Iran nuclear update

Omri Ceren emails us from The Israel Project to draw attention to the new IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear activities, published yesterday. Here is his summary (footnotes omitted, emphases in original):

The upshot – that the agency’s nuke probe has completely stalled because of Iranian noncooperation – was already leaked earlier this week. But I wanted to make sure you had a link to the full report because the really interesting stuff is buried in Section H, which is the section on “possible military dimensions” (PMDs) and verification[.]

Remember you can slice Iran’s obligations into 4 overarching issues: uranium, plutonium, ballistic missiles, and PMDs. The first 3 issues are fairly straightforward – Iran is required by half a dozen UNSC resolutions to stop doing those things – but the PMD debate is often misreported. It’s usually framed as having the Iranians come clean previous illict work, as if the goal was to shame them about lying in the past. But that’s not it.

The actual goal – and now I’m quoting former IAEA deputy director Olli Heinonen – is to “understand the scope of the program… and set[] the baseline for the successful monitoring.” PMDs are the prerequisite to a successful verification scheme, which means they hang over everything else. You can’t verify the Iranians have stopped their activities unless you know what those activities are. It doesn’t do any good to have the Iranians stop their declared uranium/plutonium/ballistic missiles work if the IAEA can’t ensure there are no undeclared activities.

So when the Iranians stonewall on PMDs, they’re not just stonewalling on one fourth of their obligations or whatever. They’re making it impossible to have meaningful agreement on literally everything else.

The PMD section starts on pg 12. Some highlights:

* The Iranians are continuing to destroy and pave over Parchin. I haven’t seen this reported out much, and I haven’t seen it contextualized as a verification issue at all. Which is weird because the IAEA language doesn’t leave much room for ambiguity: “These activities are likely to have further undermined the Agency’s ability to conduct effective verification.”

Since the Director General’s previous report, at a particular location at the Parchin site, the Agency has observed through satellite imagery ongoing construction activity that appears to show the removal/replacement or refurbishment of the site’s two main buildings’ external wall structures. One of these buildings has also had a section of its roof removed and replaced. Observations of deposits of material and/or debris, and equipment suggest that construction activity has expanded to two other site buildings. These activities are likely to have further undermined the Agency’s ability to conduct effective verification. It remains important for Iran to provide answers to the Agency’s questions and access to the particular location in question.

* “The Agency remains concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.”

* “Iran has carried out activities that are relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device. This information is assessed by the Agency to be, overall, credible. The Agency has obtained more information since November 2011 that has further corroborated the analysis contained in that Annex.”

I doubt that you will easily find the news of this report in the mainstream media and accordingly take the liberty of borrowing Omri’s emailed summary.

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