Iran

Iran-IAEA Agreement Contains Significant Loophole

It was reported Wednesday that Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reached an agreement that Iran will provide the IAEA with information about “large-scale high-explosives experimentation in Iran” by August 25. However, the text of the announcement contains a significant omission.

The Global Security Newswire reports:

The Middle Eastern nation also would offer “information and explanations related to studies made and/or papers published in Iran in relation to neutron transport and associated modeling and calculations and their alleged application to compressed materials,” according to comments issued by Tehran and the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

Both actions would address questions outlined by the Vienna-based agency in a 2011 report on some of the organization’s suspicions over possible nuclear bomb-related efforts in Iran. Tehran’s cooperation with investigators may also indicate its readiness to address additional agency concerns in the future, according to Reuters.

While the joint announcement has language agreeing to “a technical visit to a centrifuge research and development centre,” it doesn’t specifically mention an inspection of the Parchin site, where Iran is suspected of having carried out the high explosive experiments in question.

Earlier this month, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) published a report (PDF) explaining the importance of inspecting Parchin.

For the IAEA to address its outstanding concerns about past and possibly ongoing military nuclear activities, Iran will need to provide far more cooperation on the Parchin issue, and other related issues, than it has done so far. If it does not, it risks not achieving a final deal with the P5+1 or not receiving significant sanctions relief if an extension of the six-month interim deal is necessary.

A deal that does not include Iran addressing the IAEA’s concerns about the past and possible ongoing military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program would undermine the verifiability of that deal. Iran would feel emboldened to resist future IAEA efforts, despite any future implementation of the Additional Protocol, which again would aim both to determine whether Iran’s declaration is correct and
complete and to ensure the absence of undeclared nuclear activities and facilities. These efforts will inevitably require visits to military sites and much greater Iranian cooperation.
The IAEA has been seeking access to Parchin since 2012 and Iran still appears to be unwilling to open the site to inspections. The agreement announced this week appears to be an effort by Iran to appear accommodating while not actually conceding anything.
Iran’s negotiations with the IAEA are being conducted in parallel with the P5+1 negotiations. In the P5+1 talks, Iran has been reluctant to compromise on enrichment, ballistic missiles or inspections, matching its lack of flexibility on transparency with the IAEA.
Another reason for concern over the the IAEA agreement is that it calls for Iran to provide the information in August, one month later than then July 20 the date by which a comprehensive agreement with the P5+1 would be concluded if no extension is agreed upon.
In How A Weak Iran Deal Makes Us All Less Safe and War More Likely, published in the January 2014 issue of The Tower Magazine, Emanuel Ottolenghi warned that “the interim deal has fatally undermined the [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty]  by watering down Iran’s compliance obligations, undercutting the IAEA’s authority in matters of verification, and ignoring the military dimensions of the program documented by the Agency, which are all at the heart of the dispute.”

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