Analysis: IAEA nuclear report creates more questions than it answers

The IAEA’s latest report on Iran is unlikely to hinder implementation of July’s nuclear deal

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Yukiya Amano is seen through a video camera viewfinder as he attends a news conference in Vienna (photo credit: REUTERS)
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Yukiya Amano is seen through a video camera viewfinder as he attends a news conference in Vienna
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The new report on Iran’s nuclear program published Wednesday night by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is inconclusive and thus leaves all the parties in question dissatisfied.
Its significance is that it paves the way to further implementation of the nuclear deal between Iran and the world powers signed in July.
The report deals with the most troubling aspect of Iran’s nuclear program, the “Possible Military Dimensions” (PMD). Its aim was to determine whether Iran was involved in the past in activities leading to the development and production of a nuclear bomb. Because of past suspicions that Iran carried out such activities the UN Security Council and subsequently the international community imposed crippling economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic, in 2006.
Iran has claimed all these years that its nuclear program is solely for civilian purposes.
The IAEA report shows Iran was lying.
The IAEA clearly states that Iran had a military nuclear program until 2003 and probably beyond, until 2009. Yet the report also explains that such activities were for “scientific research” and “feasibility studies”.
They included work in the field of “weaponization” – testing a chain reaction and detonation of explosives - the last stage in assembling a nuclear bomb.
A key installation in the Iranian weaponization program was Parchin, a military base not far from Tehran. For years Iran refused to allow IAEA inspectors any access to that base. Only after signing an agreement with world powers five years ago was partial and limited access was permitted.
The IAEA inspectors and analysts deserve credit that despite the hurdles and obstacles put in their way they managed to piece together and decipher most of the activities that took place at Parchin.
In that sense the report confirms Israeli intelligence assessments by the Mossad and Military Intelligence (Aman) as well as CIA estimates of Iran’s nuclear program, that Iran was conducting weaponization tests.
Nevertheless the IAEA report will not bloc implementation of the world powers’ nuclear deal with Iran. This is because the deal is not conditioned on the IAEA report and doesn’t contain any clauses which categorically and unequivocally demand from Iran full and transparency and revelation of its nuclear past.
Thus Iran will continue to dismantle its centrifuges in its two uranium enrichment facilities in Natanz and Fordow as well as redesign and reduce the nuclear reactor in Arak which was supposed to produce plutonium.
Because of its indecisive nature the interpretation of the report is in the eyes of the beholder.
The report disappoints President Hassan Rouhani and those who supported and pushed for the deal. They hoped that Iran would be given a clean sheet and the PMD “file” would be closed forever. That didn’t happen. Iran’s conservatives , who opposed the nuclear deal from the outset arguing that their country caved in to international pressure and its sovereignty was violated and became exposed to “decadent” western economic and cultural influence have now more ammunition with which to pick on Rouhani.
In the US the report is providing ammunition to Republicans who opposed the deal and accused President Barack Obama of not being not sufficiently tough.
The report also seems to back up Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that Iran cannot be trusted and that the nuclear deal was a historic mistake.
But the bottom line is that the implementation train has already left the station for its final destination and the report is little more than an insignificant nuisance that will not stop the process.