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Thomas Paine

To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Analysis of the Feb 2010 IAEA report on Iran

6305. News. Iran Open to Discussing Nuclear Pr...Image by Ensie & Matthias via Flickr

 Iran Affairs


Analysis of the Feb 2010 IAEA report on Iran

So here's my analysis of the latest IAEA report on Iran, and how the US media totally mischaracterize it for the purpose of scaremongering.
Paragraphs 2-13 are about the enrichment plants in Natanz. According to the report, they continue to enrich uranium under IAEA safeuguards, and there has been no diversion of nuclear material for non-peaceful uses -- so in short, Iran is in full compliance with its NPT obligations. The report specifically says that there have been 35 surprise inspections there too, just to be clear.

 The Iranians made it clear from the start that the right to enrichment had to be recognized, and the temporary suspension of enrichment was not supposed to become permanent. The suspension was supposed to  last for 6 months. Instead, the EU-3 first dragged their feet for 2 years without making any offer, and then when Iran announced the restart of enrichment, they gave Iran an offer that independent analysts called an empty box in pretty wrapping which demanded that Iran permanently give up enrichment. Then the EU3 had the gall to accuse Iran of "violating" the Paris Agrement when Iran refused. So in short, Iran showed flexibility, and was cheated. Those who argue that Iran should suspend enrichment don't seem to remember that we've been down that road before.

Paragraphs 14-17 are about the Fordow enrichment facility -- the supposedly "clandestine" site near Qom. According to the Iranians, this was essentially a bomb shelter that they decided to use to protect centrifuges in case of an attack. There is some dispute between the IAEA and Iran over when Iran should have disclosed it to the IAEA -- at time iran began construction according to Iran's original safeguards agreement, or at the time they decided to construct it according to the Subsidiary Agrement that Iran had temporarily agreed to implement as part of the Paris Agreement negotiations. This is an on-going dispute with the IAEA but largely a technicality since even the IAEA agrees that there was no nuclear-related activities (or, any activities) at the site.

The media of course like to scaremonger about the Fordow site. They insist that the site was 'clandestine' even though Iran reported it to the IAEA. Then they say that since the facility is "too small" to power a full-fledged reactor, it must be intended to secretly make nukes -- when it was never intended to power a reacto in the first place, being a bomb shelter. I called that the Goldilocks meme. However, as previously mentioned by IAEA director Elbaradei, the site is basically "a hole in the mountain and nothing to be worried about."

Paragraph 18: Reprocessing "Undeclared activites"? this paragraph is about the creation of medical isotopes at the Tehran Research reactor, which has been ongoing. The report says that the facilities continue to be monitored by the IAEA, and there's no evidence of reprocessing -- extracting plutonium from spent fuel rods for possible weapons use -- at the site.
Since this paragraph mentions undeclared activities and the Additional Protocol, it would be a good opportunity to explain those once again. Under the terms of Iran's existing safeguards, Iran is required to declare nuclear activities, and the IAEA inspectors have to verify that those declared activities are not weapons related. This, the IAEA has done so repeatedly, for many years. The IAEA has never found any nuclear-weapons related activities in Iran.
However, since Saddam managed to cheat the IAEA by not declaring all of Iraq's nuclear activities, an Additional Protocol was drafted that allows more stringent inspections, which once completed allows the IAEA to verify not only that all declared nuclear activities are peaceful, but also that there are no undeclared nuclear activities going on.
This report specifically says that while the IAEA can verify that there's no reprocessing going on at the declared facilities in Iran, it can't veify the absence of undeclared activites in other places though -- which is true, since as explained many times before, the IAEA only verifies the absence of undeclared nuclear activities for countries that are bound by the Additional Protocol. Most countries have flatly refused to sign that protocol, including Egypt (where unexplained traces of highly weapons-grade enriched uranium were recently found).
According to the IAEA's own Annual Safeguards Implementation Report of 2004, of the 61 states where both the NPT safeguards and the Additional protocol are implemented, the IAEA has certified the absence of undeclared nuclear activity for only 21 countries, leaving Iran in the same category as 40 other countries including Canada, the Czech Republic, and South Africa. Note especially the last sentence in which it says that the IAEA has to conclude that the nuclear programs of even those countries remain peaceful:
"With regard to 21 States with both CSAs [Comprehensive Safeguard Agreements] and AP [Additional Protocol] in force or otherwise applied, the Agency concluded that all nuclear material in those States remained in peaceful nuclear activities. For 40 other such States, the Agency had not yet completed the necessary evaluations, and could therefore only draw the conclusion that the nuclear material placed under safeguards remained in peaceful nuclear activities."
Finally, I would only add that the IAEA has explicitly said that it has no evidence of any "undeclared" nuclear material or activities in Iran either. For example this is what ElBaradei stated regarding the 2007 NIE:
IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei ... notes in particular that the Estimate tallies with the Agency´s consistent statements over the last few years that, although Iran still needs to clarify some important aspects of its past and present nuclear activities, the Agency has no concrete evidence of an ongoing nuclear weapons program or undeclared nuclear facilities in Iran.
From Comments
I think it is important to point out that, according to Scott Ritter ("Target Iran") Iran's commitment to the 3.1 Safeguards Protocol was a temporary one right from the beginning, and all sides knew about this. This was the basis of Iran's decision. The condition under which Iran temporarily accepted its regulations was that the European Union would meet its obligations according to the Tehran Declaration and the Paris Agreement. It was not until this turning out to have been too optimistic that Iran stopped the ratification procedures. Moreover, no NPT member state can be forced to sign the Safeguards Protocol. There is nothing illegal in Iran enriching its uranium.
What is not mentioned in the analysis but in the AP report on FoxNews (know thy enemy :-) ) is that the intelligence described in paragraphs 40 and following is derived from the Laptop of Death (2005) and the "neutron initiator" re-typed by Murdoch's London Times Online.
What also needs to be said is that the Board of Governors makes political decisions. It does not have to take into consideration the results of the inspections. Does anyone know where Bolton is?


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