On the IAEA's report on Iran

So the IAEA has a new report on Iran that reveals a lot of dodgy stuff by Tehran between 1997 and 2003 and says it's quite possible work continued after 2003. At the same time we've been seeing Israeli agitation, conveniently timed to just before the report, about a pre-emptive strike. There's a lot of heat generated about this report, and it's also an occasion to revisit less-discussed aspect of this crisis: assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists (surely equally condemnable as any Iranian assassination attempts against Saudi ambassadors?), Stuxnet, Iranian deterrence options, how Iranian allies in Iraq and elsewhere might react to a crisis, etc.

I don't have anything particular to add to this debate, as my views are pretty fixed on this. Iran should respect the NPT, and me made to do so through diplomatic means. A regional grand bargain is necessary that involves the nuclear disarmament of Israel and the Middle East free of WMDs many major regional actors have advocated. Any infringement of Iranian sovereignty — missile strikes, invasion, assassinations — is unaceptable. We should also think of the consequences of the Libya war — whether it might make some "rogue states" reconsider giving up their nuclear arsenal considering what happened to Qadhafi.

Below are some links to various pieces on the issue.  

✪ U.N. Agency Says Iran Data Points to A-Bomb Work - NYTimes.com - David Sanger has led the NYT's coverage of the Iranian nuclear issue, notably with a long essay in last Sunday's paper. Some criticize him as too bellicose, and the NYT's track record is not great on these issues. Like it or not this is pretty much of main way the story is covered in the US media.

✪ Invading Iran: Lessons from Iraq | Hoover Institution - As might be expected, the Hoover Institution is already making contingency plans. "Invading Iran", really? Is anyone even talking about that, as opposed to missile strikes?

✪ Memo to Iran: Obama Won’t Let It Go | The Diplomat - Meir Javedanfar says that chances of war are small and diplomacy the best way, and that Iran would be willing.

✪ Iran nuclear report: Why it may not be a game-changer after all - CSMonitor.com - Scott Peterson interviews nuclear experts skeptical about the latest IAEA report.

✪ International Institute for Strategic Studies - IISS Experts' Commentary - IAEA report puts Iran on back foot - Mark Fitzpatrick highlights that most of the IAEA report covers up to 2003, and that Iran has not yet mastered the weaponization stage of creating a nuclear device.

✪ Iran’s Nuclear Program and China - NYTimes.com - Neocon voice calls for pressure on China to lean on Iran.

✪ ISIS Analysis of IAEA Iran Safeguards Report - top experts look at the report (PDF). Key excerpt:

A key detail in the report is an assessment that certain activities taking place under the organization in Iran responsible for various nuclear weaponization work resumed at some point after a 2003 “halt order” issued by senior Iranian officials. The IAEA also reports that Mohsen Fakrizadeh, the longstanding director of nuclear weaponization activities in Iran, remains as the director of these efforts at a recently re-named organization. In early 2011, Fakhrizadeh moved the organization to a new compound in Tehran, known as Mojdeh. The IAEA notes that it “is concerned because some of the activities undertaken after 2003 would be highly relevant to a nuclear weapons program.”

If true, the evidence of weaponization activities that took place before and after 2003 constitute a major violation of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty.

Notably absent, however, is any assessment by the IAEA of Iran’s capability to make a nuclear explosive device based on what it learned through these activities. The IAEA made such an assessment in a 2009 working document that was to become an annex on weaponization evidence to an earlier Safeguards report, but which the Agency never published. The working document assessed that, based on a review of the evidence, “Iran has sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable implosion nuclear device based upon HEU [highly enriched uranium] as the fission fuel.” The IAEA has also assessed in this working document that Iran still had work to do before it could build a reliable warhead for the Shahib III missile.

✪ U.S. mulls Iran sanctions but not on oil, central bank | Reuters

✪ IRAN: Nuclear Watchdog Details Pre-2003 Weapons Research - IPS ipsnews.net - By longtime Iran-watcher Barbara Slavin.

 

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.