The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently released its latest periodic report on Iran’s nuclear program. Some mainstream Western journalists and political analysts have accepted the report without reservation and have interpreted what was said in it as grounds for a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Others have cast serious doubts on both the motives and veracity of the claims by the Japanese chief of the IAEA. To add to this ongoing debate, I would like to make several points.
The first major fact is that while the IAEA report states, more or less as in the past, that it has concerns regarding “possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program” it recognizes that it is not in a position yet to make any judgment about the existence or non-existence of military nuclear activities in Iran. It is in line with this fact that the IAEA report concludes with the now-too-familiar statement that while the IAEA “continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material at the nuclear Facilities” of Iran, it is “unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities”.
In other words, the latest IAEA report has not released any new information supporting suspicions of the existence of nuclear weapons activity in Iran. The decision of the IAEA director general to publicize the details of the existing speculations can be seen to be more of a political and public relations tactic rather than the performance of his responsibilities.
Second, despite proclaiming its sources and information as ‘independent’ and ‘credible’, the IAEA relies overwhelmingly on the intelligence provided by states with questionable motives. In most cases there has been no independent way of verifying the intelligence passed on to the IAEA by any government. And, the so-called “Alleged Studies Documentation”, which is basis of the IAEA claim about the possible existence of nuclear weapon development in Iran, was provided to it in 2005 by a single government.
In the past, the intelligence provided by that government to the IAEA has proven to be dead wrong. The IAEA report recognizes that Iran (going beyond its obligations under the NPT) granted permission to IAEA inspectors twice in 2005 to visit the Parchin military site (a prime suspect). But, according to the IAEA’s own accounts, the visits “did not uncover anything of relevance”.
Third, many of the activities that have been depicted by the IAEA report as being geared toward producing nuclear weapons, have civilian applications. Such activity occurs in other countries without raising the IAEA’s suspicions. The report recognizes that IAEA inspectors have gained their information through sources such as scholarly papers presented and published by Iranian academics at international conferences and in foreign or domestic scientific journals. Hence, the IAEA does not seem to have bothered to wonder why Iranian academics are authorized to publish the results of their alleged nuclear weapons-related research projects in international academic journals or in other open sources.
The highly uncertain and speculative nature of intelligence and evidence provided to the IAEA by certain states explains why the IAEA secretariat has been unable to come up with any new finding and draw any decisive conclusion from its ‘credible’ and ‘independent’ sources. It should come as no surprise that the IAEA report on possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program is replete with qualifying phrases and words such as “may have been”, “may be”, “appears to”, “allegedly” “possibly” - and the like.
The motivation of the new director general of the IAEA in publicizing such a highly disputable account needs to be seriously questioned. The possible ramifications of his action on the credibility of his respective organization and regional and international peace and stability needs to be seriously considered.
What is clear at this point is that the latest IAEA report on Iran will not make any meaningful contribution to the resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue and would only feed into the US-led political campaign against Iran and thus add more tensions to an already volatile strategic region of the world.
By publicizing such a questionable and speculative analysis of Iran’s nuclear activities, the IAEA director general has also relegated the public status of his organization from a largely impartial technical organization to a politicized body serving the interests of and playing into the hands of Iran’s enemies.
Abolghasem Bayyenat is an independent political analyst writing mainly on Iran’s foreign policy developments. He is currently completing his Ph. D studies in political science at an American University. His latest articles can also be read on his own blog at www.irandiplomacywatch.com