Yousaf Butt – Pretty in Pink: The Parchin Preoccupation Paradox

I’m delighted to welcome friend of the blog, Professor Yousaf Butt, as a guest contributor to ACL. Yousaf is a nuclear physicist, and is currently professor and scientist-in-residence at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.  The views expressed here are his own, and do not reflect institutional views of CNS or MIIS. I would also note that Yousaf has a piece just out in Foreign Policy today on how the Parchin obsession may be obstructing progress on the larger Iran issue.   DJ

Pretty in Pink: The Parchin Preoccupation Paradox

By: Yousaf Butt

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has just released an important new expert report on Iran’s nuclear program, specifically on the Parchin site of much recent interest to the IAEA. The report is a must-read for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the expertise of the author, Robert Kelley. Kelley is a nuclear engineer and a veteran of over 35 years in the US Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons complex, most recently at Los Alamos. He managed the centrifuge and plutonium metallurgy programs at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and was seconded by the US DOE to the IAEA where he served twice as Director of the nuclear inspections in Iraq, in 1992 and 2001.

Rarely, if ever, has such a technically qualified person spoken publicly on this important topic.

The SIPRI report dramatically revises the standard narrative in the mainstream western press about what is known about the Parchin site, and what – if anything — needs to be done about it. It also perfectly contextualizes the relative (un)importance of the IAEA gaining access to the site, and what the IAEA — and P5+1 countries — stands to gain or lose in the process of making a mountain out of a molehill on this issue. As Kelley states, “a careful review of the evidence available to date suggests that less has been going on at the site of interest than meets the eye.”

The dispute centers on “the IAEA’s request to visit a large military production complex located at Parchin, near Tehran. The request is part of the agency’s efforts to resolve questions about whether alleged Iranian nuclear activities have what IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano has called ‘possible military dimensions’.”  Note the “possible” there. Specifically, the IAEA says it has secret information (which it will not share, even with Iran) from a member state’s intelligence agency indicating that Iran may have constructed a large steel chamber in one of the buildings for conducting conventional high explosives experiments—some of which may have involved natural (not enriched) uranium—which could be associated with a secret program to do research on nuclear bombs.  As Kelley explains in the SIPRI report the whole scenario is a bit of a stretch from a technical standpoint.

“A chamber such as the one claimed to be in the building is neither necessary nor particularly useful for developing a first-generation nuclear weapon. Such development tests have normally been done outdoors for decades.”


“There are a range of experiments involving explosives and uranium that a country presumably would conduct as part of a nuclear weapon development programme. Most of these are better done in the open or in a tunnel. They include basic research on neutron initiators using very small amounts of explosive and grams of uranium and on the very precise timing of a neutron initiator using a full-scale conventional explosion system and many kilograms of uranium. The alleged chamber at Parchin is too large for the initiator tests and too small for a full-scale explosion. If it exists at all, it is a white elephant.”

And if someone is going to build a chamber like the one alleged in the secret evidence passed to the IAEA, they will want to do experiments and make measurements.  They will want to measure things with, for example:

·        very high speed optical cameras

·        flash X-ray systems (like an X-ray strobe light which gives you one x-ray of implosion in a

very short time)

·        neutron detectors

·        Various electric timing and pressure detectors.

The collar that is shown in the alleged graphic of the chamber gets in the way of the optical, X-ray and neutron measurements.  So it would be better not to have it there at all. The collar of the alleged chamber also means that when the chamber is used up to its design capacity it could well fail on the ends, the entrance door or the windows and cable ports for the measurements.

But before highlighting more of the take-aways from the SIPRI report, let me first briefly mention what other former senior IAEA officials have said about how the IAEA is handling the Parchin issue more broadly.

Firstly, let’s recall that the IAEA has already visited Parchin twice in 2005 and found nothing  – although they did not go to the specific area they are now interested in. However, the IAEA could have gone to that area even in 2005 – they simply chose to go to other sites on the military base. As the IAEA report at the time summarized:

“The Agency was given free access to those buildings and their surroundings and was allowed to take environmental samples, the results of which did not indicate the presence of nuclear material, nor did the Agency see any relevant dual use equipment or materials in the locations visited.”

When the IAEA last went to Parchin, Olli Heinonen was head of IAEA safeguards and led the inspections – the methodology for choosing which buildings to inspect is described in an excellent Christian Science Monitor article which is worth reading in its entirety, but I quote the relevant bits:

“At the time, it[Parchin] was divided into four geographical sectors by the Iranians. Using satellite and other data, inspectors were allowed by the Iranians to choose any sector, and then to visit any building inside that sector. Those 2005 inspections included more than five buildings each, and soil and environmental sampling. They yielded nothing suspicious, but did not include the building now of interest to the IAEA.

“The selection [of target buildings] did not take place in advance, it took place just when we arrived, so all of Parchin was available,” recalls Heinonen, who led those past inspections. “When we drove there and arrived, we told them which building.”

Would the Iranians really have risked exposing some nefarious nuclear weapons-related work at Parchin by making all of Parchin available to the IAEA in 2005?

In the same article Heinonen also explains why the current IAEA approach is deeply, logically flawed:

“Also unusual is how open and specific the IAEA has been about what exactly it wants to see, which could yield doubts about the credibility of any eventual inspection.

“I’m puzzled that the IAEA wants to in this case specify the building in advance, because you end up with this awkward situation,” says Olli Heinonen, the IAEA’s head of safeguards until mid-2010.

“First of all, if it gets delayed it can be sanitized. And it’s not very good for Iran. Let’s assume [inspectors] finally get there and they find nothing. People will say, ‘Oh, it’s because Iran has sanitized it,'” says Mr. Heinonen, who is now at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. “But in reality it may have not been sanitized. Iran is also a loser in that case. I don’t know why [the IAEA] approach it this way, which was not a standard practice…”

As for the typically tendentious reporting on this topic, which almost always casts Iran in a negative light, the words of Hans Blix, former head of the IAEA, bear repeating:

“Hans Blix, former chief of the IAEA and later of UN weapons inspectors in Iraq, has also expressed surprise at the focus on Parchin, as a military base that inspectors had been to before.

“Any country, I think, would be rather reluctant to let international inspectors to go anywhere in a military site,” Mr. Blix told Al Jazeera English… “In a way, the Iranians have been more open than most other countries would be.”

One of the reasons that Mr. Blix says that is because normally the IAEA does not have the legal authority to inspect undeclared non-nuclear-materials related facilities, in a nation – like Iran — that has not ratified the Additional Protocol. The IAEA can call for “special inspections” but they have not done so. They can also choose arbitration, as specified in the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, but again they have not done that.

In fact, the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement  between Iran and the IAEA states quite clearly that its “exclusive purpose” is to verify that nuclear material “is not diverted to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” Nothing else – that is it exclusive purpose.  It does not cover conventional explosives testing, as suspected at Parchin (according to secret information given by a third-part intelligence agency). The IAEA itself has admitted that “absent some nexus to nuclear material the Agency’s legal authority to pursue the verification of possible nuclear weapons related activity is limited.”

Regarding the secret information from an unidentified intelligence agency, it is useful to keep in mind that in the past, forgeries have been passed along to the IAEA. (And, if recent leaks that the IAEA is using mathematically flawed graphs in its case against Iran are to be believed, the IAEA’s case is further weakened.)

So as Hans Blix stated, Iran has been more cooperative than other countries would be in the same situation, and indeed more cooperative than it legally needs to be. It has shown great goodwill by allowing the IAEA a visit to Parchin in 2005. And let’s not forget that in 2004, Brazilian authorities refused to give IAEA inspectors full access to the Resende uranium enrichment facility with nary a peep out of the “world community”.

But coming back to the SIPRI report, a couple more of the highlights:

“The IAEA says that Iran did very complex experiments involving explosives and many fibre-optic detectors and possibly uranium. However, the IAEA says these experiments were not done at Parchin but rather 500 km away at Marivan. In any case, the experiments at Marivan described in great detail by the IAEA would not use uranium.”

And has Iran demolished the building at Parchin that the IAEA wants to visit as some “experts” have claimed?

“No. Some reports implied that Iran had destroyed the building, but this is incorrect. The IAEA claims that five buildings on this site have been demolished but this cannot be seen in satellite imagery. Iran did demolish a small outbuilding on the same site that appears to have been a garage. It was probably demolished to make way for a new road that is being built at the Parchin complex. Another small structure, probably a garage or material store was reported destroyed but is still in place in the latest satellite imagery…The building of interest for the IAEA remains standing.”

Regarding reports  (e.g. from the ISIS group ) that Iran may be sanitizing the site, perhaps to prevent the IAEA from detecting uranium contamination, Kelley states:

“Iran has engaged in large-scale bulldozing operations on about 25 hectares near the Parchin building. This includes the bulldozing of old dirt piles to level a field 500 metres north of the building of interest. However, there has been no such activity in the area west of the building, except for removing some parking pads within about 10 m of it. The fact that the building’s immediate vicinity has been largely untouched on the west side strongly suggests that the purpose of the earth-moving operations was for construction and renovation work and not for ‘sanitizing’ the site by covering up contamination.”

What about the pink tarps mentioned by ISIS, supposedly to prevent satellites from viewing the inside of the buildings ?

The SIPRI report responds:

“In the summer of 2012 Iran began major renovations at the site. Workers decreased perimeter security by tearing down fences, demolished one outbuilding and began renovation of two buildings. They covered both buildings with pink styrofoam insulation…One building is completely covered with insulation and the other is about 60 per cent covered. Raw materials can be seen on the ground nearby. The buildings were then reroofed and are at different stages of renovation even today.”

A picture of the pink insulation is shown in the report.

Kelley concludes, “The impasse over the Parchin visit has taken on a symbolic importance that is distracting attention from the IAEA’s efforts to address a range of questions about the scope and nature of Iran’s nuclear programme… The IAEA is stretching its mandate to the limit in asking for access to a military site based on tenuous evidence.”

And, of course, let’s keep in mind that these allegations, suspicions and “concerns” (as opposed to actual legal issues) that the IAEA has about Parchin date from about a decade or more ago – if they are true at all. And that they relate to conventional explosives testing.

As for any current worries about nuclear weapons work in Iran, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, has confirmed that he has “a high level of confidence” that no such work is going on now. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has also weighed in: “Are they [Iranians] trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No.” And Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who spent more than a decade as the director of the IAEA, said that he had not “seen a shred of evidence” that Iran was pursuing the bomb. Adding, “I don’t believe Iran is a clear and present danger. All I see is the hype about the threat posed by Iran.”

There are a number of other problems in the IAEA reports on Iran: For example, the agency keeps saying in its reports that it cannot “provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran” nor that “all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.” But the agency cannot be expected to do this – that is not its job. Pierre Goldschmidt, the former deputy director of Safeguards at the IAEA summed it up well: “The Department of Safeguards doesn’t have the legal authority it needs to fulfill its mandate and to provide the assurances the international community is expecting.”

In fact, not only is it legally problematic to fulfill such a verification, it is a logical impossibility: The agency cannot prove the absence of something. There can always be somewhere in Iran where the IAEA has not looked. In fact, no one can reasonably task the IAEA to prove a negative in any country, whether it be in BrazilArgentina, or the 49 other nations for which it is still evaluating the absence of undeclared nuclear activity.

The only real concern with Iran at the moment is that it is stockpiling 20% enriched uranium and that it could — if it decided to weaponize in the future — further enrich it to weapons grade. This is a worry about a future potential, not something that is happening now. Brazil and Argentina could do similar things. Japan could leave the NPT and breakout also. This breakout potential is a well known and inherent flaw (or a “feature”, depending on one’s perspective) of the NPT. If the P5+1 countries (all nuclear-armed, aside from Germany) would like to close this loophole, they should consider a bold new “NPT 2.0” Treaty, such as the one I outlined in an article for Foreign Policy.

Despite the generally alarmist reporting on Iran, it is not at all an eminent threat. For 30 years it has been claimed that Iran is just about to weaponize, when in fact none of those claims have ever panned out.  For example, in 1984, Jane’s Defence Weekly quoted West German intelligence sources as saying that Iran’s bomb production “is entering its final stages”. In 1992, Bibi Netanyahu said Iran is 3-5 years from a bomb. He is just as wrong now, as he was then.

What about the claims that Iran’s allegedly covert enrichment plant at Fordow indicates a sinister weaponization intent?  Not necessarily — Iran’s perspective on its national security environment is likely different than the view in Washington or Jerusalem. The Iranians may see this location as a defensive measure to protect its legitimate nuclear program. They have surely heeded the lesson from Israel’s bombing of Iraq’s civilian Osirak reactor in 1981: There is no guarantee of safety when it comes to nuclear facilities in the Middle East, not even civilian ones. It’s a rough neighborhood. What is viewed with suspicion in the West may simply be seen as a defensive no-brainer in Tehran.

And, of course, Iran’s nuclear enrichment program was not covert by initial design. Iran’s nuclear program was kicked off in the 1950s with the full encouragement and support of the United States, under the auspices of president Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace program. In 1983, after the Islamic revolution, Iran went – in an overt way – to the IAEA to get help in setting up a pilot uranium enrichment facility. And the IAEA was then very receptive to the idea. According to an authoritative Nuclear Fuel article by the renowned Mark Hibbs, “IAEA officials were keen to assist Iran in reactivating a research program to learn how to process U3O8 into UO2 pellets and then set up a pilot plant to produce UF6, according to IAEA documents obtained by Nuclear Fuel.” But, according to Hibbs, “when in 1983 the recommendations of an IAEA mission to Iran were passed on to the IAEA’s technical cooperation program, the U.S. government then ‘directly intervened’ to discourage the IAEA from assisting Iran in production of UO2 and UF6. ‘We stopped that in its tracks,’ said a former U.S. official.”

So, yes, when Iran’s overt attempt was stymied politically, they obtained more covert means to set-up their enrichment facility. Enrichment facilities by their nature can be dual-use, of course, but they are certainly not disallowed under the NPT. And Iran’s allegedly “covert” or “sneaky” behavior may be largely a response to past politicization at the IAEA, and a lesson-learned from Israel’s bombing of Iraq’s civilian nuclear facility at Osirak in 1981. Unfortunately, the politicization has evidently only gotten worse since the 1980s. As representatives of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) at an IAEA board of governors meeting in 2010 already noted: “NAM notes with concern, the possible implications of the continued departure from standard verification language in the summary of the report of the director general [Yukio Amano].”  (NAM represents over 100 nations, a clear majority of the world community).

Regarding how intrusive IAEA inspectors are supposed to be, the model safeguards agreement (INFCIRC-153), is quite clear:

“The Agency shall require only the minimum amount of information and data consistent with carrying out its responsibilities under the Agreement. Information pertaining to facilities shall be the minimum necessary for safeguarding nuclear material subject to safeguards under the Agreement.”

This completely validates Mr. Hans Blix statement that Iran has already exceeded the typical level of cooperation required of it by letting the IAEA visit Parchin twice: “Any country, I think, would be rather reluctant to let international inspectors to go anywhere in a military site…in a way, the Iranians have been more open than most other countries would be.”

So, back to current events: Iran is known to be converting part of its 20% enriched UF6 gas to metallic form making a “breakout” that much harder. And Tehran has signaled that it is willing to suspend 20% uranium enrichment if some sanctions are removed: so if the P5+1 countries are serious about their concern about a — completely legal — possible future potential Iranian breakout capability using its 20% enriched uranium stockpile, and they would like Iran to foreclose that option then they should take Iran up on its offer to suspend 20% enrichment by lifting some sanctions. What is definitely not constructive is making a mountain out of the Parchin molehill – a molehill that the IAEA has visited twice before and found exactly nothing at.


23 Comments on “Yousaf Butt – Pretty in Pink: The Parchin Preoccupation Paradox”

  1. Muller says:

    Kelley distracts when mentioning that tunnels would be by far better locations for tests with high-explosives. He shows an example which can easily be identified on GoogleEarth. Construction work at that site had been done mainly after 2003. So why this irrelevant distraction?

    • Bob Kelley says:

      Muller, Your point is well-taken. Sometimes when editors and deadlines start breathng down your neck thare are some unfinished thoughts. The big chamber at Parchin, which may exist, is really a white elephant. Maybe something that Danilenko had dreamed of and he found some patsies to build for him.
      By the time it is installed in 2000 maybe the Iranians have figured it out, or maybe it broke on the first big shot. It needed a massive concrete collar to hold it together which is not ordinary. And in immediate subsequent years they build a tunnel complex nearby which is the Pakstani solution.
      The timing is a coincidence that they built it while the chamber building seemed pretty idle all through the 2000’s.
      Of course satellite imagery is a lousy way to identify ordinary rectangular buildings or underground complexes. It was just a thought. Sorry it bugged you!

      • Muller says:

        It did not bug me. I recalled that you recently had distracted when mentioning that “[M]ost nuclear weapon development tests have been carried out in the open air [sic] for obvious technical reasons.” See here:
        Do you have any un-/declassified information as to what kind of, where and when tests with high explosives have been conducted in Marivan, which is mentioned in the Annex of the November 2011 Iran report? “[F]urther information provided to the Agency by the same Member State indicates that the large scale high explosive experiments were conducted by Iran in the region of Marivan.”

      • robertkelley2012 says:

        Hello Muller
        The mention of Marivan is fascinating because the Agency gives a surprisingly thorough technical description the fiber optic breakout experiments and then says with a relatively high degree of certainty: “[F]further information provided to the Agency by the same Member State indicates that the large scale high explosive experiments were conducted by Iran in the region of Marivan.” That is pretty unequivocal for IAEA so I figured it was thier best data. There is one other reference to Marivan in the context of nuclear activities that I can find: Marivan: Area of Iran close to the Iraqi border (see map) where the IAEA has reported large-scale high-explosive experiments.

        Click to access PolicyFocus121.pdf

        So the sources are good but then the trail runs cold. From imagery it is a dry region on the Iraq border with little to see except defense against Iraq. It would be an ideal collection site for Special Forces only a few kilometers from occupied Iraq but I have seen no mention of successful collections against HE tests. IAEA makes no reference to a chamber there and it would have to be a big one for the hemispherical shaped charge they describe so I think we can assume the tests were done outdoors, or in a tunnel and without uranium.
        Pakistan went into tunnels and did an alleged 24 tests to develop their implosion systems. Whether to hide from satellites or hide uranium contamination is unknown to me. Since Pakistan probably did their final full scale timing tests there would have been a lot of uranium in some of them and maybe they figured IAEA or someone else would come sampling one day.

      • Muller says:

        “From imagery it is a dry region on the Iraq border with little to see except defense against Iraq.”

        29 km from where Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd had been caught in June 2009 when approaching the border from Iraq. Closely surveilled by American officials, as a WikiLeaks cable indicated.

        “S2 ASSESSMENT: The lack of coordination on the part of these hikers, particularly after being forewarned, indicates an intent to agitate and create publicity regarding international policies on Iran. The leadership in Iran benefits as it focuses the Iranian population on a perceived external threat rather than internal dissension. Kurdish leaders remain concerned about international perceptions regarding security as they seek to increase investment in the KRG. Expect KRG leadership to intervene to return the 3 individuals and the Iranian government to accuse them of being spies. Additionally, KRG leadership may impose additional restrictions on private activities near the Iranian border.”

  2. Thank you: both the article and this post were extremely informative and I hope to let others know about these sources as well. And thanks to Dan for bringing you aboard to blog.

    • yousaf says:

      Thank you. I don’t have a twitter acct but yes, pls do distribute the articles, and especially the SIPRI report.

      And, yes, thanks Dan!

  3. Reginald Bartholomew III says:

    Come on please! — Does anyone in the Arms Control community take David Albright seriously anymore? What a charlatan! Great to see a real expert set the record straight.

    Sorry that Robert Kelley (and Yousef Butt) had to waste their time undoing the lies and hysteria created by ISIS!

    But great job! Keep up the good work folks! & thank you Prof. Joyner! — great read!

  4. Reginald Bartholomew III says:

    Kelley has been overly polite in the SIPRI report in my estimation.

    Here is a much edgier deconstruction of the ISIS methodology:

    or a historical comparison between ISIS methods in Iraq and in Iran (i.e. the same):

    I ask again: why does anyone take this charlatan seriously?

  5. yousaf says:

    The legislative text of the sanctions would appear to support some of your views, but note there are differences between admin and Congress, with the latter much more hawkish:

    • There’s a difference between Obama not representing himself as “hawkish” vs the Congress (which IS hawkish, you are correct in that) and Obama not being on board with an Iran war.

      Obama’s sole (narcissistic) concern is to avoid being BLAMED for the Iran war. He does have a Nobel Peace Prize to flaunt. This is why he is squeezing Iran in order to provoke Iran to retaliate in such a way as to “justify” the war. He has to know that the sanctions regime he has imposed is not going to stop Iran from continuing its program because history has established that sanctions don’t work. So he’s either stupid or he doesn’t care because he has an agenda. I say it’s the latter.

      It’s amazing how much the “Obama Kool-Aid” continues to influence people’s perceptions of him. Even Justin Raimondo at just said today that he thinks Obama will reverse the US military posture from “aggressive” to “defensive”, an incredible statement with zero evidence to support it.

  6. yousaf says:

    FYI — Vali Nasr weighs in:

    US-led sanctions on Iran will be unable to influence events in Iran very much more, and have started to have a negative effect of strengthening Iran’s desire to develop a nuclear weapon so as to achieve greater leverage in future negotiations.

    “Sanctions are coming to an end, and having watched events in North Korea, Iran knows that it will have more leverage in the talks with the US if it has a bomb,” said Vali Nasr of John Hopkins University in Washington.

    • Nasr is not helping by repeating the unsubstantiated claim that Iran has ANY desire for nuclear weapons, let alone a “strengthening” desire.

      Almost none of these alleged “experts” have bothered to think through whether Iran has ANY strategic or tactical use cases for a nuclear weapons. There are none, in fact. Nukes would be absolutely useless for Iran and would merely immediately “justify” a military attack by at least Israel and probably the United States.

      The one time Iran had ANY interest in nuclear weapons was when they were afraid Saddam was developing them. Once that threat was removed, they immediately stopped their feasibility studies. Iraq under Saddam with nukes was an “existential threat” to Iran. Israel and the US are not as nuclear powers – neither country would launch a nuclear first strike on Iran due to the geopolitical consequences. Therefore Iran is not afraid of being attacked by nuclear means by anyone. And there is no way they will ever reach nuclear parity with even Israel, let alone the US, OR acquire enough deliverable nuclear weapons to have a credible threat to Israel to deter an Israeli attack before BEING attacked.

      Further, Iran’s leaders have repeatedly stated that they understand that and that is the reason they have ZERO interest in nuclear weapons.

      • yousaf says:

        Agreed. DNI has high confidence of no nuclear weapons work in Iran no.

        I think Nasr is saying that one effect of sanctions is to strengthen the hand of hawks in Iran’s national security apparatus, and make a possible future bomb more, not less, likely.

  7. thepatentguynet says:

    Very helpful summary of some important history and legal concepts, Yousaf. Thank you. But here’s a couple of points where you lost me.

    “For example, the agency keeps saying in its reports that it cannot “provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran” nor that “all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.” But the agency cannot be expected to do this – that is not its job.”

    Does not IAEA have a responsibility to inventory and track nuclear material of NPT states irregardless of whether the material is declared or not declared? If all they are authorized to do is confirm declared material, the whole idea is pretty dumb, isn’t it? Why would Heinonen be snooping around those Parchin buildings if his authority extended only to checking what Iran has declared?

    “Pierre Goldschmidt, the former deputy director of Safeguards at the IAEA summed it up well: ‘The Department of Safeguards doesn’t have the legal authority it needs to fulfill its mandate and to provide the assurances the international community is expecting.’”

    How can there be mandate without legal authority to fulfill it? The mandate comes from the treaty, does it not? Isn’t the treaty legal authority?

    Congress sometimes gives the states or the executive branch what are called “un-funded mandates” that can’t be fulfilled because no cash is provided. But the authority is there nevertheless. I would think the existence of a mandate necessarily requires existence of authority to carry it out – that’s what mandate means: some entity with power has given some other entity authority to go do something.

    P.S. I gotta’ hunch the Pink Site is blowing up OK — right in Albright’s face, in part due to analyses like yours and Kelley’s.

    • yousaf says:

      thank you.


      Question: “Does not IAEA have a responsibility to inventory and track nuclear material of NPT states irregardless of whether the material is declared or not declared?”

      Common misunderstanding. If the country has not ratified the AP, then the IAEA just inventories declared nuclear material (Dan can clarify further, if needed) — here is IAEA’s own view:


      What verification measures are used?

      Safeguards are based on assessments of the correctness and completeness of a State’s declared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities. Verification measures include on-site inspections, visits, and ongoing monitoring and evaluation. ***Basically, two sets of measures are carried out in accordance with the type of safeguards agreements in force with a State.****

      One set relates to verifying State reports of *********declared******** nuclear material and activities. These measures – authorized under NPT-type comprehensive safeguards agreements – largely are based on nuclear material accountancy, complemented by containment and surveillance techniques, such as tamper-proof seals and cameras that the IAEA installs at facilities.

      Another set adds measures to strengthen the IAEA’s inspection capabilities. They include those incorporated in what is known as an “Additional Protocol” – this is a legal document complementing comprehensive safeguards agreements. The measures enable the IAEA not only to verify the non-diversion of *****declared***** nuclear material but also to provide assurances as to the absence of ****undeclared******* nuclear material and activities in a State.


      Above the IAEA just said it’s job, absent an AP, is limited to declared material — but it is an important job: you don’t want states diverting that declared material into bombs. It is not meaningless

      Question 2:

      “Pierre Goldschmidt, the former deputy director of Safeguards at the IAEA summed it up well: ‘The Department of Safeguards doesn’t have the legal authority it needs to fulfill its mandate and to provide the assurances the international community is expecting.’”
      How can there be mandate without legal authority to fulfill it? The mandate comes from the treaty, does it not? Isn’t the treaty legal authority?

      See my other FP piece —

      “The limited legal authority of the IAEA to carry out inspections is definitely a flaw — from the perspective of the IAEA, at least — but such restrictions on the IAEA were purposefully introduced to preserve a measure of national sovereignty. Even if a state has no illicit nuclear work to hide it may not be comfortable with inspectors traipsing all over the country inspecting all and sundry. ***********This restriction on the IAEA’s legal purview is similar to the limits placed upon the police. The police have a mandate to stop crime, but they do not have the legal authority to inspect your bedroom at 3am.****** As a society we have delimited the police’s legal authority in many ways. The same was done with the IAEA. ”

      There may be a more technical legal description, but that is my understanding.

      It is Agency policy **not** to say it can or cannot “provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran” nor that “all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.”, at least in those countries that have not concluded/ratified an Additional Protocol.

      That is where Pierre is saying the legal authority is too weak. (Actually the AP adds very little if you really look into it.)

      My understanding is that staff inside the Agency are very upset that Amano has chosen to make this statement only on Iran when it is actually true of every type-153 country that has not signed the AP. (I give the link above)

      Certainly the Agency is trying to track all declared nuclear materials and facilities and by definition probably cannot/does not track undeclared activities. As I said, that is simply not its job. It is first and foremost the nuclear accounting agency. It is not a police force, or as the media keeps wrongly stating a “watchdog”. The IAEA has inspections teams, not investigation teams.

      If they would like to look into something not involving a diversion of declared nuclear materials and the country is not cooperating there are 2 options only: special inspections or arbitration.

      Referral to UNSC is not an option when no diversion of declared nuclear material has taken place. So, in a way, Iran is correct that the UNSC referral was wrong. Dan can correct me if I got legal details wrong, as I may well have.

      The IAEA main facility responsibility is Design Information Verification.

      Lastly, see what Hans Blix says above re. Iran. And the El Baradei quote, the DNI quote and the SecDef quote.

    • Reginald Bartholomew III says:

      re. thepatentguynet’s question above on mandate vs. legal authority — Dr. Butts is more or less correct.

      Let’s take a hypothetical example to clarify, shall we, my friends? There is a hypothetical guy called David NotAllThatBright.

      And a third-party intelligence agency has just released unconfirmed evidence that David NotAllThatBright allegedly makes child porn in his basement at night.

      Now, I ask you: does that give the police the right to barge into David NotAllThatBright’s house at night to check upon him? Does it mean David NotAllThatBright must continue to answer questions about is alleged child porn manufacturing habit until all concerns of the police have been settled?

      Will the police not share the secret evidence they have with David NotAllThatBright’s lawyers?

      No, under normal law he must be shown the evidence against him, and only after rigorous vetting by a judge can the police gain additional authority to question David NotAllThatBright about his alleged child porn manufacturing habit.

      Luckily this is all hypothetical and the charges are merely alleged — no one is accusing David NotAllThatBright (or Iran) of anything really. The evidence is all unconfirmed and secret. And luckily there is no Institute for Scary Iranian Stories that leaks unconfirmed speculations about David NotAllThatBright’s alleged child porn manufacturing. Lucky for David NotAllThatBright.

      Not so much for Iran

    • The answer is that the IAEA was not envisioned as a “policeman” of the NPT and in fact the IAEA is not the body “in charge” of the NPT (the IAEA membership and the NPT signatories are two different constituencies.That’s why India is a member of the IAEA though not the NPT)

      Signatories to the standard safeguards agreement (*not* the Additional Protocol) are required to declare their nuclear material voluntarily, and the sole function of the IAEA is then to verify the accuracy of these declarations. The function of the IAEA is limited to an accountancy function, and according to the explicit text of the safeguards, that’s its “exclusive” function.

      If the IAEA has some evidence that a country has not declared all of its nuclear material as it was supposed to, then the evidence can be presented to the IAEA Board, and the Board can then demand “special inspections” which the signatory country is obligated to allow (this has happened 2 times: once for Romania after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and once for N Korea but NK withdrew from the NPT instead of allowing the special inspections)

      IF a country has ALSO signed the Additional Protocol, the role of the IAEA is expanded from merely checking the accuracy of the declarations by the country, to also ensuring that there are no UNdeclared nuclear material. In otherwords, the IAEA confirms not only the accuracy of what’s been submitted by the state, but also confirms the completeness of the declaration.

      It is ONLY WHEN THE AP IS IN EFFECT that the IAEA verifies the “exclusively peaceful nature” of any country’s nuclear program. If the AP is not in effect, then the role of the IAEA is limited and it only confirms that there have been no diversion of declared nuclear material to non-peaceful uses.

      Note that Iran has exceeded what even the AP requires of Iran by allowing several inspections of entirely non-nuclear sites such as Parchin (it is interesting to see that the IAEAitself does NOT say that any of the alleged experiments in Parchin involved any nuclear material — which raises the question of the legality of the IAEA’s insistence on visiting the site.)

  8. By the way, looking at that picture of the building with the pink whatever in Kelley’s report – that sure strikes me as a building I’d like to be in conducting dangerous radioactivity and explosion tests! 🙂

    Looks more like an outhouse to me…

  9. rehmat1 says:

    Since Yukiya Amano took over as head of IAEA, the agency’s reports has always reflected US-Israel agenda. Why? Because, according to US embassy cables, published by Guardian on December 2, 2010, proves that Amano is an American agent.

    Iranian have complained that IAEA inspectors works as US-Israel spies and provide, otherwise, confidential inspection reports to CIA and Mossad. The recent capture of explosive devices at Fordo uranium enrichment facility was allegedly work of IAEA inspectors.

    On January 23, 2013 – Professor Thomas Fingar (Stanford University, California), former Director of the National Intelligence Council was honored with the annual Sam Adams award from Oxford Union for exposing anti-Iran lies by the US and Israeli governments.

  10. […] being requested by the IAEA. Furthermore, Iran is not blocking inspectors, as the IAEA has no legal right to enter that site to begin with and Iran is certainly not “required” to grant access under […]

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