An Iranian victory, an American defeat

Posted in Iran , Broader Middle East , Asia | 10-Sep-03 | Author: Ze'ev Schiff| Source: Ha'aretz

International Atomic Energy Agency director general Mohamed ElBaradei is to present a report on Iran's nuclear program to the agency's board today. The report is a blow to American policy because, despite the question marks arising from it, it does not pave the way for the board of governors to issue the kind of sharp condemnation of Iran that would enable the issue to be transferred to the UN Security Council.

Although the report shows that Iran failed to disprove
suspicions against it, ElBaradei praises Tehran's cooperation with the IAEA. The fundamental contradictions
between the various facts in the report and the final
conclusions once again raise questions about the efficacy of the IAEA's inspections. Iran, which was very worried, can regard the report as a victory. It allows it to gain more time during which it can continue with its nuclear weapons program, and in effect bring it close to the point of no return in that development.

What are the fundamental contradictions in the report? An outstanding example is that it totally ignores the question of where Iran acquired the technology for uranium enrichment. In a long interview ElBaradei gave to the BBC,
he refused to say where Iran acquired the centrifuges for the uranium enrichment. The American press later reported Pakistan was the source.

The report's handling of the bits of uranium discovered at the Natanz centrifuges plant for uranium enrichment is very strange. Such uranium, enriched at very high levels, is usually designated for weapons manufacturing. The Iranians explained that it might be the remains of enriched uranium on the used centrifuges it bought. They did not say from whom. ElBaradei did not demand a more serious explanation from the Iranians, but does say
there can be several scenarios to explain how the uranium reached Iran. The Iranians did expose an old lie in their explanation, when they admitted that they began enriching uranium in 1985, while in the past they said they only started in 1997.

In 1991, the Iranians bought uranium gas (UF6), used for enriching uranium, from China. When it was discovered, it turned out that two kilograms of the material was missing. The Iranians said that was the result of a leak in a faulty valve. That is an example of how the IAEA report does not connect suspicious facts but deals with them separately, while looking for excuses to explain Iranian deviations from the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.

Another suspicious example is the large number of changes the inspectors found in 2003 at the Kalia electric company plant in Tehran, which at first refused to allow the inspectors to enter.

Last summer it was discovered that the Iranians were building a heavy water plant at Arak. When they were asked why they needed a heavy water plant when the nuclear reactor the Russians are supplying them is a based on light water, they said they had plans to build a reactor based on heavy water. In effect, that would enable them
to quickly develop nuclear weapons on that track, as well. Ahead of the last report from the IAEA, in June, the president if Iran's atomic energy agency, Gholam-Reza Aqazadeh, said his country plans to produce some 6,000
megawatts of nuclear energy (the Bushehar facility can reach about 1,000 megawatts). That's why, he said, Iran has a comprehensive plan for manufacturing nuclear fuel. Why does a state rich in petroleum resources need to
invest a fortune for the independent production of nuclear energy?

Nonetheless, the IAEA report praises Iran's behavior. ElBaradei does not want a Security Council discussion and is probably amusing himself with the idea that Iran will sign the additional protocol to the nuclear
nonproliferation treaty, which grants the UN more effective monitoring methods at nuclear facilities. The situation he created guarantees that Iran will be ready, at most, to start a lengthy negotiation on the additional protocol.