What Noncompliance?

Addressing the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna last week, Jackie Sanders, the U.S. representative, warned the panel that it "cannot ignore forever its statutory obligation to report this matter to the United Nations Security Council."

What matter?

Well, it seems that IAEA Deputy Director General Pierre Goldschmidt had just provided the Board an update on the comprehensive report made last November verifying Iran’s compliance with (a) its Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons Safeguards agreement, (b) its voluntary adherence to an Additional Protocol, and (c) its voluntary suspension – as a confidence-building measure – of enrichment-related and reprocessing-related activities.

Goldschmidt began by noting that "Iran has facilitated in a timely manner Agency access to nuclear material and facilities under its Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol."

He also reported that the IAEA "has continued its activities to verify all elements of Iran’s voluntary suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities."

So far, so good.

But, in an effort to be "completely transparent" about its current and past nuclear programs, Iran has voluntarily provided the IAEA all sorts of information about its past activities.

In particular:

"During a meeting on 12 January 2005 in Tehran, Iran showed the Agency a handwritten one-page document reflecting an offer said to have been made to Iran in 1987 by a foreign intermediary. While it is not entirely clear from the document precisely what the offer entailed, Iran has stated that it related to centrifuge-technology acquisition. This document suggests that the offer included the delivery of: a disassembled sample machine (including drawings, descriptions, and specifications for production); drawings, specifications and calculations for a ‘complete plant’; and materials for 2,000 centrifuge machines. The document also reflects an offer to provide auxiliary vacuum and electric drive equipment and uranium re-conversion and casting capabilities. Iran stated that only some of these items had been delivered, and that all of those items had been declared to the IAEA. This information is still being assessed. The Agency has requested that all documentation relevant to the offer be made available for the Agency’s review."

Now, some of you may recall that, in the aftermath of the Gulf War, the IAEA had discovered a one-page memo, dated Oct. 6, 1990, summarizing a meeting between members of the Mukhabarat – the Iraqi intelligence service – and an intermediary who said he represented the Khan network.

Metallurgist A.Q. Khan had worked for a subsidiary of Urenco, the European uranium-enrichment consortium. Khan had stolen Urenco supplier lists and Urenco designs for a first-generation gas centrifuge, returned to Pakistan, and established an international procurement network for creating in the early 1980s the Pakistani gas-centrifuge uranium-enrichment program.

In 1990, the Khan network was apparently offering – for a price – to help "Iraq establish a project to enrich uranium and manufacture a nuclear weapon."

So now the Bush-Cheney administration and the National Council of Resistance of Iran – the political arm of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, a U.S.- and European-designated "terrorist group" – are charging that the offer made three years earlier to provide Iran with uranium "casting capabilities" amounted to an offer by the Khan network to help Iran manufacture a nuclear weapon.

Now, bear in mind that after almost two years of go-almost-anywhere, see-almost-anything inspections, the IAEA has found no evidence whatsoever that Iran has – or ever had – a nuclear weapons program.

Nevertheless, Jackie baby warned the Board that it "cannot ignore forever its statutory obligation to report this matter to the United Nations Security Council."

What obligation?

Here is what the IAEA statue has to say (noncompliance being defined elsewhere in the statue as the use of NPT-proscribed materials and facilities "in such a way as to further any military purpose"):

"The inspectors shall report any noncompliance to the director general, who shall thereupon transmit the report to the Board of Governors. The Board shall call upon the recipient State or States to remedy forthwith any noncompliance which it finds to have occurred. The Board shall report the noncompliance to all members and to the Security Council and General Assembly of the United Nations."

Wow! It’s a good thing for Iran that the IAEA inspectors have not found any instances of Iranian "noncompliance." Because, if they had, "in the event of failure of the recipient State or States to take fully corrective action within a reasonable time," the IAEA Board may "suspend any noncomplying member from the exercise of the privileges and rights of membership."

Author: Gordon Prather

Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.