IAEA Issues “Mixed” Report on Iranian Compliance

Is Iran complying with its obligations under the nuclear deal?  According to a newly released IAEA report, the answer is no:  not all of them, in any case.  In an article titled “IAEA reports mixed results on P5+1 compliance for Iran,” Deutsche Welle reports that Iran has actually increased its stockpiles of low enriched uranium (LEU) during the initial period covered by this review.  Iran “has started removing centrifuges and related infrastructure,” the IAEA report concludes, but it has not begun reductions on uranium and in fact has added a thousand pounds of LEU to its holdings.  Its stockpiles are now more than half again as large as the deal permits.

In addition, no preparatory work toward dismantling has begun at the Arak facility.

In spite of this, the IAEA trumpeted the report as “a real success” that showed “significant progress.”  The laudatory remarks were reported in the Tehran Times.  IAEA director general Yukiya Amano said that “I believe the significant progress made on the Iran nuclear issue represents a real success for diplomacy. It demonstrates that even complex and challenging issues can be tackled effectively if all parties are committed to dialog – not dialog for its own sake, but dialog aimed at achieving results.”

The Mehr news agency quoted Iran’s ambassador to the UN as having criticized the IAEA report for containing “unnecessary technical stuff.”  Ambassador Reza Najafi added that the Islamic Republic of Iran has always objected to the technicalities in these reports, and considered technical details about precisely how Iran is or is not complying to be needless for such reports.

Progress on dismantling the nuclear infrastructure was likely to slow, IAEA officials admitted, as Iran had been taking down unused centrifuges.  “They have been dismantling centrifuges that did not contain hexafluoride,” one said in reference to uranium hexaflouride.  “Dismantling centrifuges that have or have had hexafluoride is a much more complicated thing than the clean ones.”

The IAEA still has to issue its final report on the Possible Military Dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program, a report that is due out on the 15th of December.  The report is expected to “close the case” on Iran’s nuclear weapons program from the perspective of the IAEA according to Iranian ambassador Najafi.  This expectation is shared by Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi, who told a news outlet that is connected with regime insiders that the terms of that final report were agreed to at the same time as the ‘secret deal’ between Iran and the IAEA.  The IAEA agreed to issue a report that was “gray,” neither “black nor white” and that this would conclude its task permanently.  Araghchi added that Iran was therefore planning to hold off on some nuclear activities until after the report was issued.

Iran’s supporters in the American press are already laying the groundwork for the IAEA report to clear Iran of all charges.  Writing in the Washington Post, Walter Pincus accuses deal opponents of bad faith, while disclosing that the IAEA itself has admitted it cannot do its job:

Opponents of the Iran nuclear agreement in Washington and Tehran will have their next opportunity to sabotage its implementation when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) releases a report by Dec. 15….

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano told a European Union nonproliferation conference last Wednesday, “The objective of our organization is not to verify the intention” of Iran because “it is not possible to verify the intention in the past and in the future. This is not our job.”  He said that the IAEA’s job was “to establish the facts to the best of our ability” and write a report that will present “my final assessment on all past and present outstanding issues.”

Pincus notes that critics of the deal will doubtless bring up again the fact that the deal allowed Iran to do its own sampling of the Parchin military facility and that the Iranians have been allowed to destroy the steel chamber in which weapons testing is supposed to have taken place.  The IAEA defends the practice and says it uses it in other countries, Pincus notes, but “[n]one of that will satisfy American JCPOA opponents.”

Opponents of the deal believe that it is necessary to determine exactly what Iran was working on and exactly how far they got, as well as whether the program was simply mothballed and can be readily reactivated later.  They also believe that oversight of Iran’s compliance should include sampling by independent agents rather than by officers of the Iranian state itself.