Following his messages summarizing the status of negotiations with Iran on the verge of yesterday’s purported deadline, Omri Ceren arranged a conference call with former IAEA Deputy Director General Olli Heinonen. On the technical issues Heinonen knows what he is talking about.
Having sat in on the conference call, I thought it might be of interest to readers who have been following this series and trying to understand what we have given away in the negotiations so far. Passing on the transcript of the conference call, Omri wrote:
[T]he full transcript from this morning’s 10 minute phone hit with Olli Heinonen is pasted below….[T]he quotes are quite candid, especially from a figure of Heinonen’s stature: former IAEA Deputy Director General, former chief of safeguards at the agency, literally the guy who was in charge of the sorts of things the IAEA will be doing in Iran. The audio is online on TIP’s SoundCloud page here. Some highlights….:
The proposed deal falls short of the administration’s 1 year breakout time goal: “[W]hen I look from the parameters which I know, it looks to me that if there are 6,500 centrifuges remaining, installed and in operation – it might be difficult to get it to one year or longer, the breakout time. It will be clearly below. And then we have to add all the uncertainties, the unknowns.”
The administration’s concession on Iranian disclosure, revealed in a WSJ scoop on Wednesday, will cause future monitoring to fail: “you are more or less fencing one hand behind your back and it might be difficult to find the proper places and detect them early enough… it is important to get to those locations and have them subject to the monitoring. Anything less, I don’t think this monitoring scheme will be successful in the longer term.”
Iran continues to jam up the IAEA, which prevents the prerequisite baselining needed for future verification and monitoring regimes: “IAEA has not been able yet to verify the completeness of Iran’s declaration. So we don’t know at this point of time whether all the uranium which is in Iran is really subject to IAEA verification. Same is with the enrichment program. They have produced a lot of centrifuges. Are these all the centrifuges installed and operating, which we see in Natanz? This, together with the military dimensions to understand what were the activities on high explosives, missile reentry vehicle which Iran seems to have done. All these 3 items – nuclear material inventory, all the centrifuges, and this PMD – they form a baseline for future monitoring.”
…Last week’s concessions, which seem to have bought only an announcement to keep negotiating, are only now beginning to sink in.
Here is the transcript of the conference call with Heinonen (including links I have inserted to to articles Heinonen cites):
Omri Ceren: Thank you all for joining us today on what I know is a very, very busy and very early, for some of you, news day. We have on the line with us Olli Heinonen, of course, he is known to all of you, Former Deputy Director General of the IAEA. He was the chief of the safeguards program over there. And we wanted to make sure that you had access to him or to at least hear from him in the context of one of the major debates that are ongoing around the Iran talks which is course the issue of verification, in the broadest sense, and the issue of Iran’s possible military dimensions, in the specific sense, which throughout this week has been a source of controversy, a source of major news, debates over the degree to which Iran will have to make concessions have been key to the discussions over here. There is no one, quite literally no one, in the public sphere today who has written more on this than Dr. Heinonen has….[A]t this point, I will turn things over to Dr. Heinonen to talk about where we are, where we’re going, and how it relates to where we’ve been, Olli?
Dr. Heinonen: Hi thank you. Thanks for having me and good morning to everyone from Geneva. Actually, in my meeting room here in the United Nations building, they are setting up all kinds of security arrangements. So it seems to me that some kind of deal is around the corner, but it will be a very, very long day.
And what we are going to see, I think, maybe the process: taking a stock where they are, explaining some kind of framework, what they have agreed, what will be agreed now with regard to the nuclear program of Iran and then some kind of plan how they will go this remaining 3-4 months because as you remember, nothing is agreed before everything is agreed. So whatever we hear today is a very generic, very tentative agreement, and I think they will address a number of issues.
One is the scope and content of enrichment program of Iran. Certainly everyone is interested how many centrifuges will be there, which kind of enriched uranium stocks will stay in Iran. This is an important parameter on the program, centrifuges and types of centrifuges, and then what will be the R&D program of Iran with regard of centrifuges, and then is this a possible military dimension? I don’t think they will put much details on that yet – on the table, how they will go about it. And then are generic things which I’m not sure they will be talking very much like lifting of sanctions, how they have foreseen a stepwide process.
But there needs to be some additional elements, in my view. There needs to be a robust system for the cases of non-compliance, if Iran doesn’t honor its undertakings there must be consequences. And then, let’s look at the nuclear program as a whole and project this whole thing to the future. I think that I would divide this future in three parts: One is next few years, where we know how much Iran has centrifuges, which stocks will stay, and we can fairly easy to establish the breakout times. And to this end, I refer to an article which I wrote on the website of Washington Institute [here]. You will find the numbers, in my view, about the breakout times there so let’s not spend time for that.
But the important thing will be the R&D on centrifuges, what kind of centrifuges Iran will develop further, in which numbers, which kind of access rights IAEA will have to ensure that no centrifuges which are produced there are all declared. And this goes to my medium term plan because this is the time when the nuclear landscape in Iran will change and then comes the theory of somewhere of ten years or after on how we can maintain a robust system in place so that Iran’s nuclear program is entirely for peaceful purposes. And this is a time, where in my view, the provision of the so-called Additional Protocol Plus should still continue until Iran has fully restored the confidence of the international community to its nuclear program and this goes well beyond 12 or 15 years in my view.
And then how to deal with the military dimensions. That will be sticky. But we have to look – this [inaudible] in its totality. IAEA has verified how much nuclear material Iran has declared and confirmed those numbers. But IAEA has not been able yet to verify the completeness of Iran’s declaration. So we don’t know at this point of time whether all the uranium which is in Iran is really subject to IAEA verification. Same is with the enrichment program. They have produced a lot of centrifuges. Are these all the centrifuges installed and operating, which we see in Natanz? This, together with the military dimensions to understand what were the activities on high explosives, missile reentry vehicle which Iran seems to have done. All these 3 items – nuclear material inventory, all the centrifuges, and this PMD – they form a baseline for future monitoring.
So what Iran has to do in this first stage is actually to come with a complete declaration on its past and current nuclear program. And this will be the baseline on which the IAEA starts to verify. And this would be part of the agreement which they now negotiate. So I think that this gives you a summary. I’ll just add one more thing, if you go to the Washington institute piece. You see that I’m asking that what are the real breakout times; because when I look from the parameters which I know, it looks to me that if there are 6,500 centrifuges remaining, installed and in operation – it might be difficult to get it to one year or longer, the breakout time. It will be clearly below.
And then we have to add all the uncertainties, the unknowns to this image. Are there some unknown nuclear materials, are there some unknown centrifuges, so it’s going to be very hard to maintain that one year. And I think at this point, I refer to the paper which I wrote with General Hayden about the compliance and uncertainties to Washington Post a couple, a few days ago [here].
So after this I think that I’m ready for questions and as many questions you have, I’ll try to answer them to the best of my knowledge. Thank you.
Omri Ceren: The first question that we had and this is a question that we got numerous times: As I’m sure you know, on Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal revealed that the Americans may be contemplating an arrangement where Iran would not have to submit to full disclosure of all the 11 outstanding issues that they have with the IAEA until some time in the middle of the deal. I was wondering if you could comment on what effect that would have on the verification regime and how much space there is to put off disclosure or whether disclosure has to be given at the very, very beginning.
Dr. Heinonen: I think it would be better because you know you need to have a good baseline for a solid monitoring. You need to know how far they got, which are the important institutions and capabilities so that you pick the right things for the monitoring. Because if you go the other way around you are more or less fencing one hand behind your back and it might be difficult to find the proper places and detect them early enough. But this perhaps can be to certain degree compensated by additional access rights. But I think by far the best starting point is to have a complete disclosure. We may a difference in view what this disclosure means. Because many of these experiments which Iran has done, they serve for dual purpose. They can be conventional military but they can also be nuclear military. So I don’t think we should start a debate whether this is you know a weapons program or not but it is important to get to those locations and have them subject to the monitoring. Anything less, I don’t think this monitoring scheme will be successful in the longer term. And we have a good example from North Korea in 1994: compromised in the beginning with the declarations.