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Opinion

Flawed graph weakens case against Iran nuclear program (+video)

The Associated Press admits that a graph purporting to show that Iran has run computer simulations for a nuclear weapon is scientifically flawed. This raises serious questions about the quality of other 'evidence' against Iran's nuclear program. Here's a way to proceed.

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In fact, not only is it legally problematic to fulfill such a verification, it is a logical impossibility: The agency cannot prove the absence of something. There can always be somewhere in Iran where the IAEA has not looked. In fact, no one can reasonably task the IAEA to prove a negative in any country, whether it be in Brazil, Argentina, or the 49 other nations for which it is evaluating the absence of undeclared nuclear activity

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The most sensible way to wind down the impasse with Iran now is to recognize that although Iran may have been non-compliant with the IAEA in the past, it is in full compliance with its safeguards agreement now: The nation is not diverting any declared nuclear material to any weapons program. The IAEA has verified this every year since it began monitoring Iran’s program. Hounding Iran about possible activities it may or may not have done years or even decades ago – especially if some of the allegations are possible hoaxes – is not going to solve anything.

A smart move would be to start to roll back sanctions on Iran in exchange for Iran suspending its uranium enrichment to 20 percent, as both Henry Kissinger and I have suggested.

As for the graph, let's be perfectly honest: Much more involved computational research into nuclear weaponry has been going on in other NPT non-nuclear weapon states. For instance, at a military institute in Brazil a doctoral thesis was recently written on “Numerical Simulation of Thermonuclear Detonations in Fission-Fusion Hybrids Imploded by Radiation.” The amateurish and incorrect “Iranian” graph, even if authenticated, pales in comparison to that serious computation research into nuclear weaponry. If the world community wants the non-proliferation regime to survive it will have to insist on greater consistency in the application of international laws.

In another instance, although Iran, Egpyt, South Korea, and Libya were all found non-compliant in the past, only Iran was referred to the UN Security Council. Again, Pierre Goldschmidt captured it well: "The actions taken by the [IAEA] board in each case were inconsistent and, if they go uncorrected, will create unfortunate precedents.” 

The leaked “Iranian” graph doesn’t bolster the IAEA’s case against Iran – it undermines it. The IAEA is rapidly losing credibility. It should stick to its technical mission of nuclear materials accountancy and call off the wild goose chase in Iran.

Yousaf Butt, a nuclear physicist, is professor and scientist-in-residence at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. The views expressed are his own.

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