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IAEA Iran Report

Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2008

The IAEA issued its latest Iran report yesterday. Here's the report itself (.pdf) from the ISIS site, here's Elaine Sciolino's write-up for the IHT. The short version is that little has changed in the way of Iranian compliance since the last report. So, declared materials are still accounted for, the nuclear fuel at Bushehr is still under IAEA seal, and Iran's declared facilities have not been altered or engaged in suspect activity. But it has continued its enrichment program, gaining substantially in the efficiency of its centrifuge cascades and expanding their operation, and has done almost nothing to increase transparency or otherwise respond to documentation of past weaponization efforts.

Sciolino flags this passage from the IAEA report, too:

With reference to the document describing experimentation in connection with. . .an implosion type nuclear device, Iran has stated that there have been no such activities in Iran. Since the Director General's previous report, the Agency has obtained information indicating that the experimentation described in this document may have involved the assistance of foreign expertise.


No mention yet of where that foreign expertise originated from, but look for that as the next front in the campaign of intelligence leaks on past Iranian weaponization efforts.

Says Jeffrey Lewis at Arms Control Wonk, "Overall, the Iranians seem to be moving right along," and clearly, the status quo plays into Iran's hands. What's more, as Adam Wolfe pointed out in a WPR piece last week, between the American presidential election this fall, the Iranian presidential election next summer, Russian resistance to sanctions and Iran's stonewalling, it looks like things are going to be in status quo mode until at least this time next year. By then, the Bushehr reactor will be online, and Iran will have not only continued to improve its enrichment capacity, it will also have a not insignificant amount of enriched uranium at its disposal. Meaning its leverage at the negotiating table will be significantly increased.

Unfortunately, all of this plays into the hands of advocates of a military strike which, while unlikely to destroy the Iranian program, could possibly postpone it until the new American and Iranian administrations are in office. Obviously an airstrike would strengthen the hand of Iranian hardliners and pollute the negotiating atmosphere. But the logic of "stopping the clock" as opposed to letting the Iranians run it out, will probably gain strength now.

Hopefully five former Secretaries of State (Kissinger, Baker, Christopher, Albright and Powell) advocating for engagement (via Friday Lunch Club) will have an impact on the debate.

Update: With regard to the "foreign expertise" involved in the nuclear trigger experimentaiton, McClatchy has this:

The senior U.N. official declined to elaborate except to say that itdoes not appear that the expertise came from a government or thePakistani-led network that supplied illicit nuclear materials to Iran,Libya and North Korea.

While citing no sources, they go on to mention non-proliferation experts' longstanding fears of ". . .nuclear weapons experts from the former Soviet bloc or elsewheremarketing their skills to regimes bent on developing nuclear weapons." Stay tuned.