The Knives are Out – Olli Heinonen’s Criticisms of Former IAEA Colleagues in the WSJ

I just saw this article in the WSJ, including excerpts from a lengthy interview with Olli Henonen. I find it shocking how he goes after his former IAEA colleagues, criticizing them for their “missteps” on both Iran and Syria.  He even says that they developed the equivalent of “Stockholm Syndrome” with regard to these nations, and that this somehow explains why they were so kid-gloved in their treatment of Iran and Syria. Wow. That’s a pretty bold and offensive allegation to make about both DG ElBaradei and DG Blix.

What comes across to me in this article is a picture of Heinonen as the one with biases of mysterious origin. He comes across as hawkish, with the kind of inexplicable, discriminatory focus of attention on Arab/Persian countries in the ME (to be fair, he’s also worried about Pakistan), and a set of unfounded but deeply held suspicions, and similarly unfounded speculations of an exclusively negative quality, that one usually hears from US government officials and the DC nonproliferation community.  Not the ideological company I would have expected the veteran Finnish diplomat to keep. But one’s true colors are one’s true colors. And I think that Heinonen is clearly showing them here, and that he wants to tell the world loud and clear what he thinks about his former bosses at the IAEA – like Nobel Peace Prize winner DG Elbaradei – whose fault it is that Iran has reached a point of industrial and scientific capacity that Japan, Germany, South Africa, Brazil, India, Israel, and South Korea also have, to name a few. But of course, we don’t need to worry about any of them.


10 Comments on “The Knives are Out – Olli Heinonen’s Criticisms of Former IAEA Colleagues in the WSJ”

  1. yousaf says:

    Yeah — I stopped reading at “…. has aided Tehran’s drive for the bomb” in the blurb under the title.

    Does Olli know more than the DNI and SecDef about some weaponization program in Iran?

    I personally rebutted Olli twice in FP: The first article was titled “Stop the Madness”:

    and the other is here:

    Let’s not forget Olli was one of the people Joby Warrick went to in his outrageously incorrect Washington Post story based on thin and flimsy evidece about a web-inquiry on the ceramic ring magnets that are the wrong size for the IR-1 centrifuges — and Olli did not bother to correct him:

    Ok, I lied, I read a little (but just a little) beyond the title of the WSJ article — The article starts by mentioning Fordo. First, it’s questionable to assert that this was something that Iran did not notify the IAEA about in time, because of the Code 3.1 vs. Code 3.1 (mod) argument:

    Secondly, there are often feelings and “concerns” voiced that Iran has been sneaky in the past so cannot be trusted. Indeed, Iran has been sneaky in the past. However, one has to dig a little deeper into the history to find out why.

    The IRI stopped Iran’s nuclear program in ~1980. In 1983 they went to the IAEA to help set-up a research level facility for U enrichment fuel cycle. The IAEA agreed and was very receptive to the idea. Then the USG intervened politically to stop the IAEA from helping Iran.

    This was documented by Mark Hibbs in the journal “Nuclear Fuel” on August 4, Vol. 28, No. 16; Pg. 12 (2003) — excerpted here:

    One can debate whether that was a smart thing or not on the part of the US, but what is beyond question is that it was politically tainting the IAEA. Of course, now under Amano, such politicization is far worse, as documented by wikileaks and expressed by NAM.

    A bigger problem than anything nuclear-related that is going on Iran right now is the politicization and subjectivity — not to mention the technical incompetence noted by Bob Kelley — at the IAEA.

    That is not to excuse questionable things Iran did (and allegedly did) in the past, but, in my view, procedures and documents need to be less political and more technical at the IAEA. A possible consequence of business as usual at the IAEA is loss of faith in, and subsequent collapse of the non-proliferation regime.

    Olli is helping that collapse along.

  2. Don Bacon says:

    Olli Heinonen is an expert on radioactive waste solidification and knows nothing about politics nor about nuclear weapons. He’s an example of the saying: ‘Keep your waste experts on tap but not on top. ‘(I made that up.)

    WSJ author David Feith’s previous nutcase screed was regarding “Tehran will continue to call for Israel’s obliteration.” At least Feith was truthful last August: “The sanctions aren’t ‘crippling,’ Tehran isn’t isolated, and there aren’t any tough American red lines.” On this latter Feith was correct.

  3. yousaf says:

    Some useful history on Iran’s nuclear program — a video:

  4. Don Bacon says:

    The IAEA, as we know, has its exclusive NPT function the insuring of non-diversion of nuclear fuel to weapons programs, which in Iran has constantly been affirmed — no diversion. This falls into the overall IAEA mission of “nuclear security.” I will now look at nuclear security from two standpoints — military and terrorism, the first briefly and the second in more detail.

    In a CFR interview published recently, IAEA Chief Yukiya Amano said:

    The IAEA is at the center of global effort to ensure that terrorists do not get hold of nuclear or radioactive material with strong support from the United States. Terrorist always target to the weakest link in the chain. We try to impress upon all countries the vital importance of ensuring that sensitive material is properly protected. . .Finally, we have continued to pay special attention to the nuclear program of a number of countries. This is a part of our work of most interest to the people and to media. A year ago I spelled out in detail the basis for the agency’s concerns about possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program. We have intensified our dialogue with Iran this year, but no concrete result has been made yet. We still are – we are still not in a position to declare that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful purpose.

    Of course Amano didn’t spell any basis out in detail for the military dimensions charge, he merely referred to some mysterious evidence he had obtained from unspecified parties. We can guess who they were. It’s baloney.

    A part of this special concern that Amano has for Iran, and for North Korea by the way, under the IAEA mission relating to nuclear security, is their designation by the US as partners in the axis for evil, with Iran gaining the additional US rubric as “the world’s primary state sponsor of terrorism.”

    This terrorism designation is also baloney. There is no evidence that Iran is the world’s prime sponsor of terrorism. The most recent National Counterterrorism Center’s annual report, for 2011, doesn’t even mention Iran.

    Report highlights follow:

    Sunni extremists accounted for the greatest number of terrorist attacks and fatalities for the third consecutive year. More than 5,700 incidents were attributed to Sunni extremists, accounting for nearly 56 percent of all attacks and about 70 percent of all fatalities. Among this perpetrator group, al-Qa‘ida (AQ) and its affiliates were responsible for at least 688 attacks that resulted in almost 2,000 deaths, while the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan conducted over 800 attacks that resulted in nearly 1,900 deaths. Secular, political, and anarchist groups were the next largest category of perpetrators, conducting 2,283 attacks with 1,926 fatalities, a drop of 5 percent and 9 percent, respectively, from 2010.

    • Attacks by AQ and its affiliates increased by 8 percent from 2010 to 2011. A significant increase in attacks by al-Shabaab, from 401 in 2010 to 544 in 2011, offset a sharp decline in attacks by al-Qa‘ida in Iraq (AQI) and a smaller decline in attacks by al-Qa‘ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al-Qa‘ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
    • The most active of the secular, political, and anarchist groups in 2011 included the FARC (377 attacks), the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) (351 attacks), the New People’s Army/Communist Party of the Philippines (NPA-CPP) (102 attacks), and the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) in Turkey (48 attacks).

    Click to access 2011_nctc_annual_report_final.pdf

    So the special nuclear security attention paid to Iran, which Seyed Hossein Mousavian pondered over, is due in great part to a terrorism charge which is bogus and has no more basis that the possible military dimensions charge.

    Footnote: There are several other terrorism databases, which we don’t have space for here, none of which include any Iranians nor any Iranian terror groups. None. Zero. Zip. Nada. So put that puppy to bed, Mr. Amano.

    • Excellent point on Iran’s nuclear program being utterly irrelevant to terrorism.

      Unfortunately the US government and the mainstream media have Hamas and Hizballah down as “terrorists” – witness the kerfluffle over Argentina’s agreement with Iran to investigate the bombings for which the only evidence for Iran’s involvement is the testimony of a guy the CIA calls a “serial fabricator”.

      Iran is not going to win that game either. Once you get stuck with that label, it’s never going away unless the original designator rips it off. And as long as the US is in bed with Israel, it’s never going to remove that designation.

  5. […] Mr. Heinonen interviewed in the WSJ —… “I just saw this article in the WSJ, including excerpts from a lengthy interview with Olli […]

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