Passport

Who is "desperate to believe the Iranians"?

Michael Goldfarb at the Weekly Standard's blog links to a post by Eric Hundman, a regular Passport contributor who works at the Center for Defense Information, and writes:

For whatever reason, some folks are just desperate to believe the Iranians. Take the FP Passport blog for example, which found "plausible" the Iranian explanation for how the country had accidentally ended up with blueprints for a nuclear weapon.

He then goes on to quote selectively from Eric's post, omitting entirely the part where Eric airs his concerns:

Even if Iran did not actively seek out information that could only be used in nuclear weapons, though, the real question is why the country's leaders would wait two years to comply with the IAEA's request to relinquish the documents. At best, the Iranians were holding the blueprints in reserve for situations like today's, as a bargaining chip. At worst, they were holding them to eventually use them in a weapons program. Either way, Iran was not cooperating fully with the IAEA in its attempts to ascertain the true nature of the country's nuclear program—not a good sign.

Eric can defend himself, but that doesn't sound at all like desperation to me. So, I just want to make two things clear. One, "Passport" is an inanimate object that doesn't have views. Individual contributors to the blog have views, and they often differ. Two, Goldfarb's selective quotation misleads his readers. Read Eric's post—or all of his posts, for that matter—and judge for yourself.

Finally, Goldfarb writes, "the IAEA is all trust, and no verify."

This is just false. I'm not in the business of shielding the IAEA from reasonable criticism, but this simply is not true. As the report (pdf) states, "Since March 2007, a total of seven unannounced inspections have been carried out" at Iran's enrichment facility at Natanz."

More: "From 15 to 18 September 2007, the Agency performed a physical inventory verification at PFEP."

More: "The Agency has continued monitoring the use and construction of hot cells at the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR), the Molybdenum, Iodine and Xenon Radioisotope Production Facility (theMIX Facility) and the Iran Nuclear Research Reactor (IR-40) through inspections and designinformation verification."

More: "On 11 November 2007, the Agency conducted design information verification at the IR-40 and noted that construction of the facility was proceeding. Satellite imagery appears to indicate that the Heavy Water Production Plant is operating. The Agency must rely on satellite imagery of this plant as it does not have routine access to it while the Additional Protocol remains unimplemented."

More: "The Agency has made arrangements to verify and seal the fresh fuel foreseen for the Bushehr nuclear power plant on 26 November 2007, before shipment of the fuel from the Russian Federation to Iran."

Get the picture? As a result of this work, the report concludes:

The Agency has been able to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran. Iran has provided the Agency with access to declared nuclear material, and has provided the required nuclear material accountancy reports in connection with declared nuclear material and activities. Iran concluded a Facility Attachment for FEP. However, it should be noted that, since early 2006, the Agency has not received the type of information that Iran had previously been providing, pursuant to the Additional Protocol and as a transparency measure. As a result, the Agency's knowledge about Iran's current nuclear programme is diminishing. 

Read the whole thing (pdf) if you want; it's only nine pages long. As Elaine Sciolino and William J. Broad characterize it, it's a mixed bag, neither a whitewash nor a full-throated denunciation. It may not be enough to get Russia and China on board the sanctions train. But it's simply not the case that the IAEA is "all trust, and no verify."

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