Iran’s Sisyphean Task

Sisyphus was a character in Greek mythology, condemned to roll a huge rock to the top of a steep hill, with said accursed rock rolling back down again the moment Sisyphus thought he had accomplished his task.

In the modern version of this Greek tragedy, G. Aghazadeh, Vice-President of Iran and President of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, has been cast as Sisyphus.

The tragedy has its origin in the 1974 agreement between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency for the application of "safeguards" – in accordance with the IAEA Statute – on certain materials and activities proscribed by the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The Safeguards Agreement was agreed to by Iran "for the exclusive purpose of verification" by the IAEA "with a view of preventing diversion" of any "source or special fissionable material" to a military purpose.

IAEA Safeguards were to be applied to all Iranian source or special fissionable materials, whether being stored or chemically/physically produced, processed, transformed, utilized or disposed of as waste.

Last week Mohamed ElBaradei, IAEA Director-General, made his most recent report to the IAEA Board of Governors, entitled "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions 1737 and 1747 in the Islamic Republic of Iran."

So, what does ElBaradei have to say about the Iranian NPT Safeguards Agreement?

"The Agency has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran.

"Iran has provided the Agency with access to declared nuclear material and has provided the required nuclear material accountancy reports in connection with declared nuclear material and activities."

Okay, that’s that. The huge rock has been pushed to the top. Iran continues to be in full compliance with all its obligations assumed as a NPT signatory.

But ElBaradei goes on.

"Iran has also responded to questions and provided clarifications and amplifications on the issues raised in the context of the work plan, with the exception of the alleged studies."

Work plan? Alleged studies?

What is ElBaradei talking about?

Well, on August 21, 2007, ElBaradei came to an “understanding” with Iran on a “work plan" for resolving outstanding “issues” – many of them originally raised in the summer of 2005, by the Cheney Cabal, based upon studies allegedly contained on an stolen laptop computer, said to belong to an Iranian engineer (by then supposedly deceased) tangentially related to the implementation of Iran’s Safeguards Agreement.

But, according to ElBaradei:

"The Agency has been able to conclude that answers provided by Iran, in accordance with the work plan, are consistent with its findings — in the case of the polonium-210 experiments and the Gchine mine — or are not inconsistent with its findings — in the case of the contamination at the technical university and the procurement activities of the former Head of PHRC."

Okay, not only is Iran in full compliance with its NPT Safeguards Agreement, but has provided accurate or not-inaccurate explanations for a dozen or so "issues" – some of them related to activities in the 1980s and 1990s, many unrelated or that are only tangentially related to its compliance with its Safeguards Agreement.

"The one major remaining issue relevant to the nature of Iran’s nuclear program is the alleged studies on the "green salt" project, high explosives testing and the missile re-entry vehicle."

Then ElBaradei reminds the Board:

"However, it should be noted that the Agency has not detected the use of nuclear material in connection with the alleged studies, nor does it have credible information in this regard."

So, no need to push the rock to the top again; the alleged studies are evidently none of the IAEA Board’s business.

The principal mission of the IAEA is to "enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world." In accomplishing its principal mission, the IAEA "shall ensure, so far as it is able" that any such contribution under its control "is not used in such a way as to further any military purpose."

But, you see, back in November, 2003, Iran signed an Additional Protocol to its Safeguards Agreement, and immediately began cooperating with ElBaradei in advance of its entering into force, legally.

Under the Additional Protocol, ElBaradei would be justified in making the following statements about the "alleged studies":

"This is a matter of serious concern and critical to an assessment of a possible military dimension to Iran’s nuclear program.

"The Agency was able to show some relevant documentation to Iran on 3–5 February 2008 and is still examining the allegations made and the statements provided by Iran in response.

"Iran has maintained that these allegations are baseless and that the data have been fabricated.

"The Agency’s overall assessment requires, inter alia, an understanding of the role of the uranium metal document, and clarifications concerning the procurement activities of some military related institutions still not provided by Iran."

But, ElBaradei’s report makes clear that "an understanding" of the "uranium metal document" requires a response to his questions by Pakistan, not Iran.

ElBaradei’s report also makes it clear that Iran has provided explanations of virtually all "procurement activities" involving "military-related institutions" that can only be described as "dual-use" equipment, such as vacuum pumps.

Finally, ElBaradei notes that;

"The Agency only received authorization to show some further material to Iran on 15 February 2008. Iran has not yet responded to the Agency’s request of that same date for Iran to view this additional documentation on the alleged studies."

Incredible. On the eve of what was expected to be ElBaradei’s standard report on the total compliance of Iran with its Safeguards Agreement, also containing his final report on resolution of the issues addressed in the "work plan," the National Council of Resistance on Iran – the “political arm” of a U.S. State Department designated “terrorist organization” – went public with highly inflammatory and basically irrelevant charges to the IAEA that Iran (a) had recently established a “new command and control center” at a military site at Mojdeh, a suburb of Tehran, for a program code-named Lavizan-2, and (b) was actively pursuing “production of nuclear warheads” at a military site at Khojir, code-named B1-Nori-8500.

So, according to ElBaradei, he didn’t even get permission from the Cheney Cabal to reveal to the Iranians the latest "terrorist organization" charges until a week before he finished his final report on the "work plan," and, as of the date of his report to the IAEA Board, Iran had not yet even had a chance to learn what allegations had been made.

"In an interview concerning his latest report, ElBaradei attempted to explain why his verification of the non-diversion of Iranian NPT proscribed materials – thereby concluding his NPT-enabled mission – was not the end of it. In light of the above, the Agency is not yet in a position to determine the full nature of Iran’s nuclear program.

"In addition to our work, to clarify Iran´s past nuclear activities, we have to make sure, naturally, that Iran´s current activities are also exclusively for peace purposes and for that we have been asking Iran to conclude the so called Additional Protocol, which gives us the additional authority to visit places, additional authority to have additional documents, to be able to provide assurance, not only that Iran´s declared activities are for peaceful purposes but that there are no undeclared nuclear activities."

What ElBaradei should have said was, if and only if the Iranian Parliament had ratified the Additional Protocol, then he would have been authorized to "clarify Iran’s past nuclear activities" and to attempt to provide assurance that there are no "undeclared nuclear activities."

But, thanks to the Cheney Cabal’s "smoking laptop" accusations, beginning in the summer of 2005, the Iranian Parliament declined to ratify the Additional Protocol and two years ago and directed their Atomic Energy Organization to stop complying with any of its provisions.

So, ElBaradei isn’t so authorized. And, as far as the Iranians are concerned, Sisyphus can cease perputally rolling the Cheney Cabal’s giant rock to the top of the hill.

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.