Lessons Learned – or Not

On March 5, 1970, the United States became a party to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which declared, in Article IV, that

"Parties to the Treaty in a position to do so shall also cooperate in contributing alone or together with other States or international organizations to the further development of the applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, especially in the territories of non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty, with due consideration for the needs of the developing areas of the world."

On May 15, 1974, Iran entered into a Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency – to remain in force as long as Iran remained a party to the NPT – wherein all Iranian “source or special fissionable materials” and activities involving them were to be made subject to IAEA Safeguards “with a view to preventing diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful purposes.”

The NPT explicitly states that

"The safeguards required by this article shall be implemented in a manner designed to comply with Article IV of this Treaty, and to avoid hampering the economic or technological development of the Parties or international cooperation in the field of peaceful nuclear activities – including the international exchange of nuclear material and equipment for the processing, use or production of nuclear material for peaceful purposes – in accordance with the provisions of this article and the principle of safeguarding set forth in the Preamble of the Treaty."

So, in 1976, pursuant to its NPT commitments, the Ford-Cheney Administration "endorsed" Iranian ambitious plans to develop a massive nuclear energy industry, all subject – of course – to IAEA Safeguards.

Then came the Islamic revolution of 1979, resulting in two decades of increasingly severe economic sanctions imposed by Congress on Iran and on American and foreign entities seeking to do business with Iran.

When the Shah was deposed, a German entity had almost finished building the nuclear power plant at Bushehr. A French entity had begun the construction of two nuclear power plants at Darkhovin.

Nothwithstanding their NPT and IAEA obligations, Germany and France, under intense U.S. pressure, cancelled those projects.

Iran’s billion-dollar investment in a large uranium-enrichment plant in France was also effectively confiscated.

When Iraq invaded Iran in 1980, Congress actually intensified sanctions on Iran!

In the early 1990s China contracted to build two nuclear power plants at Darkhovin and a turn-key uranium-conversion facility at Isfahan and the Russians agreed to provide Iran a turn-key gas-centrifuge uranium-enrichment plant.

As a result of intense U.S. pressure and the threat of sanctions against both China and Russia, all projects – except the completion of the Bushehr nuclear power plant – were cancelled.

At this point it is worth noting that the NPT does not prohibit Iran from producing – subject to IAEA Safeguards – weapons-grade uranium or plutonium.

Nor does the NPT prohibit Iran from producing or otherwise acquiring ballistic missiles capable of delivering small, sophisticated nuclear weapons to Israel.

Nevertheless, two years ago, IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei publicly announced that – although he had found no indication that (a) there were any undeclared “source or special nuclear materials” in Iran nor that (b) “source or special nuclear materials” were being or had ever been “used in furtherance of a military purpose” – he still had “concerns” that Iran had been unwilling to address.

You see, "senior intelligence officials" had briefed ElBaradei and senior staff on some of the sensitive “intelligence” they had gleaned from what they claimed was a “stolen Iranian laptop computer.”

On February 4, 2006, as a result of extreme pressure by the United States, the IAEA Board of Governors adopted an outrageous resolution – alluding to that laptop "intelligence" – in which it concluded that for “confidence” to be built “in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program” it was “deemed necessary” for Iran to, inter alia;

“implement transparency measures, as requested by the Director General, including in GOV/2005/67, which extend beyond the formal requirements of the Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol, and include such access to individuals, documentation relating to procurement, dual use equipment, certain military-owned workshops and research and development as the Agency may request in support of its ongoing investigations.”

The principal objective of the IAEA is "to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world."

In accomplishing its principal objective the IAEA "shall ensure, so far as it is able" that assistance "under its supervision or control is not used in such a way as to further any military purpose."

That’s the limit of its authority.

The IAEA Board outrageously exceeds its authority when it "deems it necessary" for ElBaradei to satisfy himself of the exclusively peaceful nature of "certain military-owned workshops" and their activities not subject to IAEA Safeguards.

Nevertheless, as a result of extreme U.S. pressure, the UN Security Council subsequently implicitly agreed that until Iran has satisfied ElBaradei’s concerns, Iran somehow posed some threat to peace in the region. So, UNSCR-1696 "called" upon other states to apply sanctions on Iran until such time as ElBaradei so satisfies himself.

Last month ElBaradei came to an agreement with Iran that – if faithfully implemented – he expects will "clear up" suspicions about Iran’s uranium-enrichment program.

ElBaradei made it "clear" that if Iran is far beyond being in total compliance with its IAEA Safeguards Agreement, then his job is done. The question of whether Iran is allowed to go on enriching uranium is none of his business.

What about those "smoking laptop" allegations?

"Iran reiterated that it considers the following alleged studies as politically motivated and baseless allegations. The Agency will however provide Iran with access to the documentation it has in its possession regarding: the Green Salt Project, the high explosive testing and the missile re-entry vehicle.

"As a sign of good will and cooperation with the Agency, upon receiving all related documents, Iran will review and inform the Agency of its assessment."

Nevertheless, the new French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, apparently trying to curry favor with the Likudniks in France and elsewhere, still considers the U.S.-Iranian "stand-off" the world’s “the greatest crisis,” confronting the world with “a catastrophic alternative: an Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran.”

To which Nobel Laureate ElBaradei responded "I would hope that everybody would have gotten the lesson after the Iraq situation, where 700,000 innocent civilians have lost their lives on the suspicion that a country has nuclear weapons.”

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.