Assessing the IAEA ‘Assessment’ of “Possible Military Dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear programme

Atomic Reporters | Tariq Rauf and Robert Kelley | December 2015

VIENNA, 15 December 2015: This morning the Board of Governors (BoG) of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) adopted a resolution closing what has been referred to as a ‘manufactured crisis’ regarding allegations of “possible military dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear programme. This process has taken nearly a decade to reach a solution that easily could have been reached many years ago, had not ill advised politicization interfered with the IAEA’s technical work; and an incautious report issued by the IAEA in November 20114 based on dubious “third party” or intelligence information and non-expert analysis. The IAEA BoG resolution inter alia takes note of the “clarification of past and present outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear programme…and further notes that this closes the Board’s consideration of this item”. The resolution also “[r]eaffirms that Iran shall cooperate fully and in a timely manner with the IAEA through implementation of its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol, including by providing access, reaffirms that such cooperation and implementation are essential for the IAEA to reach the Broader Conclusion that all nuclear material in Iran remains in peaceful activities”.

This assessment, reflecting personal views, written by two former IAEA officials with direct experience with the Iran nuclear file at the IAEA aims to shed light on the political pressures exerted on the IAEA by some of its powerful Member States and ‘intelligence’ information injected by them to influence the technical workings of the Agency. It is also to highlight, in this context, some of the complex matters relating to allegations of military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme, as well as to discuss structural weaknesses in the management of the IAEA by its senior leadership and its governing bodies, and above all to make recommendations to strengthen the IAEA which is the global body charged to implement nuclear verification, and promote nuclear safety and security.

It must be stated at the outset that both authors are fully supportive of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed by the EU/E3+3 and Iran on 14 July 2015 in Vienna, as well as of the IAEA conducting its important mission in a non-political, open, accountable and transparent manner. This assessment begins with a brief description of the allegations made by the IAEA in November 2011 regarding possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear programme. It then briefly recounts the final assessment of all past and present outstanding issues issued by the IAEA in December 2015, along with the authors’ commentary. This is followed by a short discussion on the clash of cultures between the scientific method and the law enforcement method in the Agency’s treatment of the Iran nuclear file, and pseudo-scientific analyses in the Google era. The last section provides some recommendations on strengthening the governance structures of the IAEA…

You can download a PDF with the full article here.

Tariq Rauf and Robert Kelley both served in senior positions at the International Atomic Energy Agency and covered safeguards matters among other duties. Rauf is Director of the Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Programme and Kelley in an Associated Senior Fellow with the same programme at SIPRI. Full biographical details are available at www.sipri.org along with technical assessments of Iran’s nuclear programme. This assessment reflects the personal views of the two authors.

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