The November 2007 IAEA Report on Iran

The International Atomic Energy Agency has produced its report on Iran’s conformance with Security Council resolutions 1737 and 1747 dealing with Iran’s implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty safeguards required of it:

VIENNA, Nov. 15 — The International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report on Thursday that Iran had made new but incomplete disclosures about its past nuclear activities, missing a critical deadline under an agreement with the agency and virtually assuring a new push by the United States to impose stricter international sanctions.

In the report, the agency confirmed for the first time that Iran had reached the major milestone of 3,000 operating centrifuges, a tenfold increase from just a year ago. In theory, that means that it could produce enough uranium to make a nuclear weapon within a year to 18 months.

But the agency said that the centrifuges — fast-spinning machines used to enrich uranium — were operating well below their capacity, and that so far it had not discovered any evidence that Iran was enriching to a level that would produce bomb-grade fuel.

The report made clear that even while providing some answers, Iran has continued to shield many aspects of its nuclear program. Iran’s “cooperation has been reactive rather than proactive,” the report said, adding that because of restrictions Iran has placed on inspectors the agency’s understanding of the full scope of Iran’s nuclear program is “diminishing.”

The text of the report is here.

The Iranians are seeing the cup that this report represents as half-full—they’re demanding an apology:

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran called on its Western foes on Friday to apologize to the Islamic Republic after the release of a U.N. nuclear agency report which Tehran said showed it had been telling the truth about its atomic plans, according to state media.

The United States, which accuses Iran of seeking to develop nuclear bombs, said Thursday’s report showed Tehran still defying the international community and that Washington would proceed with allies to draft broader United Nations sanctions against it.

But Iranian officials said the country had been vindicated in the report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and that further discussion at the U.N. Security Council about the nuclear dispute would have no legal basis.

As Lord Chesterfield noted effrontery is valuable equipment with which to confront life. On the other hand the West, epitomized here by Germany sees the cup as mostly empty:

BERLIN, Nov 16 (Reuters) – Germany would consider the possibility of separate EU measures against Iran if the U.N. Security Council fails to agree on a new sanctions resolution, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Friday.

Reacting to the latest report on Iran’s nuclear programme by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the United States said on Thursday it would work with its allies for a third round of U.N. sanctions against Tehran for refusing to suspend nuclear enrichment.

But Russia and China, permanent veto-wielding members of the Security Council, are opposed to more sanctions. As a result, France has been pushing for the European Union to impose its own separate U.S.-style sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

A German Foreign Ministry spokesman was asked at a regular news conference what Germany, which diplomats have been saying opposed the idea of separate EU measures, would do if the Security Council failed to approve tougher sanctions.

“The foreign minister has made clear that if this is the case we would take up this issue in Europe and consider together what steps could be taken by Europe,” spokesman Martin Jaeger said.

He also said that Thursday’s report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna “makes clear that Iran has still not fulfilled its international obligations as laid down in resolutions of the U.N. Security Council and shows that enrichment activities continue.”

Several bullet-style observations:

  • It’s not the job of the IAEA to balance competing interests. The agency has not confirmed that Iran’s nuclear development program is peaceful and it has confirmed that Iran has not cooperated fully with the agency’s doing its job. Offering figleaves to Iran foments discord rather than promoting agreement. This is the core problem of the IAEA’s nature as an independent agency answerable only to itself. That inclines the IAEA to see itself as a policy-creating agency which I do not believe it was ever intended to be.
  • Iran needs to conform to its obligations under the NPT and comply fully with the IAEA so that the agency can certify that Iran’s nuclear development program is for peaceful purposes only as is its right under the NPT. There is no gradient of acceptable behaviors on Iran’s part. “Progress”, the figleaf held out by the IAEA is unacceptable.
  • The U. S. does not have the option, as suggested by Julian Borger in The Guardian of deciding that Iran cannot be entrusted with civilian applications of nuclear energy. That is Iran’s right as a signatory of the NPT to which the U. S. is also a signatory. If the U. S. is to change its posture, it should abrogate the NPT. Wouldn’t that require the approval of the Senate?
8 comments… add one
  • Question: If Iran pulled out of the NPT, would the IAEA or UN have any standing (under their own laws & by-laws) to impose any sanctions on Iran?

  • Icepick – the UN did so with North Korea. The IAEA itself has no power to sanction. However, John Bolton has previously argued that developing nukes outwith the NPT (in the cases of India, Pakistan and Israel) is legal.

    Dave, I believe it is IAEA policy not to certify a nation as having a peaceful nuclear program without an Additional Protocol in place. That means the IAEA cant even certify Canada as having a peaceful program. It has, again, said it has found no evidence for a weapons program and no redirection of materials for such a program. Note too, that the 3,000 centrifuges and their end product are now under IAEA seal and the Agency certifies that it is impossible for the product to be weaponized without them knowing it.

    It looks to me, reading the report and previous evidence, that Iran probably had a notion of a dual-use program when it began, but didn’t get very far along the weapon line before the whole thing was exposed to the world, at which point it quietly dropped the idea of weapons from its program.

    Regards, C

  • As I read the NPT its terms only pertain to signatories and there are no penalties attached either to non-compliance on the part of signatories nor to abrogation on the part of signatories. Which probably explains why the NPT is next to useless as a means for preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

  • It looks to me, reading the report and previous evidence, that Iran probably had a notion of a dual-use program when it began, but didn’t get very far along the weapon line before the whole thing was exposed to the world, at which point it quietly dropped the idea of weapons from its program.

    That’s certainly what the IAEA seems to be implying in its report, Cernig. Unfortunately, without the full compliance of Iran with its reponsibilities under the NPT (the present regime has at all times either been violating its obligations or not fully in compliance), there’s just no way to tell.

  • Thanks for the info, gentlemen.

    “Icepick – the UN did so with North Korea. ”

    But I believe the Korean conflict has something to do with that state of affairs. That may allow the UN more latitude.

  • PD Shaw Link

    Wouldn’t that require the approval of the Senate?

    Nobody knows. The Senate must ratify all treaties. Presidents have taken the position that this is a narrow exception to the executive’s general supremacy over foreign affairs. I believe the closest the SCOTUS came to deciding this was in the aftermath of Carter’s unilateral abrogation of a treaty with Taiwan. The SCOTUS ducked the issue, saying it was a political question that it would reach only in remote circumstances. Congress and the President later came to an agreement on a new law regarding Taiwan.

    Not that I can imagine Bush doing that.

  • There are a few issues here.

    First, WRT sanctions, there’s nothing specifically codified in the UN that would trigger sanctions and there’s nothing in the NPT that provides sanctions for withdrawal. Still, several countries, including the US, have laws on the books with regard to non-NPT countries and the NPT makes it illegal for any signatory to give any non-NPT country any kind of nuclear assistance.

    Secondly, Senate approval is not required to withdrawal from a treaty. The means and reason for withdrawal are spelled out in the treaty itself and the executive can unilaterally withdrawal provided the treaty stipulations are adhered to. A recent example is the ABM treaty. Still, as PD indicates, no one knows for sure since the Senate has not really tried to prevent a treaty withdrawal.

    Thirdly, without the additional protocol, the IAEA is limited to monitoring known and declared facilities. The IAEA has no inherent right, without the AP, to demand access to a facility it believes may be nuclear-related. So, the idea behind the NPT is to “be there” when a nuclear program first begins and monitor it continuously to provide some assurance there is no diversion toward military use. Of course, a huge problem arises when a country, like Iran, decides to keep its program covert for almost two decades – a significant period of time in which the IAEA did not and could not monitor Iran’s nuclear activity.

    Now, Iran has come out and declared nuclear facilities and activities to the IAEA that were previously covert. What recent reports show is that the IAEA has not detected any military activity or diversion since they started monitoring Iran’s newly declared activities. The Iranian government and Iranian partisans claim this “certifies” that Iran is fully in compliance with it’s NPT obligations. Of course, this neglects a significant gap in knowledge caused by 20 years of covert activity. The IAEA could not monitor, and therefore cannot certify, there was no military use or diversion during that period. THAT is what the IAEA is trying to do now – reconstruct Iran’s program history to see if there was any nefarious activity.

    You see, the NPT system managed by the IAEA is designed to work like a chain-of-accountability for classified information, criminal evidence or even nuclear weapons. If accountability is broken for 20 years, how can one ensure that no one got illicit access to that classified information or altered critical criminal evidence or reverse-engineered the nuclear weapon? THAT is what the IAEA is trying to do and the IAEA says it is impossible to determine the full scope of Iran’s program without knowing what occurred while Iran was lying and hiding aspects of its program. The IAEA says that it can’t determine the scope of Iran’s program unless it ratifies and fully implements the additional protocol, among other measures. The problem, of course, is the AP is legally “voluntar.”

    The AP is also needed to give the IAEA authority to investigate and monitor suspected activities by Iran. If Iran has some of it’s program still hidden, and the IAEA learns about it, the AP gives the IAEA the legal authority to demand access to the site or activity. Without the AP, the IAEA is limited to sites and activities that Iran itself declares. The problem with such an arrangement should be obvious and only becomes worse when a country, like Iran, lied about its activities for almost two decades.

    In short, as things stand now, the IAEA can certify with some assurance that no material or illicit activity is going on with Iran’s known and monitored facilities, but it doesn’t know if Iran has fully declared all of its activities and doesn’t know if diversion or military-related activity occurred during the two decades prior to 2003.

  • hass Link

    Actually, the IAEA has also certified that previously undeclared activities by Iran were not related to a nuclear weapons program either, and note that Iran is hardly the only country that had undeclared activities. Iran is in fact in compliance with its NPT obligations, as certified by the IAEA when it says that there has been no diversion of nuclear material for weapons use.

    And, you mischaracterize the issue of declared versus undeclared facilities. Under Iran’s existing safeguards, Iran is required to declare all its nuclear sites. If someone, such as the US, has any evidence that there are undeclared facilities, all they have to do is take the evidence to the IAEA Board of Governors. The US has failed to do so, and the IAEA has publicly complaiend that the “tips” the US has provided them to date have been bogus and useless.

    Furthermore, Iran implemented the additional inspectins under the Additional Protocol, even thought it was not obligated to do so, for a period of 2 years until 2006 when its file was sent to the UNSC even thought there was still no evidence of any nuclear weapons program found in Iran. 2 years of inspections found no evidence of any weapons program. And, on top of that, Iran has offered to ratify the additional protocol and even go beyond it – as long as its rights are recognized.

    Actually, the US does not accuse Iran of having any undeclared sites – the US rather says that Iran should not even have the knowledge of nuclear technology since it could one day possibly be used to make bombs. This is not a matter of undeclared facilities – this is a basic violation of the NPT.

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