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New Details on Iran Don’t Change the Game

Laicie Heeley | Nov 08, 2011 | there are 3 comments 3
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano

A new report on Iran’s nuclear capability from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) does not contain any startling new developments, but already it has some conservatives in the U.S. and Israel beating the drums for war.

While the report contains a level of detail not seen before, it does not contain a “smoking gun.”  Details of Iran’s likely weaponization activities prior to 2003 are laid out clearly and include:

• Efforts, some successful, to procure nuclear related and dual use equipment and materials by military related individuals and entities (Annex, Sections C.1 and C.2);
• Efforts to develop undeclared pathways for the production of nuclear material (Annex, Section C.3);
• The acquisition of nuclear weapons development information and documentation from a clandestine nuclear supply network (Annex, Section C.4); and
• Work on the development of an indigenous design of a nuclear weapon including the testing of components (Annex, Sections C.5–C.12).

It is clear from the IAEA’s report that these activities took place under a highly structured nuclear program.  Iran’s major nuclear effort, identified as the AMAD plan,was stopped “rather abruptly” by Tehran in late 2003, but some staff may have “remained in place to record and document the achievements of their respective projects.”

Unfortunately, more recent activities receive a far lower level of clarity from the IAEA.  According to the report, there are, “indications that some activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device continued after 2003, and that some may still be ongoing,” but “the Agency’s ability to construct an equally good understanding of activities in Iran after the end of 2003 is reduced, due to the more limited information available to the Agency.”

While the Agency continues to express concern with regard to Iran’s nuclear program, the level of activity associated with that program post-2003 remains unclear.  While Iran’s nuclear program continues to make progress, an Iranian nuclear weapon is not imminent and the U.S. intelligence community continues to believe that Iran has yet to make the political decision to build and test a nuclear weapon.

See here for the full analysis of the IAEA's new report and what it means.

tags Iran Watch (all tags)


Good work.

I just distributed your blog post to 600 scientists involved with arms control. Excellent work! It is important to separate hype from fact -- most of the things in the IAEA report were from pre-2004.

Also see the view of the US Director of National Intelligence from 2011 in an article I had for Asia Times:

"Although the content of the new NIE is classified, Clapper confirmed in senate questioning that he has a "high level of confidence" that Iran "has not made a decision as of this point to restart its nuclear weapons program". [8]

This jibes with the Intelligence community's 2007 NIE, the unclassified version of which publicly stated that Iran wrapped up its nuclear weapons program in 2003. Recent State Department cables provided by WikiLeaks back this up - for instance State Department officials confirmed that some rehashed IAEA reports of suspicious Iranian activities in 2004 were "consistent with the 2003 weaponization halt assessment, since some activities were wrapping up in 2004". [9]

To be clear, what the NIE and the State Department cables refer to as Iran's "nuclear weapons program" (or "weaponization") pre-2003 was some possible - but disputed - evidence of research by Iranian scientists having to do building and potentially delivering a bomb, not a full-blown actual bomb factory.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient who spent more than a decade as the director of the IAEA, recently told investigative journalist Seymour Hersh that he had not "seen a shred of evidence that Iran has been weaponizing, in terms of building nuclear-weapons facilities and using enriched materials ... I don't believe Iran is a clear and present danger. All I see is the hype about the threat posed by Iran." [10]

Indeed, every year, the IAEA has confirmed that Iran has complied with its nuclear materials' accountancy. There has never been any diversion of nuclear material into any alleged weapons program.

Thank You

Thank you so much for your kind words, Yousaf!  And for distributing the piece.  I can't tell you how much that means.

You are absolutely right to point out that there is a big difference between "break-out" capability and the decision to build a bomb.

[ Parent ]

PBS Frontline of Iran Report

[ Parent ]

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