IAEA Chief Complains of ‘Pressure’ Over Iran Nuclear Inspections

By Patrick Goodenough | February 1, 2019 | 4:38am EST
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano meets with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, at IAEA headquarters in Vienna on February 18, 2014. (Photo: Dean Calma/IAEA)

(CNSNews.com) – Insisting once again that Iran is complying with the 2015 nuclear deal, the head of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog complained this week that attempts – he didn’t say by whom – to pressure the agency on inspections were “counter-productive and extremely harmful.”

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano said in a speech to staff in Vienna that the IAEA’s credibility was grounded on its independence, impartiality, and “factual safeguards implementation.”

“If our credibility is thrown into question, and, in particular, if attempts are made to micro-manage or put pressure on the agency in nuclear verification, that is counter-productive and extremely harmful,” he said.

While Amano did not identify the source of the pressure, the U.S. reportedly has been prodding the IAEA to take a harder look at Iran, after independent expert analysis of Iranian nuclear documents captured by the Israelis last year found apparent holes in the agency’s “safeguards” reporting on Iran.

The analysis by Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) and Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) experts revealed the existence at Iran’s Parchin military base of a “major,” previously-unidentified site, thought most likely to have served as “a production-scale facility to produce uranium metal components for nuclear weapons.”

Bloomberg recently reported that the Trump administration is struggling to win support from other countries for a push to have the IAEA probe whether Iran had lied to the agency when it supposedly disclosed all of the “possible military dimensions” (PMD) of its nuclear program.

A prerequisite for implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement was the IAEA’s formal closure of the so-called PMD file – a step it could take only once the regime had fully disclosed the extent to which it had, at any time, carried out work related to developing an atomic bomb.

In December 2015, the IAEA reported its assessment that Iran had indeed carried out a program relevant to development of a nuclear bomb, until 2003, and continued some weapons-related activity for a number of years beyond that.

Two weeks later the IAEA board of governors – with the Obama administration leading the way as it advanced a signature foreign policy achievement – agreed to close the PMD file. JCPOA implementation began a month later.

U.S. critics of the JCPOA called the closure of the PMD file a “whitewash.” Among their concerns was exactly how the IAEA had gone about reaching its conclusion – including the fact the agency allowed the Iranians themselves to collect and hand over environmental samples from Parchin, the military site near Tehran where some of the most serious PMD work was suspected to have taken place.

IAEA ‘hesitancy’

Last April, the Israeli government revealed that it had surreptitiously “obtained,” from a warehouse in Tehran, a massive archive of documents and CDs relating to the nuclear program.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo affirmed that the documents were “authentic,” that they contained information not known before, and proved that the Iranians had lied.

But JCPOA advocates were suspicious, suggesting the discovery was a convenient ploy to provide a pretext for President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal – which he did the following month.

The ISIS-FDD analysis of archive documents was carried out by highly-regarded experts in the field – ISIS president David Albright; ISIS senior policy analyst Andrea Stricker; former IAEA deputy director general Olli Heinonen, now a senior advisor on science and nonproliferation at the FDD; and Frank Pabian, a retired Los Alamos National Laboratory fellow and former IAEA nuclear chief inspector in Iraq.

In their report a fortnight ago revealing the previously-unidentified nuclear facility, they said the archived documents contained “considerable new information about Iran’s nuclear weapons effort and brings into much sharper focus both the strengths and weaknesses of the IAEA’s information about Iran’s nuclear weapons efforts, not only in the past, but also today.”

The experts argued that the Iranian regime’s very act of “storing and curating an extensive nuclear weapons archive could be construed as not having abandoned the goal of seeking nuclear weapons.”

They said the IAEA’s “hesitancy to address” the new information was difficult to excuse, and recommended that the IAEA board of governors urge the agency “to verify sites, locations, facilities, and materials involved in these activities, and urge Iran to cooperate fully in these investigations.”

The board of governors comprises 35 of the IAEA’s 170 member-states. Current board members include the United States and allies such as Australia, Canada, and a number of European countries, as well as countries less friendly to the West, including Russia, China, Venezuela and Sudan.

In his speech on Wednesday, IAEA chief Amano underscored that the agency was “a technical, not a political, organization.”

While member-states “have had the political role of establishing the safeguards system,” he said, “they trusted the agency to implement safeguards independently, objectively and impartially. Let us all continue to respect the wisdom of that approach.”

Amano also said, once again, that “Iran is implementing its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA.”

“As I have said many times, it is essential that Iran continues to fully implement those commitments,” he added.

See also:
Iran to IAEA: No, You May Not Visit Our Military Sites (Sept. 13, 2017)

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