The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has just released an important new expert report on Iran’s nuclear program, specifically on the Parchin site of much recent interest to the IAEA. The report is a must-read for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the expertise of the author, Robert Kelley. Kelley is a nuclear engineer and a veteran of over 35 years in the US Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons complex, most recently at Los Alamos. He managed the centrifuge and plutonium metallurgy programs at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and was seconded by the US DOE to the IAEA where he served twice as Director of the nuclear inspections in Iraq, in 1992 and 2001.
Rarely, if ever, has such a technically qualified person spoken publicly on this important topic.
The SIPRI report dramatically revises the standard narrative in the mainstream western press about what is known about the Parchin site, and what – if anything — needs to be done about it. It also perfectly contextualizes the relative (un)importance of the IAEA gaining access to the site, and what the IAEA — and P5+1 countries — stands to gain or lose in the process of making a mountain out of a molehill on this issue. As Kelley states, “a careful review of the evidence available to date suggests that less has been going on at the site of interest than meets the eye.”
The dispute centers on “the IAEA’s request to visit a large military production complex located at Parchin, near Tehran. The request is part of the agency’s efforts to resolve questions about whether alleged Iranian nuclear activities have what IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano has called ‘possible military dimensions’.” Note the “possible” there. Specifically, the IAEA says it has secret information (which it will not share, even with Iran) from a member state’s intelligence agency indicating that Iran may have constructed a large steel chamber in one of the buildings for conducting conventional high explosives experiments—some of which may have involved natural (not enriched) uranium—which could be associated with a secret program to do research on nuclear bombs. As Kelley explains in the SIPRI report the whole scenario is a bit of a stretch from a technical standpoint.
“A chamber such as the one claimed to be in the building is neither necessary nor particularly useful for developing a first-generation nuclear weapon. Such development tests have normally been done outdoors for decades.”
“There are a range of experiments involving explosives and uranium that a country presumably would conduct as part of a nuclear weapon development programme. Most of these are better done in the open or in a tunnel. They include basic research on neutron initiators using very small amounts of explosive and grams of uranium and on the very precise timing of a neutron initiator using a full-scale conventional explosion system and many kilograms of uranium. The alleged chamber at Parchin is too large for the initiator tests and too small for a full-scale explosion. If it exists at all, it is a white elephant.”
And if someone is going to build a chamber like the one alleged in the secret evidence passed to the IAEA, they will want to do experiments and make measurements. They will want to measure things with, for example:
· very high speed optical cameras
· flash X-ray systems (like an X-ray strobe light which gives you one x-ray of implosion in a very short time)
· neutron detectors
· Various electric timing and pressure detectors.
The collar that is shown in the alleged graphic of the chamber gets in the way of the optical, X-ray and neutron measurements. So it would be better not to have it there at all. The collar of the alleged chamber also means that when the chamber is used up to its design capacity it could well fail on the ends, the entrance door or the windows and cable ports for the measurements.
But before highlighting more of the take-aways from the SIPRI report, let me first briefly mention what other former senior IAEA officials have said about how the IAEA is handling the Parchin issue more broadly.
Firstly, let’s recall that the IAEA has already visited Parchin twice in 2005 and found nothing – although they did not go to the specific area they are now interested in. However, the IAEA could have gone to that area even in 2005 – they simply chose to go to other sites on the military base. As the IAEA report at the time summarized:
“The Agency was given free access to those buildings and their surroundings and was allowed to take environmental samples, the results of which did not indicate the presence of nuclear material, nor did the Agency see any relevant dual use equipment or materials in the locations visited.”
When the IAEA last went to Parchin, Olli Heinonen was head of IAEA safeguards and led the inspections – the methodology for choosing which buildings to inspect is described in an excellent Christian Science Monitor article which is worth reading in its entirety, but I quote the relevant bits:
“At the time, it[Parchin] was divided into four geographical sectors by the Iranians. Using satellite and other data, inspectors were allowed by the Iranians to choose any sector, and then to visit any building inside that sector. Those 2005 inspections included more than five buildings each, and soil and environmental sampling. They yielded nothing suspicious, but did not include the building now of interest to the IAEA.
“The selection [of target buildings] did not take place in advance, it took place just when we arrived, so all of Parchin was available,” recalls Heinonen, who led those past inspections. “When we drove there and arrived, we told them which building.”
Would the Iranians really have risked exposing some nefarious nuclear weapons-related work at Parchin by making all of Parchin available to the IAEA in 2005?
“Also unusual is how open and specific the IAEA has been about what exactly it wants to see, which could yield doubts about the credibility of any eventual inspection.
“I’m puzzled that the IAEA wants to in this case specify the building in advance, because you end up with this awkward situation,” says Olli Heinonen, the IAEA’s head of safeguards until mid-2010.
“First of all, if it gets delayed it can be sanitized. And it’s not very good for Iran. Let’s assume [inspectors] finally get there and they find nothing. People will say, ‘Oh, it’s because Iran has sanitized it,’” says Mr. Heinonen, who is now at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. “But in reality it may have not been sanitized. Iran is also a loser in that case. I don’t know why [the IAEA] approach it this way, which was not a standard practice…”
As for the typically tendentious reporting on this topic, which almost always casts Iran in a negative light, the words of Hans Blix, former head of the IAEA, bear repeating:
“Hans Blix, former chief of the IAEA and later of UN weapons inspectors in Iraq, has also expressed surprise at the focus on Parchin, as a military base that inspectors had been to before.
“Any country, I think, would be rather reluctant to let international inspectors to go anywhere in a military site,” Mr. Blix told Al Jazeera English… “In a way, the Iranians have been more open than most other countries would be.”
One of the reasons that Mr. Blix says that is because normally the IAEA does not have the legal authority to inspect undeclared non-nuclear-materials related facilities, in a nation – like Iran — that has not ratified the Additional Protocol. The IAEA can call for “special inspections” but they have not done so. They can also choose arbitration, as specified in the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, but again they have not done that.
In fact, the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement between Iran and the IAEA states quite clearly that its “exclusive purpose” is to verify that nuclear material “is not diverted to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” Nothing else – that is it exclusive purpose. It does not cover conventional explosives testing, as suspected at Parchin (according to secret information given by a third-part intelligence agency). The IAEA itself has admitted that “absent some nexus to nuclear material the Agency’s legal authority to pursue the verification of possible nuclear weapons related activity is limited.”
Regarding the secret information from an unidentified intelligence agency, it is useful to keep in mind that in the past, forgeries have been passed along to the IAEA. (And, if recent leaks that the IAEA is using mathematically flawed graphs in its case against Iran are to be believed, the IAEA’s case is further weakened.)
So as Hans Blix stated, Iran has been more cooperative than other countries would be in the same situation, and indeed more cooperative than it legally needs to be. It has shown great goodwill by allowing the IAEA a visit to Parchin in 2005. And let’s not forget that in 2004, Brazilian authorities refused to give IAEA inspectors full access to the Resende uranium enrichment facility with nary a peep out of the “world community”.
But coming back to the SIPRI report, a couple more of the highlights:
“The IAEA says that Iran did very complex experiments involving explosives and many fibre-optic detectors and possibly uranium. However, the IAEA says these experiments were not done at Parchin but rather 500 km away at Marivan. In any case, the experiments at Marivan described in great detail by the IAEA would not use uranium.”
And has Iran demolished the building at Parchin that the IAEA wants to visit as some “experts” have claimed?
“No. Some reports implied that Iran had destroyed the building, but this is incorrect. The IAEA claims that five buildings on this site have been demolished but this cannot be seen in satellite imagery. Iran did demolish a small outbuilding on the same site that appears to have been a garage. It was probably demolished to make way for a new road that is being built at the Parchin complex. Another small structure, probably a garage or material store was reported destroyed but is still in place in the latest satellite imagery…The building of interest for the IAEA remains standing.”
“Iran has engaged in large-scale bulldozing operations on about 25 hectares near the Parchin building. This includes the bulldozing of old dirt piles to level a field 500 metres north of the building of interest. However, there has been no such activity in the area west of the building, except for removing some parking pads within about 10 m of it. The fact that the building’s immediate vicinity has been largely untouched on the west side strongly suggests that the purpose of the earth-moving operations was for construction and renovation work and not for ‘sanitizing’ the site by covering up contamination.”
What about the pink tarps mentioned by ISIS, supposedly to prevent satellites from viewing the inside of the buildings ?
“In the summer of 2012 Iran began major renovations at the site. Workers decreased perimeter security by tearing down fences, demolished one outbuilding and began renovation of two buildings. They covered both buildings with pink styrofoam insulation…One building is completely covered with insulation and the other is about 60 per cent covered. Raw materials can be seen on the ground nearby. The buildings were then reroofed and are at different stages of renovation even today.”
A picture of the pink insulation is shown in the report.
Kelley concludes, “The impasse over the Parchin visit has taken on a symbolic importance that is distracting attention from the IAEA’s efforts to address a range of questions about the scope and nature of Iran’s nuclear programme… The IAEA is stretching its mandate to the limit in asking for access to a military site based on tenuous evidence.”
And, of course, let’s keep in mind that these allegations, suspicions and “concerns” (as opposed to actual legal issues) that the IAEA has about Parchin date from about a decade or more ago – if they are true at all. And that they relate to conventional explosives testing.
As for any current worries about nuclear weapons work in Iran, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, has confirmed that he has “a high level of confidence” that no such work is going on now. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has also weighed in: “Are they [Iranians] trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No.” And Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who spent more than a decade as the director of the IAEA, said that he had not “seen a shred of evidence” that Iran was pursuing the bomb. Adding, “I don’t believe Iran is a clear and present danger. All I see is the hype about the threat posed by Iran.”
There are a number of other problems in the IAEA reports on Iran: For example, the agency keeps saying in its reports that it cannot “provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran” nor that “all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.” But the agency cannot be expected to do this – that is not its job. Pierre Goldschmidt, the former deputy director of Safeguards at the IAEA 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.”
In fact, not only is it legally problematic to fulfill such a verification, it is a logical impossibility: The agency cannot prove the absence of something. There can always be somewhere in Iran where the IAEA has not looked. In fact, no one can reasonably task the IAEA to prove a negative in any country, whether it be in Brazil, Argentina, or the 49 other nations for which it is still evaluating the absence of undeclared nuclear activity.
The only real concern with Iran at the moment is that it is stockpiling 20% enriched uranium and that it could — if it decided to weaponize in the future — further enrich it to weapons grade. This is a worry about a future potential, not something that is happening now. Brazil and Argentina could do similar things. Japan could leave the NPT and breakout also. This breakout potential is a well known and inherent flaw (or a “feature”, depending on one’s perspective) of the NPT. If the P5+1 countries (all nuclear-armed, aside from Germany) would like to close this loophole, they should consider a bold new “NPT 2.0” Treaty, such as the one I outlined in an article for Foreign Policy.
Despite the generally alarmist reporting on Iran, it is not at all an eminent threat. For 30 years it has been claimed that Iran is just about to weaponize, when in fact none of those claims have ever panned out. For example, in 1984, Jane’s Defence Weekly quoted West German intelligence sources as saying that Iran’s bomb production “is entering its final stages”. In 1992, Bibi Netanyahu said Iran is 3-5 years from a bomb. He is just as wrong now, as he was then.
What about the claims that Iran’s allegedly covert enrichment plant at Fordow indicates a sinister weaponization intent? Not necessarily — Iran’s perspective on its national security environment is likely different than the view in Washington or Jerusalem. The Iranians may see this location as a defensive measure to protect its legitimate nuclear program. They have surely heeded the lesson from Israel’s bombing of Iraq’s civilian Osirak reactor in 1981: There is no guarantee of safety when it comes to nuclear facilities in the Middle East, not even civilian ones. It’s a rough neighborhood. What is viewed with suspicion in the West may simply be seen as a defensive no-brainer in Tehran.
And, of course, Iran’s nuclear enrichment program was not covert by initial design. Iran’s nuclear program was kicked off in the 1950s with the full encouragement and support of the United States, under the auspices of president Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace program. In 1983, after the Islamic revolution, Iran went – in an overt way – to the IAEA to get help in setting up a pilot uranium enrichment facility. And the IAEA was then very receptive to the idea. According to an authoritative Nuclear Fuel article by the renowned Mark Hibbs, “IAEA officials were keen to assist Iran in reactivating a research program to learn how to process U3O8 into UO2 pellets and then set up a pilot plant to produce UF6, according to IAEA documents obtained by Nuclear Fuel.” But, according to Hibbs, “when in 1983 the recommendations of an IAEA mission to Iran were passed on to the IAEA’s technical cooperation program, the U.S. government then ‘directly intervened’ to discourage the IAEA from assisting Iran in production of UO2 and UF6. ‘We stopped that in its tracks,’ said a former U.S. official.”
So, yes, when Iran’s overt attempt was stymied politically, they obtained more covert means to set-up their enrichment facility. Enrichment facilities by their nature can be dual-use, of course, but they are certainly not disallowed under the NPT. And Iran’s allegedly “covert” or “sneaky” behavior may be largely a response to past politicization at the IAEA, and a lesson-learned from Israel’s bombing of Iraq’s civilian nuclear facility at Osirak in 1981. Unfortunately, the politicization has evidently only gotten worse since the 1980s. As representatives of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) at an IAEA board of governors meeting in 2010 already noted: “NAM notes with concern, the possible implications of the continued departure from standard verification language in the summary of the report of the director general [Yukio Amano].” (NAM represents over 100 nations, a clear majority of the world community).
Regarding how intrusive IAEA inspectors are supposed to be, the model safeguards agreement (INFCIRC-153), is quite clear:
“The Agency shall require only the minimum amount of information and data consistent with carrying out its responsibilities under the Agreement. Information pertaining to facilities shall be the minimum necessary for safeguarding nuclear material subject to safeguards under the Agreement.”
This completely validates Mr. Hans Blix statement that Iran has already exceeded the typical level of cooperation required of it by letting the IAEA visit Parchin twice: “Any country, I think, would be rather reluctant to let international inspectors to go anywhere in a military site…in a way, the Iranians have been more open than most other countries would be.”
So, back to current events: Iran is known to be converting part of its 20% enriched UF6 gas to metallic form making a “breakout” that much harder. And Tehran has signaled that it is willing to suspend 20% uranium enrichment if some sanctions are removed: so if the P5+1 countries are serious about their concern about a — completely legal — possible future potential Iranian breakout capability using its 20% enriched uranium stockpile, and they would like Iran to foreclose that option then they should take Iran up on its offer to suspend 20% enrichment by lifting some sanctions. What is definitely not constructive is making a mountain out of the Parchin molehill – a molehill that the IAEA has visited twice before and found exactly nothing at.
Professor Yousaf Butt is a nuclear physicist, and is currently professor and scientist-in-residence at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. The views expressed here are his own, and do not reflect institutional views of CNS or MIIS.Yousaf has a piece just out in Foreign Policy today on how the Parchin obsession may be obstructing progress on the larger Iran issue.
- When Fact Becomes Opinion: Half-Truths, Non-Truths & the Phony Objectivity of the Associated Press (alethonews.wordpress.com)
TEHRAN – Iranian Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani has said that the most recent resolution issued against Iran by the International Atomic Energy Agency raises doubt about the benefit of being a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Larijani made the remarks in a speech during an open session of the Majlis on Sunday in reference to the resolution that the 35-member IAEA Board of Governors adopted in Vienna on Thursday, which condemned Iran’s refusal to meet international demands to curb uranium enrichment and its alleged failure to allay international concerns about its nuclear program.
The Iranian parliament speaker said, “The recent resolution by the Board of Governors raises this question for the public: What is the benefit of the NPT and membership in the International Atomic Energy Agency for countries?
“If Iran had not been committed to the NPT, would Western countries have taken other measures?”
He stated that IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano has a responsibility to encourage the world’s countries to join the NPT, adding, “Will Mr. Amano be able to succeed in his job through such high-handed decision-making?”
“If the path taken by the West and the United States is the adoption of resolutions and sanctions against Iran, then why are they seeking negotiations between Iran and Western countries? However, these countries must be aware that the result of the negotiations is predetermined with the adoption of such an attitude,” Larijani noted.
He also said, “The main text of the resolution was definitely drafted by a few Western countries. It seems that certain tyrannical countries made their intention to make excessive demands at the 5+1 talks more public with (their) insistence on the adoption of the resolution.”
The latest round of high-level talks between Iran and the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) over the country’s nuclear program was held in Moscow on June 18 and 19.
After the Moscow talks, both sides agreed to hold expert talks, the most recent round of which was held in Istanbul on July 24.
No decision has yet been made on the next round of negotiations.
- Analysis of latest IAEA report on Iran – August 2012 (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Iran’s right to enrichment questioned again (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief says Iran and the UN nuclear agency have made a decision to reach an agreement aimed at resolving issues related to the country’s nuclear energy program.
“A decision was made by me and [Iran's top nuclear negotiator] Mr. [Saeed] Jalili to reach an agreement on the structured approach,” Yukiya Amano said in Vienna on Tuesday after returning from his visit to Iran.
“At this stage, I can say it will be signed quite soon, but I cannot say how soon it will be,” he added, describing the agreement as an “important development,” AFP reported.
The UN nuclear agency chief, accompanied by the IAEA Deputy Director General for Safeguards Herman Nackaerts and the agency’s Assistant Director General for Policy Rafael Mariano Grossi, arrived in Tehran on Monday for talks with senior Iranian officials.
“We had very good talks with [Yukiya] Amano today and, God willing, we will have good cooperation in the future,” Jalili said after his meeting with Amano in Tehran on Monday.
Amano’s remarks come as Iran and the P5+1 (Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States plus Germany) are preparing to resume the second round of talks in Iraqi capital, Baghdad, on May 23.
The last round of the negotiations was held in the Turkish city of Istanbul on April 14.
Both sides hailed the discussions as constructive.
PALO ALTO (California) – In their recent visit to Iran, the high-level officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) missed a golden opportunity to resolve one of the lingering questions about Iran’s nuclear program, due to the personal intervention of the IAEA Director-General, Yukiya Amano, whose reports have raised suspicion of a “possible nuclear dimension.”
According to a source close to the Iranian nuclear negotiation team in Iran, during the two-day visit on February 20-21, the IAEA team headed by Herman Nackaerts, the Deputy Director-General for Safeguards, was informed that even though the purpose of the visit was for discussion of a framework to resolve the “ambiguities,” they were invited to visit the site at Marivan, cited in the November 2011 IAEA report for suspected “high explosive” tests pertaining to nuclear weapons — a charge denied by Tehran. Instead of accepting this invitation, and thus putting to rest one of IAEA’s stated concerns, the IAEA team declined the offer after consulting with Mr. Amano in Vienna. Amano ordered the team to return to Vienna immediately.
According to sources in Tehran, if Amano had permitted his team to inspect the Marivan site, then he would have had to mention the agency’s finding in his report due next week. “By personally intervening to torpedo a chance to lay to rest a key IAEA suspicion about Iran, unfortunately once again Mr. Amano proved his bias,” maintains the Tehran source.
Mr. Amano has been criticized in the past as being supportive of U.S. interests regarding Iran’s nuclear activities. On his appointment as head of the IAEA, Mr. Amano was referred to by U.S. diplomats as being “a friend” to U.S. interests, according to secret diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks in 2010.
In addition to failing to mention Iran’s offer to the IAEA inspection team to visit facilities at Marivan, Mr. Amano disingenuously complained of Iran’s failure to allow the IAEA team to inspect the military base at Parchin, despite the fact that in his own November 2011 report on Iran, he admits that the purpose of a visit would be “to discuss the issues identified.” This has led to Western media coverage describing Nackaerts’ trip as a “failure,” and blaming it on Iran’s “intransigence.”
Iranian witnesses suggest otherwise, indicating that the two sides made substantial progress on a six-step “draft modality” that would address the agency’s lingering concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. Although no final agreement was reached at the February meeting, Tehran insists that an agreement is still on the table and Iran is willing to implement it. The agreement includes a framework calling for “practical steps” to further Iran-IAEA cooperation, covering a future inspection of Parchin, which incidentally has been previously visited by the IAEA without ever finding anything “unusual.”
“We have had three rounds of negotiations with Mr. Nackaerts, twice in Tehran and once in Vienna, and we are getting very close to finalizing an agreement, barring any negative intervention by certain powers that manipulate the IAEA to perpetuate a crisis environment surrounding Iran’s peaceful nuclear program,” says a Tehran source on condition of anonymity.
Tehran has expressed its readiness to engage in a new round of nuclear talk with the representatives of the “5+1″ nations (i.e., the UN Security Council’s Permanent Five plus Germany). From Iran’s perspective, for the coming talks to be successful the other side needs to be more attuned to Iran’s “confidence-building initiatives” such as the offer to IAEA to inspect a suspected site. Clearly, Mr. Amano must explain why he refused the offer and failed to make public Iran’s invitation.
According to recent admissions by various top US officials, including Defense Secretary Leon Paneta, the United States has no evidence that Iran is attempting to produce nuclear weapons. This means the Iran nuclear crisis is a “crisis of choice” rather than “necessity,” and its resolution requires dexterous diplomacy on the part of both sides.
This is not a time for military threat and intimidation. Given the admission by the IAEA, and reflected in its various reports, there is no evidence of military diversion in the development of nuclear material in Iran. All of Iran’s uranium enrichment activities — allowed under the articles of the Non-Proliferation Treaty — are covered by the IAEA’s routine inspections, as well as surveillance cameras. And Iran’s President Ahmadinejad has offered to suspend the 20 percent enrichment in return for an external supply of nuclear fuel for Iran’s medical reactor.
A prudent Western nuclear strategy toward Iran, one that would respect Iran’s nuclear rights, would continue to insist on Iran’s nuclear transparency, but refrain from threatening Iran with military strikes and or coercive “crippling sanctions.” Iran, like all other nations, has “inalienable rights” that are expressly recognized under the articles of the NPT.
Kaveh Afrasiabi was an advisor to Iran’s Nuclear Negotiation Team (2004-2006), a former political science professor at Tehran University, and author of several books on Iran’s foreign and nuclear policies, including After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran’s Foreign Policy, Iran’s Nuclear Program: Debating Facts Versus Fiction, Iran’s Foreign Policy After September 11, and Iran Phobia and US Terror Plot, A Legal Deconstruction.
Copyright © 2012 Kaveh L. Afrasiabi
- Amano’s New Report on Iran’s Nuclear Program (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Iran honestly cooperating with IAEA: Britain’s former IAEA envoy to Iran (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- How the Media Got the Parchin Access Story Wrong (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Nuclear experts reject IAEA Iran report (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Two days after the high-ranking delegation of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) returned from their second trip to Tehran within the past month, Yukiya Amano, the agency’s director general, released his official 11-page report. In this report, which unlike the previous one is more brief and practical, the latest developments in Iran’s peaceful activities to produce nuclear energy have been examined. While admitting to Iran’s great breakthroughs and achievements in building nuclear fuel rods – which are to be used in the Tehran Research Reactor for producing medical drugs – the report discusses some details about activities carried out in 15 Iranian nuclear power centres and emphasizes the futility of Iran-IAEA negotiations primarily because of Tehran’s refusal to allow the agency’s officials to inspect the Parchin centre. The present piece will explore and analyze the most important parts of the latest IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear program.
Analyzing Amano’s Report
1) The IAEA Secretariat’s Repeated Breaches of Its Reports’ Confidentiality
On Friday, 24 February 2012, the International Atomic Energy Agency circulated the report written by its director general, Amano, among the agency’s members. Once again, in violation of the IAEA charter, which underscores the confidentiality of the agency’s reports on member states, the full text of Amano’s report about Iran was released to the Western media outlets, so that they use it as material to wage negative propaganda against Iran. Interestingly enough and in spite of the repetition of this patent contravention, no member of the IAEA secretariat or the secretary general himself is willing to provide an explanation why such a confidential and specialist text is published on news websites even before reaching the agency’s members.
2) Parchin Site and the Media Fault-Finding
Amano’s report emphasizes the peaceful nature of those nuclear activities by Iran of which the UN nuclear watchdog has been informed and which are monitored by the agency’s experts. The IAEA, however, expects Iran to go beyond fulfilling its commitments regarding the implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the related safeguards agreement and thus allow the IAEA inspectors to visit other sites and centers which are not connected with the country’s nuclear activities. The Islamic Republic is opposed to this request for two simple reasons.
Firstly, based upon the NPT safeguards agreement, the International Atomic Energy Agency is only supposed to oversee the declared nuclear sites and in fact is not entitled to request the inspection of a given country’s non-nuclear centers. Secondly, in 2005 the Islamic Republic of Iran allowed the IAEA experts to inspect the Parchin military center to prove its goodwill as well as its willingness to cooperate voluntarily with the agency. At the time, Mohamed ElBaradei, the then secretary general of IAEA, stressed in his report issued a while later that no trace of nuclear work has been found in Parchin. Given this explanation, what motive other than fault-finding can there be behind an attempt to visit the site once again after seven years? Of course, the IAEA officials argue that according to the NPT Additional Protocol, which Iran signed provisionally but voluntarily in 2003, they are entitled to visit any place they wish without limitation and should only inform the Iranian authorities of their plan at most 48 hours before the inspection. Accordingly, they would like Iran to give permission for a revisit to the Parchin site in order to relieve some other members of their doubts about the country’s nuclear activities.
In response to this argument, one should say that the Additional Protocol has not yet received final ratification in the Iranian parliament and the government cannot cooperate with the UN nuclear agency within its framework. Moreover, as Iran’s Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency Ali Asghar Soltanieh says, Tehran has provided the agency’s delegation with the relevant evidence, informing it of the reasons why the allegations raised about Parchin are baseless. According to him,
“Regular inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities according to the Non-Proliferation Treaty have always been carried out and continue to date. The agency’s request to visit Parchin site is different from, and the calls by the agency for the clarification of some questions and ambiguities require an agreement on a framework within which the considerations of both sides should be taken into account.” (1)
Obviously, Iran has a set of conditions for the IAEA inspection of its military centers, which should be met within the framework of a mutual agreement. In other words, the Islamic Republic and 100 other members of the agency that have not yet ratified the Additional Protocol cannot open all their military centers – which have no connection with nuclear activities – to inspectors, who indeed refuse to make any commitment to keep the results of the visits confidential.
In recent years, Iran has invariably raised the significant point that if countries take on international commitments and honour them, then in return they are given advantages and concessions to promote the level of their cooperation. If countries such as Iran should comply with international obligations enforced by global centres of power on them, but in return are not rewarded with concessions but are also subjected to increasing pressure caused by sanctions, then how could Amano and his colleagues expect these countries to find and give a logical answer to their publics about their unilateral collaborations; collaborations that have nothing for them other than increasing commitments?
Therefore, the issue of visiting the Parchin site has simply been raised to make a case for Western media to spread propaganda against the Islamic Republic and influence their audience into believing that since Iran denies permission for the inspection of requested sites, it conducts illegal activities. Such an attempt is made in spite of the fact that the atomic agency’s reports on Iran since 2003 have invariably stressed that all of Tehran’s nuclear work has been under IAEA scrutiny and no deviation from the NPT safeguards has been traced during the period. This means that one cannot question Iran’s peaceful nuclear activities simply by relying upon allegations devised by Tel Aviv or policies adopted by Washington.
3) Implementing the UN Security Council Resolutions
In his latest report, Amano has underlined Iran’s failure to implement the UN Security Council resolutions about its uranium enrichment activities, while the Islamic Republic considers these resolutions illegal and unjust, referring to numerous articles in the UN Charter, according to which sovereign states have the right to determine their own fates. Iran’s peaceful activities regarding the enrichment of uranium have all been fully under the supervision of the UN nuclear watchdog, as testified by its 30 reports, and thus in no sense threaten international peace and security. The US force and the Israeli lobbying have, however, caused seven resolutions to be passed totally unilaterally against Iran in the UN Security Council so far, of which four have imposed extensive sanctions on Iranians. Meanwhile, the United States, Canada, and the European Union have, in concert with Japan, South Korea, and Australia, slapped broader sanctions outside the framework of Security Council resolutions against the Iranian people; sanctions which have no relevance to Tehran’s efforts concerning nuclear energy production and uranium enrichment. The latest round of sanctions included an embargo on the purchase of Iranian oil and financial transactions with Iran’s Central Bank, which have caused so much trouble for international markets while they are not yet fully in force. In such unfair circumstances, how can Amano expect Iran to halt its uranium enrichment work?
The part of Amano’s report which highlights Iranian nuclear advancements demonstrates that in spite of wide and severe sanctions, Iran has managed to build nuclear fuel rods successfully and use them in Tehran Research Reactor to produce anti-cancer drugs. This is a very promising development, which should please all those who understand the meaning of dominance and know how delightful scientific confrontation with that monopolistic system is. Amano’s report should equally embarrass and sadden all those who contended, until recently, that Iran would never succeed in building nuclear fuel rods.
In another part of the report where Amano talks about Iran’s failure to implement the UN Security Council resolutions and its continuation of uranium enrichment, he is making a repetition of what has been repeated before. The insistence that Iran should allow the inspection of non-authorized centers according to the Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty will not deliver any results other than supplying the material for propaganda against the Islamic Republic. Such a behaviour is in contradiction with the charter of the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose main goals are to control and oversee the nuclear activities of member states as well as to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy in the world.
It seems that if the IAEA manages to free itself of the pressure put upon it by domineering powers, which seek to preserve a monopoly on the production and use of high-level technology including nuclear energy know-how, it can easily reach an agreement with Iran according to a model similar to the previous modality, so that a practical solution is achieved for removing all the existing doubts and ambiguities about Tehran’s nuclear program.
(1) Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA), 06/12/1390 (Persian Calendar) [25/02/2012].
More By Hassan Beheshtipour:
*Necessity of Playing with China-Russia Ball in Iran’s Court: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Necessity_of_Playing_with_China_Russia_Ball_in_Iran_s_Court.htm
*Iran-Russia-China Relations: Challenges & Interests?: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Iran_Russia_China_Relations_Challenges_Interests_.htm
*Iran Sanctions Will Backfire on EU: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Iran_Sanctions_Will_Backfire_on_EU.htm
- How the Media Got the Parchin Access Story Wrong (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Iran honestly cooperating with IAEA: Britain’s former IAEA envoy to Iran (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Before the recent IAEA report was published I looked into the available information about the Ukrainian scientist Vyacheslav Danilenko mentioned in a Washington Post piece as a “former Soviet weapons scientist” who supposedly was helping the Iranians with there nuclear program.
I found that the Dr. Danilenko’s main scientific record and capacity was in the field of producing Nanodiamonds through explosions and his collaboration with Iran’s acclaimed nanotechnology industry and research was with regards to Iran’s nanotechnology program not with regards to nukes.
A close reading of the IAEA report after it was released confirmed my analysis.
Gareth Porter of Inter Press Service added some bits to my analysis in a piece published yesterday.
Now even more confirmation is coming in. Via The Hindu:
The Soviet scientist was not named in the IAEA report but the Kommersant daily easily identified him as Vyacheslav Danilenko, a pioneer in developing the technology of producing nanodiamonds by explosion. Nanodiamonds are used in the manufacture of lubricants and rubber. Contacted by the newspaper, the 76-year-old scientist, now retired, refused to discuss his work in Iran, saying only: “I’m not a nuclear physicist and I’m not a father of Iran’s nuclear programme.”
His former colleague confirmed Mr. Danilenko’s words. Vladimir Padalko, head of a company producing nanodiamonds, said experts from the IAEA and the U.S. State Department had interviewed him several times about Mr. Danilenko’s work in Iran.
“I explained to them that nanodiamonds have nothing to do with nuclear weapons,” Mr. Padalko told Kommersant.
Reuters also covers the Kommersant piece.
More people are taking a deeper look into this now. It seems likely that the whole case will blow up into the IAEA’s face and in the face of David Albright who, according to Porter, was the one who slipped the scientist’s name to the Washington Post and other media.
After knowing the name it was simply diligent use of search engines and some intelligent combining of the available information to find what Danilenko’s work was really about.
A lot of the IAEA “evidence” that has been interpreted as “nuclear” stuff, the explosion chamber in Parchin, the hemispheric shell with an array of high explosives, the exploding bridge-wire detonators and other details, are all very well explainable with Iran’s work on nanodiamond production. There is nothing exclusively “nuclear” to it. Without that exclusivity the case the IAEA tried to make doesn’t exist anymore.
Why the IAEA and the main stream media have not better researched Danilenko’s work, or done this and then disregarded the obvious conclusions, is beyond me. It is likely only explainable by heavy U.S. pressure on IAEA head Yukiya Amano and a generally pliable media.
Actually … it appears to me that exposing this “secret annex” was the worst thing the US could have done. It showed its cards, metaphorically speaking, and turned out to have been bluffing. The “evidence”, long touted as containing damning proof of an Iranian nuclear weapons ambition, is now characterized even in the mainstream media as “thin” (Christian Science Monitor) and “phoney” (Guardian)
I agree with that analysis. The Obama administration managed to shot another decisive own goal.
Hello? Vienna? IAEA? How about a decent job offer for this writer. If only to help you to avoid more such face palm moments.