Albright Wrong on Legal Analysis Again

See this ISIS report by David Albright, just posted today.  It’s a rundown of “facts” about two companies that may have worked with an Iranian defense organization called the Physics Research Center (PHRC) in the 1990’s, and whose work with the PHRC may have aided in the PHRC’s obtaining items from abroad that may or may not have violated other countries’ export control laws. Yawn. And from these facts there can, of course, be no other conclusion than the one reached by Albright that “the PHRC was part of a chain of secret organizations, the long-term aim of which was to lay the basis for nuclear weapons development.”

Sitting here in 2012, it’s hard to see how a study like this of possible export control violations by Iran 15-20 years ago is of any real relevance and usefulness to the current set of legal and diplomatic issues regarding Iran.

But as a legal matter, I take issue substantively with David’s conclusion, which is:

More generally, the IAEA needs to continue investigating the PHRC. It should insist that Iran answer questions derived from PHRC procurement information as part of the IAEA verifying the completeness of Iran’s declarations under its comprehensive safeguards agreement. The IAEA has the legal mandate to do so and the international community should support this effort.

Apparently David just couldn’t resist making another legal assessment, even after our pointed conversation about his doing so a while ago.  Well, his assessment is just as wrong on this outing. Currently, the IAEA does not have a legal mandate to assess the completeness of Iran’s CSA declaration. Only its correctness, as I’ve been explaining in my contributions to the current Roundtable at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists site,  and as I discussed in greater detail in a previous post here .  

So whatever the PHRC may or may not have done back in the 1990’s, it’s ancient history now and irrelevant to, and merely a distraction from, the real current issues regarding Iran. And the IAEA does not in fact have the authority to investigate it. Wrong again, David.


8 Comments on “Albright Wrong on Legal Analysis Again”

  1. yousaf says:

    Albright is not a legal expert so I usually do not pay attention to what he thinks on legal issues. Unfortunately, many in the media appear to think that ISIS has credibility on legal issues.

    And I think this 15-20 compendium of telexes was posted by the ISIS outfit some months back — not news in any sense of the word.

  2. Apparently Albright’s job is to speculate endlessly about things, and demand that the IAEA disprove his speculation. He raised a fuss about Parchin based on nothing more than his opinion that IF there was a secretly weapons program in Iran, Parchin would be a “logical candidate” for the location. And when the IAEA inspectors found nothing there, he demanded additional inspections of a location within Parchin because there was excavation work..and that’s it. The existence of excavation was enough as far he was concerned.

    • Dan Joyner says:

      Exactly. I like your iran affairs piece.

    • yousaf says:

      Same M.O. as on Iraq: parade satellite pictures of stuff and speculate and demand access and help cause a war.

      • Cyrus says:

        Well now the allegations aren’t that Iran conducted nuclear experiments there, but that Iran conducted “possibly weapons RELATED” experiments there. Again, this is typical — if you don’t have proof, just make the accusation more ambiguous. The point is to shift the burden of proof, so that the Iranians (like the Iraqis) are put in the position of having to proven a negative. Having shifted the burden of proof, they raise the evidentiary bar: Iran not only has to prove that it doesn’t have “undeclared” nuclear activities (thanks to the misapplication of the Additional Protocol to non-signatory Iran) but also it has to prove that it could not possibly use its civilian, IAEA-monitored, NPT-compliant nuclear program make weapons at some indefinite point in the future. The beneift of this is, of course, that no amount of fruitless IAEA inspections can disprove that Iran (or any other country) could not possibly do something in the indefinite future. With apologies to Dan for tooting my own horn yet again:

  3. Johnboy says:

    Dan, is it possible that the simplest explanation is the correct one i.e. Albright keeps getting this wrong because he simply isn’t capable of comprehending the difference between “completeness” and “correctness”?

    • Dan Joyner says:

      Hi Johnboy, yes I think the reason he keeps getting legal analysis wrong is because he is making assessments out of his depth of his professional training. He doesnt understand the relevant sources or standards, yet he insists on making analyses of them. Its enigmatic to me why everyone thinks they can do legal interpretation. In the nonproliferation area most of the legal analysis I see is wrong, because its being done by non-lawyers. What a surprise.

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