IAEA report on Iran: more of the same, more hype.

by Cyrus Safdari (source: Iran Affairs)
Wednesday, November 9, 2011

OK so the IAEA report is now finally available publicly, after it was released to the media several days ago (a supposedly "confidential report", mind you!) and enough time has been given for them to hype it as much as possible. And as usual, the report itself does not really justify the pre-release hype - but hey, that's SHOWBIZ, baby!


Now before we get into the nitty-gritty of the new IAEA report and discuss what's new with what's not so new in the report, let me explain how the significance of the the IAEA report really isn't about Iran per se, but is actually about the US:

  You see, the ultimate significance of this recent IAEA report is not really in what it has to say about Iran's nuclear program (not much new there, actually, despite the hype.) Rather the report, and all the spin placed on it claiming that it supposedly shows that Iran has a continuing nuclear weapons program, is actually a direct attack on the US intelligence community because they've been standing in the way of "manufacturing consent" for a war on Iran.

Remember, the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate concluded that there was no active or continuing nuclear weapons program in Iran. This was the official consensus view of all 16 American intelligence organizations. The conclusion took the air out of warmongers' sails in the Bush administration, and despite vociferous complaints by the chickenhawks and NeoCons and psychos, and despite the fact that President Bush (and later, Obama) desperately sought to disassociate themselves from the conclusions of their own intelligence organizations, and despite pressure by the Israelis to have the NIE rewritten to suit them more (even though their own intelligence agreed with that conclusion), this conclusion was reportedly confirmed once again in the 2011 version of the National Intelligence Estimate. In fact, just about 7 months ago, James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, confirmed before a Senate committee hearing that American intelligence organizations still believed - with "high confidence" - that Iran had not 'restarted' a nuclear weapons program:

Chairman LEVIN: Okay. But, what is level of confidence that you have that as of this time they have not decided to restart that program? Is that a high level of confidence?

Mr. CLAPPER: Yes, it is. 

(And guess what happened when Clapper failed to identify Iran as the "mortal threat" to the US?)

So, the Iran hawks, having failed to get the intelligence agencies to confirm their preferred narrative on Iran, have instead launched an attack using the IAEA, where thanks to replacement of Elbaradei by the more maleable Amano, they can promote the spin about Iran continuing a nuclear weapons project, contrary to what the NIE says. THAT is the true significance of the much-hyped recent IAEA report.


Other than that, this new IAEA report is basically a repeat of prior IAEA reports. Naturally the previous "questions" which were to be resolved under the "Work Plan" of Aug 2007, are no longer mentioned, since they were resolved in the Feb 2008 IAEA report and the previous IAEA report said it would no longer refer to them. These "resolved" issues includ things like the "Polonium experiments" etc that at one time were presented in the media as proof positive that Iran had a secret nuclear weapons program. Now that those issues are deemed resolved, there is no more mention of them, and instead we have the new "Alleged Studies" to deal with. And that the area where this report differs from previous reports because it has gone to great lengths to expound on these "Alleged Studies" which have been renamed as "Possible Military Dimension" since the pro-US Amano replaced Elbaradei.

Ill discuss the "Alleged studies"/"Possible Military Dimensions" below but other than that, there really isn't anything new in this report, substantively speaking. No discoveries of secret nuclear weapons labs, no secret testing facilities, no stashed nuclear material waiting to be used in bombs, etc. Iran continues to enrich uranium, continues to build the reactor at Arak, continues to not have a reprocessing facility -and all of this is done under IAEA safeguards, exactly as it is supposed to be. And it continues to do all this "contrary" to what the IAEA report claims is an "obligation" by Iran to cease doing so - but Iran says that the UN Security Council demands that Iran cease its nuclear program are themselves illegal, since Iran's nuclear program is in full compliance with the NPT, and having the program is a sovereign right.

The most important phrase is the statement, contained WAAYYY at the end of the report (which was usually stated sooner in such reports) that the IAEA "continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material at the nuclear facilities and LOFs declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement..." This language has been repeated in every single IAEA report, and is the most significant part of the report because it means that legally, Iran continues to be in full compliance with the actual requirements of the NPT, as is specified by Iran's Safeguards Agrement (which states in Article 2 that its "exclusive purpose" is to ensure the non-diversion of nuclear material to non-peaceful uses.)

This statement -- that the IAEA verifies the non-diversion of nuclear material from declared sites --  means that Iran has shown its nuclear sites to the IAEA, and the IAEA has ensured that no nuclear material from those declared sites have been diverted to non-peaceful uses such as making bombs. Technically, that's all that Iran is obligated to do. However, as the report states, this does NOT mean that the IAEA has also verified that there are no undeclared nuclear facilities in Iran. While much media hype has surrounded this "undeclared facilities" statement in IAEA reports, the fact is that the IAEA does not verify the absence of undeclared facilities for Iran OR ANY OTHER COUNTRY unless that country has signed the Additional Protocol, a treaty that allows more intrusive IAEA inspections than what's allowed under the normal safeguards agreements.

The report states that the UN Security Council demands that Iran abide by the Additional Protocol, but Iran has refused to do so - as have many other countries including ones with nuclear enrichment programs such as Brazil and Argentina. Unlike them, however, Iran has voluntarily implemented the Additional Protocol for 2.5 years (no nuclear weapons program were found in that time under the more instrusive inspections) and has already signed the Additional Protocol, and offered to further ratify it -if its nuclear rights are also acknowledged by the US in return. The US has refused to do so. 

In any case, legally, a country cannot be forced to sign any treaty including the Additional Protocol. This is a basic principle of international law: "International treaty law comprises obligations states expressly and voluntarily accept between themselves" - not under the threat of sanctions and bombings, so the demand that Iran sign the Additional Protocl is in fact illegal. The 2010 NPT Review Conference explicitly endorsed the idea that the Additional Protocol is an option and not a legal requirement by stating signing the additional protocol is a ‘sovereign decision’ of each State. Even the Vienna Group countries consisting of 11 strongest advocates of the universalization of the Additional Protocol, stated in their working paper presented at the Conference that: "the Group acknowledges that it is the sovereign right of any State to decide to conclude an additional protocol." (Source)

As far as planning and building new nuclear facilities is concerned (such as the facility in Fordow, or the 10 additional enrichment facilities Iran is considering), Iran continues to stick to its original safeguards agreement which only requires informing the IAEA of such a new nuclear facility 180 days prior to the introduction of nuclear material into it. This continues to be a point of debate between the IAEA and Iran since the IAEA thinks that Iran should have to always declare such facilities much earlier (when they're first planned) pursuant to what's known as the Subsidiary Arrangements. Iran voluntarily abided by the Subsidiary Arrangement for a while, as a gesture of good faith during the Paris Agreement negogtiations a few years ago, but ended that gesture when it was cheated in the Paris Agreement negotiations. The IAEA insists that Iran could not go back on this gesture, Iran disagrees. Daniel Joyner explains more on this issue.


Thus far, everything is as usual in the IAEA report. There are only  two real differences between the current report and the prior reports.

The first difference is the long explanation full of legal language at the begining of the IAEA report, in which the IAEA essentially claims it has a right to act as an enforcer of the UN Security Council demands on Iran. The reason why the IAEA has resorted to including this long-winded explanation is because there's some real legal problems with such a claim. The IAEA is actually not "in charge" of the Non Proliferation Treat. The IAEA is not the implementing organization of the NPT. In fact, the membership of the IAEA is different from that of the NPT: India, Israel and Pakistan, which are not signatories to NPT, are members of the IAEA and two of them (India and Pakistan) are usually members of the IAEA's Board of Governors (where India voted against Iran in exchange for obtaining a bribe from the US that itself violated the NPT) whereas a number of NPT signatories are not members of the IAEA at all. The IAEA Board had 151 members as of March 2010, while the NPT has 190 States Parties as of October 2010.

The second difference - and this is perhaps the most signicant difference, at least in form -- is that the IAEA has attached an "Annex" that details the "Alleged Studies" we've heard so much about (now renamed as "Possible Military Dimensions") As I mentioned before, under Elbaradei, the IAEA had resisted releasing this information, because they had judged it to be insufficiently verifiable. This annex mostly contains all the usual allegations we've heard about in the past - nuclear initiators, etc.  So when they finally were rid of IAEA head Elbaradei after much skulduggery, and replaced him with a pro-US Amano, it was only natural that the "Alleged Studies" would gain more prominence (and a new name - "Possible Military Dimensions.")


I think two conclusions can be reached. First, with Amano in charge, the "hype" with regard to the IAEA over Iran will continue more or less unchecked, with the usual claims about how "according to the IAEA," Iran is on the "brink" of building nukes etc. Second, we'll be seeing a lot of spin by the Iran warmongers, claiming - falsely - that the IAEA report has vindicated their position, and so the NIE should be ignored. And that will be the more significant consequence.

But what does all this mean?

The invasion of Iraq, by any measure, was an abject failure by the United States. I don't mean just in financial or military terms, but even more fundamentally: It showed that every single check-and-balance in the democratic system was a complete farce which could be easily perverted. The vaunted "will of the people" was shown to be easily controlled and manipulated. We all saw how The President, backed by a small club of operatives who were essentially allied with a foreign country, could blatantly lie to the people, and lead their sons and daughters into war based on lies - and nothing would happen. There would be no consequences. Congress, rather than acting as a check on the Executive Branch, instead of jealously protecting its war powers, eagerly handed that right over to the same president and essentially told him, "Whenever you decide to attack Iraq is good with us." The media...well, Judith Miller. Need I say more? Then the whole mess with Abu Ghraib and Gitmo came long, and the Jessica Lynch lies, etc. etc. so after American political credibility suffered, American moral credibility was lost too (which is no small loss.) The financial crises of recent years, exacerbated in no small part by massive expenditures on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the immense and unjustifiable defense budget, the extreme and growing differences in economic status in American society which has led to movements such as Occupy Wall Street, have all together also taken care of America's economic credibility.

So what's left? Is it any wonder that people around the world consider America to be in decline?

And here we are, building up to yet another war, this time on Iran, using the same sort of lies, with God-knows what consequences. The system in the US is fundamentally out of control, falling fast, and there is no way to regain control. The only question is how much damage it will do whilst falling.

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