By Javad Heirannia

Israeli documents about Iran's nuclear program cannot be confirmed: Nephew

March 10, 2020 - 11:50

TEHRAN –Richard Nephew, who served as the lead sanctions expert for the U.S. team negotiating with Iran, is of the opinion that “It is the IAEA's responsibility to investigate information that it receives.”

The fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, says that “If it finds that information credible, it is its responsibility to ask the questions that result from that information of the country in question.”

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi, has said that he wants Iran to clarify the "undisclosed location" in Tehran where uranium particles were found last year. Iran has also stated that such requests should be based on clear reasons and principles consistent with relevant Agency documents, which do not apply to the two recent requests for additional access. What is your assessment of the Agency's recent report?

A: The IAEA has made reasonable requests to the Iranian government for access necessary to clarify questions about possible undeclared nuclear material in the country.  Iran has a responsibility to provide such access, consistent with the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement it accepted in 1974 and confirmed it would implement after the revolution.

Q: The dispute that the Agency has recently stated is based on Israel's claim and espionage of Iran's nuclear documents. Although the PMD has been shut down by the IAEA, Israel and the US have been trying to get it under the new IAEA director-general because they were not able to do so under the late IAEA secretary-general, Yukiya Amano. Why has the military dimension of Iran's nuclear program been raised again?

A: Well, the issue has been raised because the IAEA investigated reports of further undeclared nuclear material in Iran, found traces of said material, and has asked for clarification.  

When the PMD issue was completed in 2015, the IAEA never said that it would never ask questions again about possible undeclared nuclear material.  It said that it was closing down that part of the investigation, but the IAEA maintains its responsibility to provide assurance as to the nondiversion of nuclear material to weapons programs.  If it finds such indications, it is responsible for investigating them.

Perhaps more important as a question: why, if Iran believes the investigation is based on false intelligence, was nuclear material found?  If Iran believes it has answered all of the IAEA's questions, why won't it provide access to confirm its claim that its nuclear program is completely civil?  Iran has the ability to finish the IAEA's work and, if there is no weapons program connection, it can do so quickly.

Q: It seems that one of the goals pursued by the Agency is to introduce Iran in violation of the IAEA safeguards in order to bring the Iranian nuclear file back to the UN Security Council. What is your assessment?

A: This is a ridiculous charge. The IAEA's responsibility is to investigate undeclared nuclear material.  It has found some.  It is now Iran's responsibility to satisfy the IAEA's questions about it.  The IAEA's job is to ask questions about such material; Iran's job is to answer them.

If Iran refuses to answer the questions, then it may indeed be found in noncompliance.  But, this problem begins and ends with Iran's refusal to help the IAEA complete its investigation.

Q: Overall, 5% of inspections carried out by the Agency are carried out worldwide in Iran, with an average of 6 inspectors in Iran every day. However, there have always been allegations of Israeli claims against Iran's nuclear program. Is Israel having a nuclear bomb fundamentally entitled to these claims?

A: In my view, this has nothing to do with Israel.  Israel's nuclear program is completely immaterial to the very simple question: is Iran's nuclear program in compliance with its obligations under the NPT and the IAEA Safeguards Agreement, as amended by the Additional Protocol? 

And, the answer is "no," if Iran is refusing the IAEA's reasonable requests for clarification and access.

Iran's responsibilities in this regard are contained in the 1974 Safeguards Agreement; a careful reading of that document will show that it does not say anything about Israel.  It has much to say about Iranian responsibilities.

Q: IAEA is a regulatory body, not a research body. That is to say, no allegation by any country is to be raised by the Agency as a question to Iran. Suppose Israel tends to ask numerous questions based on documents that allegedly spy on Iran. Is it the Agency's duty to ask Iran any questions? (Because the Agency's questions should be based on solid, not Israeli claims that Iran's number one enemy is)

A: It is the IAEA's responsibility to investigate the information that it receives.  

If it finds that information credible, it is its responsibility to ask the questions that result from that information of the country in question.

It is the responsibility of the country to answer those questions.

If there are no problems in that country, the answers can be easily answered and the issue will be finished.

The problem with Iran today, as it has been since 2002, is that it refuses to answer these questions and then the IAEA finds more about what happened, asking more questions.

It is Iran's fault, not Israel's, that it is unable to satisfy perfectly reasonable, legal requests for information and access.

Q: You are probably aware of the Harvard University team's report and their assessment of Israeli documents about Torkuz Abad. The report emphasized that they could not confirm the documentary evidence provided by Israel. On the other hand, they have stated that Israel has not provided all the documents. You understand the technical aspects of this issue, of course. My argument is that the documents that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has decided on are those that Israel has made. Israel is also Iran's number one enemy. Has Israel delivered all the necessary documents? Isn't Israel oriented in presenting documents?

A: Well, to be clear here: Harvard said that they could not confirm the documentary evidence.  They didn't say it wasn't true.  They just couldn't confirm it.  But that is also not its job. That's the IAEA's job.  The IAEA undertook that confirmation exercise immediately, I understand.

And, now, the IAEA has confirmed that some of what's in those documents IS true.  The question is: how much?  Only Iranian cooperation can tell that full story.

As for your contention that the documents are frauds, that might have been reasonable to argue prior to the IAEA confirming the presence of undeclared nuclear material.  Now, that contention looks pretty disproven.  

Q: The other question is, if the IAEA is purely technical, why doesn't it respond to Saudi nuclear purchases from the US? Because of the sensitive nuclear technology purchased, the IAEA should also enter into new agreements with Saudi Arabia. This was stated by “Olli Heinonen” in an interview with me, criticizing that the IAEA's inspections of Saudi Arabia were inaccurate:

“I would have also expected from the IAEA a bit stronger scrutiny to the Saudi Arabian plans. It is true that the current safeguards agreement puts limitations to the IAEA activities in Saudi Arabia, but investigations and follow-ups on intentions of Saudi Arabia, in the light of the statements of its leadership, calls for tighter monitoring using other tools such as analysis of open source information and satellite imagery. When the safeguards reports show that the IAEA expenditures for Saudi Arabia have in last five years been about same order of magnitude as spent, for example, for the Vatican, some intensification of monitoring is required. If this is not done, concerns of countries regarding the true intentions of Saudi Arabia will prevail, and may contribute to a proliferation cascade in the region.”
https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/434397/Saudi-has-not-really-demonstrated-nuclear-transparency-Heinonen

Q: I am not going to link Iran's issue to Saudi Arabia's case, but I mean the IAEA is sometimes political entity. On the other hand, the Israeli documents are by no means convincing, and Israel maybe wants to submit to the IAEA every week. Would you like to know your opinion?

A: As you say, the issues are not linked at all nor should they be.  Saudi Arabia is a different country, with different obligations.  Proving Saudi Arabia should do something does not mean Iran shouldn't or vice versa.  Iran has obligations.  They are spelled out in the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement freely entered into by Iran in 1974 and confirmed after the revolution.  It should fulfill those responsibilities regardless of what other countries do.

Are you allowed not to pay rent if your neighbor does not?  Can you evade taxes if your brother does not?  Can you steal if your cousin does?  Of course not.

Q: Yes Iran should be responsible and has showed this issue according to several IAEA reports. About your argument “Can you steal if your cousin does?” Yes, if I steal it has nothing to do with my cousin and vice versa. But if I'm a thief, I expect the police (IAEA) to deal with the same look when my cousin steals. In that case, the police will be neutral. I don't think the police is neutral and its political approach is clear.

A: ……… Unanswered!!

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