Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Capitulating to Iran

Emanuele Ottolenghi highlights these tidbits from the recent IAEA report on Iran's and Syria's nuclear programs.
Among the treasure trove to be found in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports on Iran and Syria, there are two slightly underreported elements. Inspectors stumbled upon 600 “50-litre drums” of heavy water at the Isfahan conversion facility. As for Syria, the Syrians explained traces of anthropogenic natural uranium as deriving from “domestically produced yellowcake” and “imported, but previously undeclared, commercial uranyl nitrate.”

To recap: Iran has undeclared heavy water, and Syria has undeclared commercial uranyl nitrate.

Heavy water is needed to bypass uranium enrichment if one wants to build nuclear weapons. It is not produced widely — there are only a few countries in the world that produce and sell heavy water. Uranyl Nitrate is a substance needed in the process to convert natural uranium to green salt, a precursor of UF6. In short, it is a necessary component in the enrichment process and one that NPT signatories are meant to declare to the IAEA.
Iran and Syria have been hiding their attempts to achieve the next steps in their quest for nuclear weapons. So what is the response of the IAEA to the news that they've been snookered? Capitulation.

United Nations and Iranian officials have been secretly negotiating a deal to persuade world powers to lift sanctions and allow Tehran to retain the bulk of its nuclear programme in return for co-operation with UN inspectors.

According to a draft document seen by The Times, the 13-point agreement was drawn up in September by Mohamed ElBaradei, the directorgeneral of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in an effort to break the stalemate over Iran’s nuclear programme before he stands down at the end of this month.

The IAEA denied the existence of the document, which was leaked to The Times by one of the parties alarmed at the contents. Its disclosure was made as the agency warned that Iran could be hiding multiple secret nuclear sites.

Despite the assessment, diplomats believed that Mr ElBaradei was hoping to agree the outline of a deal with Tehran that he could present to the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany as a solution to the impasse.
Is your head spinning around? ElBaradei knows that Iran and Syria have been lying to the inspectors, so he's proposing to end sanctions and continue more of the inspections that have demonstrated their inability to get an honest picture of what these guys are doing.
The disclosure coincides with leaks from the report by IAEA inspectors warning of the dangers of taking Iran at its word over its nuclear programme.

The report, to be discussed at Mr ElBaradei’s final board of governors meeting next week, warned that Iran may be concealing multiple nuclear plants.

Iran claims that the Qom site was a fallback to preserve its declared peaceful enrichment programme if the Natanz complex was bombed. Inspectors said that Tehran had failed to convince them of its use and had even lied when it was being built. Nuclear experts said that the size of the plant suggested a military use.

Tehran belatedly informed the IAEA of the existence of the plant in September, reportedly after realising that it had been discovered and was being monitored by Western intelligence agencies.

“The agency has indicated that its declaration of the new facility reduces the level of confidence in the absence of other nuclear facilities under construction and gives rise to questions about whether there were any other nuclear facilities not declared to the agency,” the report said.

Iran’s failure to inform the IAEA of its decision to build or authorise construction of a nuclear facility as soon as the decision was made was inconsistent with its transparency obligations to the UN watchdog, the report by the inspectors said. “Moreover, Iran’s delay in submitting such information to the agency does not contribute to the building of confidence.”

The report said that Tehran lied when it told the agency that construction began in 2007, when evidence showed that the project had started in 2002 before pausing in 2004 and resuming in 2006.
Remember the IAEA and ElBaradei received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. Just in case you thought that meant anything. And just in case you're still impressed by international agencies and what they can achieve versus their rhetoric and self-congratulatory awards.