Degrading Evidence

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano’s new Iran report contains certain remarkable parts which might deserve some analysis.

To begin, there is nothing substantially new to report about Iran’s efforts to enrich uranium to low levels of 3 to 4% (LEU) at the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) and to just below 20% at the Pilot FEP, both at Natanz; construction work at the second enrichment site in Fordow, which seems to have slowed down (most probably because the Iranians lost interest in the site after its existence had had been disclosed by President Obama at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh last September); the heavy water reactor in Arak; or the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. As of August 6, Iran has produced some 2,800 kg low enriched-uranium (LEU) at 3.5% and 22 kg LEU at just below 20%.

It is more interesting to read, in paragraph 35, that Amano had received a letter from Iran on 3 June 2010 stating that the designation of relevant inspectors of the IAEA will be withdrawn if confidential information acquired by the Agency as a result of implementing its Safeguard Agreement “leaks, in any way, and/or is conveyed to the media” (emphasis added). In another letter only one week later, Amano was informed that the designation of two inspectors, who had recently conducted inspections in Iran, has been objected, referring to the “false and wrong statements in paragraph 28” of Amano’s previous report. I had commented on that issue when having analyzed Amano’s last Iran report:

“In addition, in contrast to his predecessor, Amano does not seem to exercise due care in his report. He reports, for instance,

‘28. On 9 January 2010, during a DIV (Design Inventory Verification) at the Jabr Ibn Hayan Multipurpose Research Laboratory (JHL) in Tehran, the Agency was informed by the operator that pyroprocessing R&D activities had been initiated at JHL to study the electrochemical production of uranium metal. On 14 April 2010, the Agency conducted another DIV at the JHL, during which Iran reiterated what it had stated in its letter dated 21 February 2010, specifically that the activities were related to ‘a research project aiming purely [at] studying the electrochemical behavior or uranyl ion in ionic liquid,’ using a uranyl nitrate solution. During the latter DIV, the Agency observed that the electrochemical cell had been removed.’ Supposedly, these activities should be seen in relation to Iran’s efforts to produce fuel rods or plates for the TRR.

Doubt is spread here by Amano since metal uranium might be used for both military and civilian purposes. According to Soltanieh, ‘nothing has been removed. Whatever that is in the paragraph is wrong.’ According to Reuters, ‘an official with knowledge of the Iran investigation said the missing part was the ‘outer vessel’ of the equipment and that the main section had been left in place.’”

Withdrawals of Agency inspector designations have occurred also in the past. Amano insists that the reporting of the two recently barred inspectors was accurate. But why wasn’t it possible to simply check whether Soltanieh’s explanation regarding the observation made by the two inspectors was correct? The Agency also requested that Iran reconsiders “its decision of 16 January 2007 to request the Agency to withdraw the designation of 38 Agency inspectors and its requests (dating back to 2006) to withdraw the designations of four other inspectors with experience in conducting inspections in Iran.” David Sanger wrote yesterday in the New York Times, citing a European diplomat under the condition of anonymity: “Iran’s actions … are slowly blinding the agency and undermining its ability to conduct inspections with the kind of freedom it needs to dig beneath official denials and disavowals.” But how can Iran act in a different way if Amano wouldn’t even consider Soltanieh’s explanation?

Time and again, IAEA reports on Iran have demanded full implementation of the Additional Protocol as a confidence-building measure and the implementation of the modified Code 3.1 on the early provision of design information. In fact, if Iran’s leaders could agree to ratify what had been signed before, many problems with the country’s nuclear program could indeed be solved.

However, time and again American presidents have also confirmed that ‘all options were on the table,’ meaning military action aiming in the destruction of any nuclear facility; measures aiming in regime change, including the covert support of groups with a terroristic background; and, of course, ‘crippling’ sanctions. Israel deliberates military attacks, too. The public has been prepared well in recent years for another upcoming war in the Middle East.

Confidence building is overdue on both sides. Amano should take that into account when drafting his next reports on Iran.

 

Last update September 7, 2010.

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