Nuclear report: parsing Iran's intent
As UN nuclear watchdog meets in Vienna, sparring is sharp over Iran's goals for its program.
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Iran has not suspended uranium enrichment, as required by a UN Security Council resolution, and is under three UN and one US set of sanctions. But Ali Larijani, Iran's former nuclear negotiator warned that parliament, of which he is the new speaker, could "limit" cooperation with the IAEA if the West continues "kicking around Iran's nuclear case."Skip to next paragraph
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At issue in Vienna is the meaning of 18 documents that point to secret weaponization work, which the IAEA calls "alleged studies." Most were provided by US intelligence but were only shown, not given, to the IAEA and to Iran, which dismisses them as fakes.
Those studies "remain a matter of serious concern," and Iran "has not yet agreed to implement all the transparency measures required to clarify this cluster of allegations," IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei told the agency's 35-member board of governors when they convened on Monday.
But Mr. ElBaradei also indirectly rapped the US, noting that the IAEA "was unfortunately not authorized to provide copies [of the documents] to Iran," which he said "would clearly help the Agency in its investigations." The IAEA, he added, "has not seen indications of the actual use of nuclear material in connection with the alleged studies."
Those include designs of the nose cone of a Shahab 3 missile – Iran's longest-range ballistic missile – modified for a possible nuclear payload; schematics of a 400-yard-deep underground testing setup; and documentation that appears to show secret nuclear projects and military procurement efforts.
"Together these documents make a powerful case that Iran had an active weaponization effort prior to 2004 [though] it is important to note they do not encompass the full scope of work required," concludes an analysis by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) in Washington.
"This alleged research, and Iran's refusal so far to really engage the IAEA in a serious discussion about it, is at the heart of whether its nuclear program is peaceful," writes Jacqueline Shire, one of the authors of the ISIS analysis, in a separate summary. "My concern is that Iran's seeming insistence on adhering to the letter but not the spirit of safeguards … can create the perception, if not the reality, that it has something to hide."
"Because this can lead countries to take preemptive action with … disastrous consequences," says Ms. Shire. Iran should be encouraged "to be as open as possible...."
According to a US National Intelligence Estimate report issued last December, Iran halted a nuclear weapons program in fall 2003. The documents now being examined by the IAEA are not dated later than March 2004. "I don't think there is anything in [the documents] that would challenge substantially the NIE claims," says a Western diplomat in Vienna close to the IAEA. But the initial reports were, "as always, a bit breathless."