency took some samples and came back with a negative results which essentially confirmed the Iranian side version. This, and numerous other un-founded allegations from the US has convinced the Iranians that the goal is eminently political. Today their public position is that they will look favorably to ratify the AP if the dossier returns to the IAEA, as it should.

  41. John McGlynn

    Andy Grotto wrote:
    1. “[A]t the end of the day Iran is the country that has stalled, hemmed, hawed and obfuscated. If it had come clean from the beginning, there is no way the UNSC would have enacted a single resolution. Why it chose a different path can only mean one thing: it has more to hide.” (Feb 25, 10:34 AM)
    2. “So I repeat: the fact that it hasn’t come clean can only mean it has a lot to hide.” (Feb 25, 12:57 PM)
    What is Iran hiding? As far as I can see Grotto’s suspicions are based on Iran’s hemming and hawing. Lets grant that Iran dillydallied. Well, that’s over. The work plan has been carried out and all outstanding issues have been resolved to IAEA satisfaction, except the response awaited from Pakistan on the hemispheres document. There is nothing left on the IAEA investigative agenda.
    What we now have is the US (and maybe some European countries) using the IAEA to launch new accusations against Iran – the “alleged studies.” Of course the IAEA should be worried by “green salt,” high explosive testing and the missile re-entry vehicle design. But what does any of this have to do with Iran? The IAEA doesn’t know. In fact it admits it doesn’t yet fully understand aspects of the allegations. The US/member states won’t clearly say. Iran says the allegations are baseless and fabricated. An impasse? Well what the IAEA can say is that it “has not detected the use of nuclear material in connection with the alleged studies, nor does it have credible information in this regard.” So until a member state produces solid evidence or continuing IAEA investigations find something, the “alleged studies” are just, well, allegations.
    Meanwhile, Iran says it will move back to the Additional Protocol (AP) if its portfolio is removed from UN Security Council consideration. Do Grotto & other wonkers support this? If not why not? Isn’t going this route reasonable, given the absence of evidence of diversions to military applications in Iran’s program? Won’t a return to the AP enable not only enable the int’l community to get more information but also give the IAEA a greater opportunity to determine the accuracy of the “alleged studies” information (or related info. that confirms Iranian origins if the US et al later produce it)? If real evidence of an Iranian cover-up of diversions to military uses is later found, let’s talk about a return to the Sec Council. Until then let’s hold off.
    By going on about Iranian threats, Iran having a lot to hide, the need to contain Iran, more UN sanctions, etc. Grotto and other wonkers may not be paving the way to war with Iran but they are paving the way to economic destruction of Iran’s civilian population as the US is using all kinds of excuses to supplement UN sanctions with its own unilaterally orchestrated and potentially far more destructive global commerce and banking sanctions.
    They all have different opinions, particularly on technical matters, but there must be some core agenda for Iran the wonkers can agree on. Surely it should be something along the lines of information through lawful investigation and peaceful diplomacy to resolve informational disputes. And not putting the population of Iran at risk.

  42. James (History)

    Andy: I believe we are at an impasse. My point was that South Korea had a strong incentive to come clean because they were assured there would be no repercussions. Iran has a strong disincentive to resolve outstanding issues because every time they get close to clearing themselves, the Americans “discover new evidence” to keep the pot boiling.

    The contrast between Iran and South Korea was not merely in the behavior of the states under investigation, but in the attitudes and obsessions of the states doing the accusing. Dealing with a superpower that is looking for an excuse to attack you is a very different situation than what South Korea had to face.

    And this brings me to the fundamental point that international law and its mechanisms has no true “independent judiciary,” and its enforcers are under heavy political pressure from the powerful states to return indictments that further their political agenda. It is the blind spot of all international institutions and the US has developed a strong penchant for exploiting it. Iran is currently an outlier in its stubborn response to these accusations, but her attitude is likely to become the norm as nations come to believe the game is stacked against them. It’s not just about Iran: the US’ ferocious politicization of international law erodes it in ways that “rogue states” cannot.

  43. Andy (History)


    The samples at Lavizan were, IIRC, taken after the site was razed. Additionally, if that site was involved in weapon R&D there may not have been any radioactive material there in the first place. Because of these two factors, the absence of nuclear materials confirms little.

    My personal feeling is that Iran’s enrichment program cannot be prevented. They’ve declared at least once their intention is to essentially create events on the ground to make UNSC demands obsolete.

    I think Iran has judged, correctly, in my view, the UNSC won’t do anything that will really hurt Iran enough to compel them to stop and roll-back their enrichment program. Furthermore, enticements are unlikely to be effective either. Iran likely believes that such enticements will only increase as Iran’s program progresses and once Iran has passed the “point of no return” (which it may have done already) and the international community is forced to deal with the reality of a nuclear Iran, then the US and Europe will not have a choice. Until that time, Iran probably believes it can survive any sanctions the UNSC is likely to throw before it.

    Assuming I’m correct here, I think the appropriate course of action for the UNSC and international community is to work to get Iranian ratification and FULL compliance with the AP.

  44. Ataune (History)

    Andy –

    I do agree with you on the conclusion: ratification and full compliance is the best both parties (US and Iran) can get out of that. I don’t know what you mean by “international community”, since such an outcome is obviousely not favorable to some UNSC permanent members.

    By mentioning the Lavizan site I was just giving examples, in reply to AWR, of Iran allowing the surprise visit to military sites in accordance to the AP.


  45. Karl Schenzig (History)

    Dear Mr. Grotto,

    How exactly do you propose to deal with a “nuclear Iran” which supports terrorism? By hoping that it will not go too far?

  46. hass (History)

    Lets not forget the perfectly reasonable option of a multinational enrichment facility on Iranian soil as most recently suggested by “Pickering, Walsh and Luers”:

  47. Andy Grotto

    Karl — If the United States could productively negotiate with the “Evil Empire” (as Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union), surely it could productively do the same with a regional power wannabe like Iran.

  48. AWR (History)

    Dear Ataune,

    Perhaps you will find the back story on Lavizan illuminating. As I recall, Iran’s explanation for why the site was razed and why they had radiation detectors was that the city of Tehran ordered the demolition to remove a potential radiation threat to the surrounding population. Apparently the Tehran City Government has the ability to restrict the nuclear activities of the national government, an interesting construct. Perhaps the IAEA should negotiate with Tehran over access to the nuclear program.

    At any rate, I’m so relieved that Lavizan is no longer a threat to anybody!

  49. Andy (History)


    Well, when Iran was supposedly adhering to the AP those “surprise” visits took months. Even without the AP it’s about impossible to conduct any sort of short-notice visit on existing facilities which is why the IAEA wants remote monitoring – which is something else Iran has long resisted.


    Didn’t Iran recently take the multi-lateral approach off the table? Even if it didn’t any consortium where the plant is on Iranian soil is a non-starter. However, A neutral third country, as the Iranian President once suggested, is a viable option IMO.

  50. Hass (History)


    Ahmadinejad said the offer is off the table but open to being put back on the table — so in other words its on the table.(its not really his call anyway)

    The latest IAEA report states that they did perform unannounced visits:

    “Since March 2007, a total of nine unannounced inspections have
    been carried out at FEP. All nuclear material at FEP remains under Agency containment and

  51. Huessy (History)

    To HAAS: The Iranians were approached by the US a number of times in 2003 re: their suppossed peace feelers and they absolutely refused to discuss their (1) nuclear program; (2)support for Hamas and Hezbollah; (3)the militias in Irag; (4)their support for AQ and the Taliban in Afghanistan; and (5)the supression of their own citizens and assasinations of Iran exiles in Europe and the US. I guess beyond these unimportant things they really were interested in peace.

  52. Karl Schenzig (History)

    Dear Mr. Grotto

    The USSR never transferred long-range rockets or anti-ship missiles to a terrorist organisation. It’s leaders never openly called for the destruction of Israel. Not a single Soviet leader was religiously observant. No arrest warrant was ever issued against a former President of the USSR. Do you continue to insist on your comparison?

  53. Andy Grotto (History)

    Karl — I’ll most definitely stick with my comparison, and I’d even extend it to China. The USSR openly called for the destruction of the capitalist order led by the United States, erected an Iron Curtain, and partitioned Berlin. It transfered nuclear and missile technologies to Communist China, which in the 1960s was viewed by many leaders in both the United States and Russia as irrational and undeterrable. (The USSR actually contemplated military action against China during this period.) And extremism is extremism, whether it is motivated by religion or Stalinism or Maoism.

    Besides, just as the United States grossly misread China and Russia for much of the Cold War, you are misreading Iran. I urge you to read some modern studies on Iran’s strategic thinking. Check out Ray Takeyh’s “Hidden Iran,” Barbara Slavin’s “Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies,” and Trita Parsi’s “Treacherous Alliances.” For a particularly in-depth look at Iran’s complex political, cultural, and strategic outlooks, I highly recommend Nikki Keddie’s “Modern Iran” and Mehdi Moslem’s “Factional Politics in Post-Khomeini Iran.”

  54. Karl Schenzig (History)

    Dear Mr. Grotto,

    Abstract calls for the destruction of an economic system and concrete calls for the destruction of a country are so different as to be beyond comparison. The Iron Curtain and Berlin Wall are completely irrelevant to the matter at hand, since they were defensive, not offensive, actions.

    As to China, Mao never transferred sophisticated conventional weapons to terrorists, nor directed terrorist attacks. What is more, the USSR and China came closest to war in 1978, for reasons completely unconnected to any perceived Chinese extremism.

    As to the literature you suggest regarding Iran, not only have I read it all, I have conversed and, on occasions, done business with Iranians for a very long time. Tell me, Mr. Grotto, have you ever met a member of a secret police organisation? Have you ever met a Twelver Ayatollah?

  55. Andy Grotto (History)

    Karl — I can’t say I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a Twelver Ayatollah. I once tried to befriend one on Facebook, however, but he ignored my request.

  56. Karl Schenzig (History)

    Dear Mr. Grotto,

    May I suggest that you visit Iran, particularly the cities of Ahwaz, Yazd and Qom. I am quite confident that it will help you better understand the views of those who think that the government of Iran is intent on war. Sadly, it appears that until that time debating the issue with you is fruitless.

  57. arnold evans (History)

    Didn’t Iran recently take the multi-lateral approach off the table? Even if it didn’t any consortium where the plant is on Iranian soil is a non-starter.

    OK. Then I guess we’re going to continue the status quo.

    But if the West wanted Iran’s nuclear program to be under AP supervision, which it doesn’t, it would return the file to the IAEA unless and until some real evidence of an actual nuclear weapons program is produced and accede to an Iranian enrichment program with international participation.

    This state of decreasing knowledge of Iran’s nuclear program is only the result of an unreasonable position held by the West with no technical justification, motivated only by a discriminatory political policy in advance of Israel’s perceived strategic needs.

  58. Hass (History)

    Meeting a Twelver Ayatullah…is that supposed to be scary like meeting a Borg monster or something? Lots of tourists visit Iran. Here’s a tour

  59. Hass (History)

    Huessy – actually, rather than approaching Iran regarding the 2003 peace feeler, the US chastised the Swiss ambassador for communicating the offer to the US, and Rice flatly denied having eaver seen it, only to be exposed as a liar by Flynt Leverett

  60. AWR (History)

    Messrs. Schenzig and Hass,

    Maybe you both could agree that we should call Iran’s bluff, if that’s what it is (and I hope it is). Then we will know for sure. With respect, and as edification for both of you, I doubt many folks in Ahwaz, Yazd and Qom would agree with the policy their national government seems to be pursuing. They probably would be satisfied with more regular garbage and electrical service. Unfortunately, there is no one fairly representing them in the capital right now. Sound familiar?

  61. Karl Schenzig (History)

    Dear AWR,

    Iran is not bluffing. It intends to wage war. As to the opinions of the people in the three cities I have mentioned, the leadership (meaning the mayors, their aides and city councils) is supportive of Ahmadinejad’s aims. By that they understand the ultimate destruction of Israel and the USA. However, they debate whether he will be successful in this endeavour and tend to disapprove of his economic decisions. Therefore, you are mistaken. Discontent with Ahmadinejad’s internal policy is not equivalent to rejection of his foreign policy.

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