Iran to IAEA: Drop Nuclear Weaponization Investigation

July 13, 2011

On July 12, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi announced that Iran would improve its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in return for the IAEA dropping its investigation of Iran’s nuclear weapons-related activities. His announcement followed a meeting with IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano. Not surprisingly, based on recent IAEA safeguards reports on Iran, Amano said no.

The IAEA’s investigation into Iran’s nuclear weapons-related work follows a work plan developed four years ago with Iran’s agreement. Iran claims that it has answered the work plan’s questions on evidence of past or ongoing nuclear weaponization and missile delivery system activities. Salehi said that these issues should instead be addressed “within the framework of a new mechanism … based on the fact that the IAEA should say the first stage is over and those outstanding issues have been answered.” Amano rejected this suggestion, since Iran has not answered key IAEA questions or addressed its concerns in this critical area.

Iran suggests that the IAEA effectively ignore its own assessments of Iran’s alleged nuclear weaponization efforts. Iran’s expectation of a clean bill of health could signal a further widening of the gulf between the positions of the IAEA and Iran over its nuclear program. Is Iran testing the mettle of Amano to stick to the IAEA’s mandate to investigate such activities? Is it trying to start a game of quid pro quo with the IAEA where Iran offers more cooperation in one area in return for a major concession in another? More troubling, does Iran intend to further reduce its cooperation with the IAEA since its suggestion has been refused?

Director General Amano rightly rejected the suggestion that the IAEA abandon its inquiry into Iran’s nuclear weapons-related work, and the international community should support his stance. Abandoning the IAEA’s investigation would undermine any hope of solving the nuclear issue. It would convey to Iran that it is not required to comply with its safeguards agreements under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and send a message to other would-be proliferant states that they too could press for partial compliance with their commitments.

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