IAEA report: What's driving Iran's latest bout of nuclear obstinacy
Following an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report that charges Iran with obstructing inspectors of its nuclear program, Iran said Tuesday that it can rightfully replace nuclear inspectors.
Iran reacted angrily Tuesday to charges from the United Nations nuclear watchdog that it was hindering an investigation of its nuclear programs by blocking experienced inspectors and limiting access and design information.Skip to next paragraph
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In its quarterly report on Iran, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) stated Monday that Iran has “not provided the necessary cooperation to permit the Agency to confirm that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.”
The report provides the latest indication of a spreading pattern of restrictions under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to limit the work of nuclear inspectors, according to Iran experts. They say hurdles facing inspectors are raised as American and Western pressure on Iran increases over its nuclear program. The UN Security Council (UNSC) imposed a fourth round of sanctions last June.
“What we are seeing is an accelerating loss of transparency into Iran’s nuclear fuel-cycle program,” says Shannon Kile, a nuclear specialist at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in Sweden. “I’m not surprised … that the Iranians are becoming even less cooperative than before. Everyone expected after the last [UN vote] that the Iranians would find some way to retaliate.”
The IAEA said it had “full confidence in the professionalism and impartiality” of two inspectors, who Iran recently said would not be allowed to do further work in the country. In an official letter to the IAEA last June, Iran accused the two – whose nationalities were not disclosed – of “false and wrong” reporting of undeclared nuclear experiments.
“We have the right to replace inspectors regarding their background and activities,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, said Tuesday, echoing senior nuclear officials who accused the banned inspectors of filing reports “contrary to reality.”
“We insist that the IAEA accomplish its legal activities regarding member states by disregarding political pressure," said Mr. Mehmanparast.
The IAEA report acknowledged that Iran has the right to bar any inspector, but that it “rejects the basis” of the recent ban. The report noted “repeated objection to the designation of experienced inspectors hampers the inspection process.” It further asked Iran to reconsider its January 2007 decision to block 38 inspectors, and four others before that.
“This is typical Iranian hardball tactics, saying ‘Two sides can play tough, what are you going to do about it?’ ” says Shahram Chubin, a Geneva-based Iran expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “I hesitate to say they are reading the letter of the [safeguards] agreement – they are even reading less [and] are certainly not holding to the spirit, which is to have inspectors reassure the agency of what you are doing.”
Iranian officials have warned in recent years that increased scrutiny by the UNSC of its nuclear program, which Tehran says is only to peacefully produce nuclear power, would cause it to reel in cooperation to the minimum required by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).