[UPDATE: text now published by Obama's NSC] Neither White House nor State Department have published deal on Iran's nuclear program.

From the IAEA meetings in Vienna this morning, this Tweet noting that the U.S. Government had still not published the text of the deal agreed in Geneva very early on Sunday:
Mark Hibbs @MarkHibbsCEIP — Heard here in Vienna just now that USG still has not published the text of the #Iran deal.

But British journalist Julian Borger of The Guardian replied, by Twitter:
@julianborger — @MarkHibbsCEIP NSC [the U.S. President’s National Security Councii] emailed it [the Joint Plan of Action] a few days ago, but I can’t find it either on the State Dept or White House websites. Just the ‘fact’ sheet.

UPDATE: Now, The full text of the Joint Plan of Action can be found on the National Security Council website here — the posting seemed to have been on November 27.

The full text of the deal was published first by the Fars News Agency here, and then picked up with a caveat by Reuters here. It wasn’t until many hours later that it was also posted on the European Union’s website here.

A full day after the deal, the U.S. State Department Tweeted a link to the EU website for the Joint Plan of Action
Joshua H. Pollack @Joshua_Pollack 25 Nov — This appears to be the best text online MT @StateDept: Read the P5+1 and #Iran Joint Plan of Action [here].

Mark Hibbs [Berlin-based Senior Associate, Nuclear Policy Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace] replied, on Twitter:
@MarkHibbsCEIP — @julianborger Maybe they reasoned that if EU-3 felt it owned the Iran negotiation, it could own the document-!

The White House published only a “Fact Sheet”, here, which appears to be a list of U.S. talking points on the first phase of this deal.

From Washington, Joshua Pollack [consultant to the US government, contributor to the Arms Control Wonk blog and to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists] Tweeted earlier:
@Joshua_Pollack — Iran’s MFA dislikes the White House fact sheet on the Joint Plan of Action: see here … Well, the fact sheet is not diplomatic.

He described what’s wrong, for the Iranians, in the White House Fact Sheet
@Joshua_Pollack — Irritants in the WH fact sheet: triumphal tone, emphasis on Iranian concessions, continuing sanctions, & temporary nature of relief, (1/2)
@Joshua_Pollack — Irritants in the WH fact sheet, ctd: …naming Parchin, Additional Protocol, Modified Code 3.1. Same substance, different spin. (2/2)
@Joshua_Pollack — Both Iran’s govt and the USG need to sell the JPOA at home. But these efforts could “bleed over” to the other side. Spin with care!

Then, Mark Hibbs pointed to the remarks made by Iran’s Foreign Minister to the Majlis as being equally provocative:
@MarkHibbsCEIP — @Joshua_Pollack On other side @JZarif spin on Arak to placate hardliners in #Iran will cause @teaparty heartburn here

Earlier, Iraniah journalist Hassan Soleimani reported:
H.Soleimani @MashreghNews_ir — FM #zarif in parlimnt.: revert to 20% enrichment takes only one hour.

Meanwhile, on 26 November, as Robert Mackey reported here on his New York Times blog, TheLede, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry posted a Youtube explanating the U.S. view of the deal in “simple English”:

And, also thanks to Mackey’s TheLede, here is Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif explaining the deal on Iranian TV [IRIB], with English subtitles:

Iranian Foreign Ministry exasperated: White House didn't publish deal, only its own talking points

Iran FM @JZarif told the Majlis, or Parliament today: “While we were negotiating (in Geneva), the White House released a text as a fact sheet of the negotiations … While they could release the original text..they released that fact sheet because they wanted to make their desired changes in it”. This is reported here.

It was confusing, on Sunday, after the agreement was announced following hours of exhausting negotiations. Why was it so hard to find an authoritative version of the text of the Joint Plan of Action agreed in Geneva?

The full text of the deal was published first by the Fars News Agency here, and then picked up hours later, with a caveat, by Reuters here. Then, many more hours later, it was posted on the European Union’s website here.

Meanwhile, the White House published only a “Fact Sheet”, here, which appears to be a list of U.S. talking points on the first phase of this deal.

Continue reading “Iranian Foreign Ministry exasperated: White House didn't publish deal, only its own talking points”

"We have reached an agreement"

At about 4 in the morning in Geneva, the Foreign Ministers the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Counci [the worlds only recognized nuclear powers], plus Germany, plus the European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton, stood before the press in the Palais des Nations in Geneva to affirm the earlier Tweet by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif announcing that they had agreed on a deal.
@JZarif 24 Nov — “We have reached an agreement”.

The deal is a six-month first phase in a process that is expected to last about a year…

Continue reading “"We have reached an agreement"”

Geneva talks about Iran's nuclear program end without agreement but on an up-note, will resume 20 November

Talks on Iran’s nuclear program that technically entered a fourth day in Geneva ended just after midnight on Sunday morning,  on an up-note.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told exhausted journalists that in fact the talks had been very productive and positive.  “We do have our differences”, Zarif said, “but that’s why we’re here…because of our differences”.  But, Zarif indicated, he thought there could be agreement on a resolution at the next meeting, now set for 20 November [also in Geneva].

“What we were looking for was political will and determination, in order to end this phase and move to an end game’, Zarif said at the press conference. “I think we are all on the same wavelength”.

Analysts have said that the failure to agree on a deal tonight, however, will open the way for a campaign with renewed strength by its opponents, including inside Iran, inside the US, and also in Israel — where Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has vowed to go it alone against the perceived Iranian threat — and even to do “whatever is necessary” to defend the security of the state of Israel.

Iran has been subject to an increasingly tough sanctions regime imposed by the UN Security Council since 2006, and also bilaterally by the US + the EU for refusing to stop its uranium enrichment.   When Iran did not stop its enrichment, the U.S, pushed for several sets of increasingly restrictive and punitive sanctions.  They have  had a biting sting, but Iran has only increased it’s efforts. One of Iran’s main arguments against the sanctions is not about the suffering they’ve caused, but is rather to say that they haven’t worked — and that Iran has despite — and to spite — the sanctions, their scientists and technicians have been able to increase their enriched-uranium production capacity from a couple of hundred enrichment centrifuges, to something like 14,000 now.

Iranian elections earlier this year saw confrontational and “defiant” President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, who’d served the maximum two terms, replaced with “reformist” Hassan Rouhani. [Rouhani is a former nuclear negotiator who had previously tried, but failed — due to the opposition of the US under George W. Bush — to reach a deal with major powers that disapproved of Iran’s Islamic revolutionary tendencies].

The election and inauguration of Rouhani raised hopes of a possibility of accomodation — even as Israel raised heightened alarms about the advance in Iran’s nuclear prowess which Israel Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu argues mean inevitable weaponization, and a severe threat to Israel.

Netanyahu’s warnings have become increasingly strident in recent weeks, as the negotiations with Iran appeared to move forward. Netanyahu is opposed to any deal other than the complete dismantling of Iran’s uranium enrichment program and shutting down some of its nuclears installations [which, yes, does conform with what UN Security Council has demanded].

Haaretz wrote in an editorial that “Netanyahu continues to view the very diplomatic move itself as an existential threat, because it will leave Iran with a nuclear capability that could be transformed within a short period into bomb-making capability. ‘Israel is not obliged by this agreement’, Netanyahu said, nudging Israel toward the status of a country that is threatening the international consensus…Netanyahu can disagree with the American conception of how to best thwart Iran’s aspirations, but boasting of Israel’s ability to thumb its nose at the international diplomatic process is a dangerous threat in itself”.  This is published here.

There was apparently a very difficult meeting between Netanyahu and Secretary of State Kerry at Ben Gurion Airport on Friday, just before Kerry headed off to attend the talks in Geneva.  A joint press conference was cancelled, and Netanyahu came before the cameras to say dramatically and vehemently that the deal being considered in the Geneva talks was “a Very.Bad.Deal.”

Continue reading “Geneva talks about Iran's nuclear program end without agreement but on an up-note, will resume 20 November”

Mousavian: Iranian officials hid things from Iranian nuclear negotiators

It’s in a book review that AL-Monitor correspondent Barbara Slavin reports that Sayed Hussein Mousavian claims that Iranian officials hid certain things from Iranian nuclear negotiators.

Mousavian’s account is almost too easy an excuse — “we didn’t know”.

Mousavian appears to blame Iranian officials for hiding these significant developments from Iranian negotiators. But, even after Iranian nuclear negotiators [such as himself] became aware of these hidden facts, they appeared to continue to exhibit an excess of trust, and did not seem to press any demands for full disclosure.

And, the question naturally arises: why didn’t Mousavian say so earlier? He was under suspicion in Iran, he was imprisoned and once faced trial. But he was later able to leave for the U.S., and has been there for several years, teaching [and writing his book] at Princeton — during which time he could have mentioned this — he could have even simply given hints.

It has been assumed, at least until now, that despite the mutual disaffection between Mousavian and the current regime, that he was somehow serving as a conduit for discrete U.S.-Iranian contacts.

According to Slavin, Mousavian says in his newly-published book that “Iranian negotiators did not know that Iran had obtained from Pakistan drawings for advanced centrifuges knowns as P2s, along with less sensitive technology. ‘Once again, Iran was acknowledging facts after they had been discovered by others’, Mousavian writes of what happened after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) revealed the P2 drawings. ‘I more than once heard important news for the first time from IAEA officials or from foreign media and then had to work on reformulating plans to manage the crises that the news gave rise to’.” This is reported in Slavin’s review of Mousavian’s book [Iranian Nuclear Crisis: a Memoir], published on AL-Monitor, here.

Slavin writes that Mousavian says in his book that he only learned of the deep-underground uranium enrichment facility at Ferdow, near Qum, when President Obama mentioned it at a news conference in 2009 [though I think this revelation was in Obama’s speech before the UN General Assembly — not during a news conference].

Talks on Iran's nuclear program to resume on 23 May

After two sessions in one day in Istanbul on Saturday 14 April, six nations agreed to meet again with Iranian delegation on 23 May — in Baghdad.

Baghdad — that’s a strange choice of venue.
[Are we supposed to believe that Iran prefers Baghdad, because it’s annoyed with Turkey?]

Here is a photo of Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili, speaking to the press after today’s talks. The photo was taken by Turkish journalist Mahir Zeynalov [@MahirZeynalov on Twitter], and posted here:

Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili speaking in Istanbul after talks on his country's nuclear program - photo by Mahir Zeynalov

Zeynalov Tweeted that in the photo, “Jalili sticks large Iran map above Istanbul, with big “PERSIAN GULF,” assassinated scientists & message to Israel” —

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi wrote in an opinion piece published Friday in The Washington Post [see below] that “Despite sanctions, threats of war, assassinations of several of our scientists and other forms of terrorism, we have chosen to remain committed to dialogue”.

Persian Gulf is the official name, used by the UN, to refer to that body of water.

Scott Peterson wrote in the Christian Science Monitor that “Above a map of Iran was written a common official slogan: ‘Nuclear energy for all; nuclear weapons for none’….”that slogan, in English,  is visible in the poster above.

Press TV noted here that in the talks, “The secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, says Iran insists on the recognition of its rights as stipulated in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)”.

Another story by Press TV reported that “Sources close to the Iranian delegation said Iranian negotiators have rejected multiple requests from US for bilateral negotiations both after the first round of talks and before the beginning of the second round. Meanwhile, the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, has met three times with Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili over the past 24 hours”.

Scott Peterson wrote in the Christian Science Monitor here that Jalili “described the talks as ‘successful’, and noted that Khamenei’s fatwa was ‘welcomed’ by the P5+1”. Peterson added that Jalili said the statement, “opposing the use and production of nuclear bombs, was highlighted by the other side … They consider it valuable and it creates an opportunity and capacity for cooperation on international disarmament and nuclear nonproliferation”,

Ashton’s role in these six-nation talks with Iran seems more high-profile than that of previous EU High Representatives.

Details of what went on in the series of bilateral and group meetings in Istanbul on Friday and Saturday are scarce, but comments from those involved suggest there might be small steps taken between now and the next round of talks on 23 May.

Zvi Bar’el reported in Haaretz here just after midnight that “Sources close to the talks told Haaretz that the Iranians are demanding an American and European commitment not to carry out a military attack on their country as long as the talks continue”…

Continue reading “Talks on Iran's nuclear program to resume on 23 May”

Six-nation talks with Iran about its nuclear program have begun in Istanbul

Six-nations talks with Iran about its nuclear program have started in Istanbul.

The last such talks, also held in Istanbul, ended without progress in January 2011.

    UPDATE: After two sessions, it was agreed that further talks will be held on May 23 — in Baghdad. [For those of us with memories of the Iran-Iraq war, this is very wierd.]

Now, these talks are being held under the threat of a possible Israeli military attack to stop Iran before it develops nuclear weapons. Israeli officials have recently suggested, however, that a strike may not be needed before 2013.

The six nations facing Iran are the five permanent members of the UN Security Council [the U.S., Russia, China, France, and Britain, who are the only countries in the world with the veto power to stop any resolution at the UN Security Council, and who also just so happen to be the world’s only officially recognized and “legitimate” nuclear powers, according to the NPT Treaty] — plus Germany. For this reason, the talks are often called “P5+1” talks with Iran.

The EU’s Catherine Ashton [white jacket] talking with Turkey’s FM Ahmet Davutoglu in Istanbul on Saturday morning as talks with Iran about its nuclear program got underway

EU Photo of High Rep Catherine Ashton talking with Turkey's FM Ahmed Davutoglu as the talks began in Istanbul on Saturday morning 13 April 2012

Germany is included because of the great interest it showed for this process in the early 2000s, when one of Iran’s chief nuclear negotiators, Hossein Mousavian, was also Ambassador to Berlin.

European officials prefer to refer to these “P5+1” talks instead as “E3+3” talks — meaning three European powers [Germany, France, and Britain] plus three others [U.S., Russia, China].

U.S. President Obama has also made Israeli officials happy recently by saying that he will not tolerate Iranian nuclear weaponization.

Over two years ago, Israeli analysts at the Tel Aviv-based INSS [Institute for National Security Studies] said that Iran would not pose an “existential threat” to Israel when it was on the threshold of being able to put a nuclear weapon together — as it apparently is now. Nor would Iran not be an “existential threat” when it had one nuclear weapon, or when it tested a nuclear weapon. Iran would need 4 to 8 nuclear weapons assembled and ready-to-use, the experts said, to be an “existential threat” — because it would need a second-strike capability. That means, if Iran fires first, and Israel retaliates, Iran would need to be able to hit back. Nuclear-weapon-armed submarines, capable of sailing far from their home bases, are one of the factors that show a second-strike capability”.

Iranian officials have said they have no intention of making or ever using nuclear weapons — which one senior cleric has called “satanic”.

The Iranian delegation that arrived in Istanbul yesterday said they hoped both sides would be prepared to present “new intitiatives”.

A U.S. Defense Official testified to the International Court of Justice in the mid-1990s, in a case brought against nuclear weapons, that contrary to the argument that nuclear weapons are too dangerous to use, America in fact uses its nuclear weapons every day, on a daily basis — as a deterrent to attack.

Though Iran has argued that it is developing its nuclear energy and medical capacity out of national necessity as well as its national, sovereign right to do so. However, having the capability to assemble a nuclear weapon, if it wanted, elevates Iran to the status of major regional power — and it also acts as a powerful deterrent to attacks.

Robert Nariman wrote in Huffington Post, here, that “There are four reasons for Iran to have a nuclear program, srtated and not-so-stated: [1] energy, [2] medical isotopes, [3] national prestige, and [4] deterring a U.S. or Israeli attack … In particular, a perverse benefit of all the warmongering against Iran is that every time U.S. officials counter the warmongering by saying that a military strike against Iran would be counterproductive because it would drive the Iranians towards nuclear weaponization, it underscores the fact that Iran derives important national security benefits from enrichment without ever needing to crack a textbook on weaponization, nor enrich to 20 percent, nor build a deeper tunnel. If I’m an official in Iran’s enrichment program, every time a U.S. official says that a military strike on Iran’s nuclear program would be counterproductive to U.S. interests, I get a little bit more convinced that I’m never going to need to try to build a nuclear weapon to protect my country from military attack”.

However, expectations are said to be low all around. Sanctions against Iran, imposed bilaterally in addition to three rounds agreed by the UN Security Council, will not be lifted anytime soon — unless Iran completely stops its uranium enrichment, which Iran has said it is unwilling to do.

The stated aim of the six-nations, as determined by leaks from American and European officals to major American media last weekend, might possibly be some temporary suspension of Iran’s 20% uranium enrichment program that produces nuclear fuel rods of the degree needed to run the Tehran Research Reactor in order to produce domestic medical isotopes for medical treatment including against cancer. Iran succeeded in successfully managing this 20%-enrichment technology in 2010. The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Program has suggested that this production could be suspended — but only once Iran’s “needs” are met.

But, Iranian officials have made it clear, for years, that they could nave no faith in international promises to supply enriched uranium for its nuclear reactors, in light of the 30-year history of freezing of assets, confiscation of aircraft and civilian aircraft parts, and other sanctions that have been imposed non-stop ever since Iran’s Islamic Revolution.

Continue reading “Six-nation talks with Iran about its nuclear program have begun in Istanbul”

Pre-talk pessimism

As Iran’s enigmatic-by-necessity former nuclear negotiator Hossein Mosavian [now living in the U.S. after being jailed in Iran for his contacts abroad] has written, here [see previous articles, http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/274770], the six-country talks with Iran about its nuclear program that are scheduled to take place this weekend in Istanbul are the first time in nine years that there may be any chance of breakthrough.

And, as Mousavian also noted, these talks also offer a chance for the US and Iran “to begin a serious dialogue to resolve more than three decades of hostilities, mistrust, and tension”.

But, many are voicing pessimism.

The U.S., Russia, China, France, and the U.K. — the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, who also happen to be, by the terms of the NPT Treaty, the world’s only legitimate nuclear powers — plus Germany, are all to meet this weekend with Iranian negotiators to discuss their high level of concern about Iranian nuclear intentions. The last P5+1 meeting with Iran was also in Istanbul, in January 2011.

Since then, there has been a constant stream of speculation about whether or not Israel will launch a military strike on Iran to stop any possible progress towards a nuclear weapon.

But, in the past week, a high ranking Israeli military official and a noted Iranian member of Parliament have both said that Iran already does have the capability, or the ability, to put together a nuclear warhead.

Cyrus Safdari has written a post on April 9 entitled “Why Iran nuclear talks will fail…again” on his Iran Affairs blog, here, that “There is a pattern here that just can’t be ignored, of the US deliberately raising the bar, moving goalposts, and imposing demandst that it knows will be rejected by Iran. The point, you see, is not to actually engage Iran in any sort of substantive dialog, but to give the US an opportunity to say ‘Hey we tried diplomacy and the Iranians ruined it’. So, as usuall, we have the US imposing demands on Iran even before any negotiations start, with no prospect that the US can ever provide anything in return as a quid-pro-quo. In fact, as I had explained before, the Obama administration is simply not ABLE to give anything back to Iran since US sanctions are imposed mainly by Congress, and Congress isn’t about to lift any sanctions in return for Iranian agreements to give up any part of their nuclear program. So, there will be some dickering in the media as usual but eventually the negotiations will fail and the US/Israeli will naturally blame Iran…So don’t hold your breath, these talks will also ‘fail’. The entire nuclear issue is, after all, just a pretext”.

In his previous post, here, Safdari wrote even if Iran were to agree to, say, a suspension or freeze [or even to a complete capitulation], “any move by Iran which actually reaches a compromise deal with the US as being merely a ‘tactical and temporary’ delay in Iran’s alleged quest for nuclear weapons. This is what the hawks will call any deal that is reached with Iran, if one is ever reached: a plot by the Iranians to ‘sow dissension’ in those opposed to them, so as to ‘buy time’ to make bombs”.

Trita Parsi, in a piece in the Huffington Post that Cyrus Safdari has criticized in his latest [April 9] post, wrote that “there are some indications that the next round of talks may differ little from previous failed discussions. Driven by limited political maneuverability at home, domestic pressure not to compromise, and a perception of strength that lures the parties to believe they can force on the other a fait accompli, the talks have often been about imposing terms of capitulation on the other. It has never succeeded”.

Continue reading “Pre-talk pessimism”

Israeli military officials signal they are fully briefed on upcoming talks with Iran about its nuclear program

In advance of important talks with Iran about its nuclear program on 13 [or 14?] April [apparently in Istanbul, after all] Israeli Maj-Gen (res) Amos Gilad said in a briefing in Jerusalem this week that Iran, today, has ability to put together a nuclear weapon [but probably won’t].

Iran does “have the know-how to assemble a nuclear warhead, if they want to do it … it depends on their decision”, he said.

Gilad spoke on Tuesday 2 April to diplomats, military attaches, ranking UNTSO “blue beret” military observers, and journalists at a briefing at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs [JCPA].

He suggested in his talk that he is enjoying some sort of retirement [at least, from direct responsibility for intelligence, he implied] — but he is still described as the Israeli Ministry of Defense’s Director of Policy and Political-Military Affairs.

“I agree there’s no existential threat to Israel [now], but if Iran develops nuclear weapons, that could change. It [the threat to Israel from Iran] becomes serious”, Gilad said.

About Iran’s leadership, Gilad said, “We need to be humble. They are not stupid… Consider your enemy as more intelligent than you. If Israel tells them something, they will ignore it — unless they come to the same conclusion themselves. And [Iran knows] there is a consensus now”.

He said, “the moment they feel immune, they will [might] cross the Rubicon”. But, he noted, even if they do the opposite, and pull back from the brink, “they will keep the capability”.

Gilad spoke on Tuesday.

By Friday [allowing time for translations, reaction, and reportage], there appeared to be confirmation of this from Iran itself.

The Associated Press published a headline-making story, datelined Tehran, picked up by media from around the world, reporting that prominent Iranian parliamentarian Gholamreza Mesbahi Moghadam “said Iran can easily produce the highly enriched uranium that is used to build atomic bombs but it is not Tehran’s policy to go that route”. According to AP, Moghadam told icana.ir that “There is a possibility for Iran to easily achieve more than 90 (percent) enrichment”. One place this report was published was here.

But, the Iranian politician said more than that. He said that Iran can also actually produce a nuclear weapon — and that takes more than just highly-enriched uranium: “‘Iran has the scientific and technological capability to produce (a) nuclear weapon, but will never choose this path’, Moghadam told the parliament’s news website, icana.ir, late Friday”.

The Washington Post’s David Ignatius [@IgnatiusPost on Twitter] reported that Obama sent message to Iran via Turkey last week [but “delicate issue” of enrichment not clear]. Ignatius’ WPost story [see below] is posted here.

Amos Gilad [IDF Maj-Gen res] said Iran has 5,5 tons of Lightly Enriched Uranium and is “dealing with” 20% enrichment [warheads need higher, over 90% enrichment].

Iran’s stock of Lightly Enriched Uranium at 3-4% is the degree used to run civilian nuclear power plants, as Iran says it’s preparing to do.

It seems that this Iranian claim now being accepted … or, at least, it is not considered as alarming as it previously was, in recent years.

But 20% enrichment of uranium [Iran has experimented with at least two different technologies to arrive at this level] is another matter. Iran has explained that its 20% enriched uranium is for medical usage [in a research reactor that will produce medical isotopes to treat cancer, etc.]

Amos Gilad [IDF Maj-Gen res] furrowed his brow and shook his head, when he spoke about Iran’s uranium enrichment program…

Apparently, 20% enrichment is too much — perhaps because once there’s capability to enrich uranium to 20% level, it becomes possible to do more or less the same to arrive at military grade +90%.

Continue reading “Israeli military officials signal they are fully briefed on upcoming talks with Iran about its nuclear program”

IAEA passes "mild" resolution after its toughest report yet on Iran, UNGA denounces assassination plot

The IAEA has passed what appears to be a mild resolution in response to its toughest report yet about Iran’s nuclear program.

The IAEA report suggested that there was no way to understand parts of Iran’s nuclear research other than to believe there was an aim to study how a nuclear weapon might be developed.

The IAEA 35-member Board of Governors adopted the resolution — which expressed “deep and increasing concern about the unresolved issues regarding the Iranian nuclear program, including those which need to be clarified to exclude the existence of possible military dimensions” — on Friday 18 November.

The resolution also expressed the Board’s “continuing support for a diplomatic solution”. It called on Iran to implement an additional IAEA inspection protocol which is purely voluntary for other countries — Iran has been ordered to do so by a series of resolutions in the UN Security Council.

And the IAEA Board resolution also called on Iran “to engage seriously and without preconditions in talks aimed at restoring international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program, while respecting the legitimate right to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy consistent with the NPT”.

According to a report in the New York Times, “the global powers meeting in Vienna criticized Tehran on Friday over suspicions that it is building a nuclear weapon. The rebuke, however, fell far short of threatening further pressure or actions to curb Iran’s contentious uranium enrichment program”. This was attributed in part to objections from Russia and China. The NYTimes article can be read in full here.

The NYTimes report added that the Iranian representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, “accused the nuclear agency of endangering the lives of Iranian scientists by releasing their names in an annex to last week’s report about the suspicions of nuclear weapons work. ‘The release of the names of the Iranian nuclear scientists by the agency has made them targets for assassination by terrorist groups as well as the Israeli regime and the U.S. intelligence services’, he said in a letter to the body’s director general, Yukiya Amano. Parts of the letter were published by Iran’s state-financed Press TV satellite broadcaster, which noted that several Iranian nuclear scientists had been killed in episodes attributed by Iran to Israeli, British and American intelligence services. Mr. Soltanieh contended that disclosing the names of Iranian experts represented a violation of the agency’s rules and said Tehran reserved the right to seek damages from the agency for any harm to its personnel or property as a result of the report — a possible reference to Tehran’s frequently voiced fears of an Israeli military strike on its nuclear facilities”….

In a separate, but possibly related, matter, the U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is due to meet Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Canada on the sidelines of a larger meeting.

Apparently, Ambassador Soltanieh said that as a result of today’s vote, Iran had decided not to attend an upcoming IAEA meeting on establishing a nuclear-weapons-free-zone in the Middle East.

The publication of the IAEA report [which was leaked to the press within minutes of its distribution to the Board of Governors] has also been criticized by Seyed Hossein Mousavian, whose remarks are reported in an interview published by The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, here. The Bulletin describes Mousavian as “a lecturer and research scholar at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, is the highest-ranking member of Iran’s political elite living in the United States”. Here is an excerpt of the Q+A:

    Q [Ali Vaez]:…Back in 2008, Iran addressed most of these allegations in a 117-page response to the IAEA. Wouldn’t publication of this response be a more constructive move than taking umbrage at the IAEA?

    Mousavian: The IAEA has, unfortunately, broken the rules of the game. Iran does not want to commit the same mistake. The issues between the agency and member states should remain confidential. Iran respects the rules and does not disclose its communications with the agency. Yet, the content of the IAEA reports on Iran are leaked to the media ahead of their distribution among the agency’s member states. This is highly unprofessional and against the statute of the agency. Such behavior is highly damaging to the credibility of the IAEA, as an impartial international body. It also clearly demonstrates that the information is dictated to the agency from somewhere else in order to make the case for ratcheting up pressure on Iran. The publication of these allegations was a significant step backward.

    Continue reading “IAEA passes "mild" resolution after its toughest report yet on Iran, UNGA denounces assassination plot”