Iran Continues to Play for Time at the IAEA

Iranian envoy tells IAEA not involve itself in investigating the members of the organization's use of nuclear material, yet promises cooperation at upcoming meetings.

Anshel Pfeffer
Anshel Pfeffer
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Anshel Pfeffer
Anshel Pfeffer

The quarterly report on Iran to the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency which was released for publication on Wednesday in Vienna has mightily angered Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asqar Soltanieh. The report's main find is that as of last month, Iran has enriched 145.6 kg of uranium to 20%, which is of course, not far from weapons-grade uranium, and enough according to some experts for the construction of five nuclear bombs. And if that is not enough:

"While the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material at the nuclear facilities and LOFs locations outside facilities declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement, as Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation, including by not implementing its Additional Protocol, the Agency is unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities."

At the IAEA Board of Governors meeting, Soltanieh responded with a blistering attack on the agency's modus operandi:

"The Agency's objective is to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world The Agency is not supposed to play a role of watchdog and investigator interfering in the internal affairs and national security zone of the Member States"

In other words, the Iranian envoy is urging that the IAEA not involve itself in investigating the members of the organization's use of nuclear material. He was probably right when he accused some IAEA inspectors of actually being spies for some of the member states:

"The inspectors which are supposed to verify fissionable nuclear materials and related nuclear facilities declared by Member States according with the Safeguards Agreements are forced by a couple of states to be involved in intelligence activities, receiving fabricated information from the intelligence services of those certain countries, on allegations of activities not involving nuclear materials. The Agency's inspectors are expected to be experts in nuclear materials and activities and not military experts inspectors were involved in purely non-nuclear activities including following prosecution and intelligence activities including presence in prisons talking to members of networks"

But Soltanieh seems to be protesting too much. After all, even if there are spies among the IAEA's ranks, what does his country have to hide? He himself says that “the whole world is aware of the fact that in spite of the most robust inspections in the history of the Agency, more than 4000 man-day routine and over 100 unannounced inspections in Iran, even a gram of nuclear material is not diverted to military purposes”

So what is Iran's bottom-line? That's not altogether clear because Soltaniyah manages to be both defiant and open to compromise in the same paragraph:

"Is there any doubt that Iran shall never yield to pressure to suspend its enrichment process for peaceful application? ... We are however prepared to find out a face saving solution for a breakthrough from existing dead lock."

Soltanieh goes on to promise that Iran will work with the IAEA at their meeting on Friday, as well as in ten days in Moscow with the international powers at the P5+1 talks in order to reach an agreement.

So what is Iran saying here? Last month IAEA Director General, the astute Yukiya Amano, visited Iran and was given the impression that the regime was prepared to grant his inspectors access to restricted research facilities – now they are accusing him of heading a spy agency. And after the last round of talks in Baghdad failed completely, they are refusing to ever contemplate suspending uranium enrichment while welcoming the prospect of more talks in two weeks.

Eternally optimistic western diplomats will say that this is a last grandstanding bluster before the ultimate climb-down while the skeptics have ample proof here that Iran will never acquiesce on its nuclear program. Meanwhile, Iran continues successfully to play for time.

Iran's Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, at the IAEA board of governors meeting in Vienna, Austria, June 4, 2012.Credit: AP

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