More Gold from Blix on the IAEA’s use of Information from National Intelligence Agencies

UPDATE: There is now a URL. You can find the Bloomberg article here.

Yousaf Butt already put this in the comments section of a couple of posts, but I wanted to bring it to the front. It’s a story on Bloomberg’s clients-only site, so unfortunately no public URL, but feel free to contact the reporter or editor to verify. It appears to be reporting from the speech and related interviews that Blix recently gave in Dubai. I already posted about some of that speech here.  But this Bloomberg piece has some real nuggets of gold in it from Blix. I’ll copy the whole thing below, but here are a few of the gems (mixing metaphors, I know):

 The IAEA must not be the prolonged arm of intelligence
agencies,” Blix said in a March 4 interview in Dubai. “I don’t
think you can possibly have a decent relationship with the
country you inspect if they see that the inspectors contain
people that come from intelligence or maybe even collect
information about suitable targets.

 The IAEA subsequently released an overview of the
intelligence it called credible in a November 2011 report.
ElBaradei wrote in his 2011 biography, “The Age of Deception”
(Metropolitan Books), that the IAEA didn’t make the information
public during his tenure because it couldn’t be authenticated.
“It may be that they are exaggerating it,” Blix said,
referring to the intelligence shared with the IAEA. “There’s
also a danger in telling us without revealing the actual
sources. One has to be very careful about that.

 Blix, who led the IAEA for 16 years until 1997 and was in
charge of the UN’s Iraq nuclear-monitoring and verification
group from 2000 to 2003, called the IAEA’s focus on the Parchin
military complex a “sideshow.” Even if the alleged blast
chamber was found at the site, “it doesn’t take us much
further” in terms of measuring Iranian intentions.

I think Blix is making some extremely significant and important points here. And of course they’ve been discussed before by others, including Mark Hibbs here.

Under Amano’s administration there appears to have been an internal policy change at the IAEA, resulting in the agency accepting the submission of, trusting the reliability of, and relying upon information from national intelligence agencies regarding suspected cases of safeguards noncompliance.  This is a bad idea for many reasons. Blix puts his finger on the most important reason, though, when he says “I don’t think you can possibly have a decent relationship with the country you inspect if they see that the inspectors contain people that come from intelligence or maybe even collect information about suitable targets.”

The point being that as the IAEA is increasingly seen as becoming infiltrated by, and “the prolonged arm of” national intelligence agencies, who are of course motivated solely by the national interests of their respective states, the IAEA will lose the perceived credibility it once enjoyed under DG Blix and DG ElBaradei, and will no longer be able to fulfill its role as an independent, objective technical monitoring and verification organization. It will increasingly be seen as a politicized entity, doing the will of developed and powerful states, and will not be cooperated with or trusted by developing states.

———————————————————————————

Iran Spy Data Need Checks as Amano Prepares New Term, Blix Says
2013-03-07 11:09:53.179 GMT

By Jonathan Tirone
    March 7 (Bloomberg) — Intelligence information given to
United Nations monitors showing possible military dimensions to
Iran ’s nuclear work should be double-checked, said Hans Blix,
the former director-general of the UN atomic group.
    The International Atomic Energy Agency’s board of governors
yesterday endorsed its current leader, Japan ’s Yukiya Amano, for
a second four-year term. The appointment, which needs
ratification by the agency’s full membership in September, may
shape the way Iran’s decade-long investigation is carried out.
    “The IAEA must not be the prolonged arm of intelligence
agencies,” Blix said in a March 4 interview in Dubai. “I don’t
think you can possibly have a decent relationship with the
country you inspect if they see that the inspectors contain
people that come from intelligence or maybe even collect
information about suitable targets.”
    The Vienna-based IAEA is pressing Iran to give greater
access to people, places and documents to clear up allegations
of atomic-bomb work made by anonymous intelligence agencies.
While the IAEA calls the information “credible,” the Islamic
Republic says inspectors are using forged documents to raise
international pressure against a peaceful nuclear program.
    “We have to work on the Iran nuclear issues,” Amano said
at a briefing in the Austrian capital late yesterday. “I need
cooperation from Iran , and through this cooperation I have to
produce concrete results. That is the way to ensure a peaceful
solution.”

                        No Blank Check

    Iran , whose nuclear scientists have been targets of
assassinations and whose infrastructure has been subject to
sabotage, says that while it’s willing to work with monitors, it
won’t do so at the expense of national security.
    “We are committed to continue our dialogue with the
IAEA,” Iran ’s agency envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh told reporters
yesterday in Vienna . “At the same time, we cannot write a blank
check because of our national security. No country would give a
blank check. There should be a criteria, a framework.”
    Soltanieh criticized Amano for elevating concern over his
country’s atomic work by publicizing intelligence information
that hasn’t been authenticated. Amano’s decision to publish
unsourced intelligence, a break in policy from his predecessor,
Nobel Peace Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, drew U.S. praise.
    A February 2010 U.S. State Department cable called Amano’s
first Iran report “sharper in tone” than those produced by
ElBaradei, adding that the document “creates a positive
precedent for how he intends to run safeguards investigations.”

                        Data Exaggerated?

    “Also, unlike in the previous director-general’s reports,
the IAEA does not mention the need for member states to provide
original documentation to Iran ,” according to the cable. Citing
U.S. government policy, a State Department spokeswoman declined
to comment.
    The IAEA subsequently released an overview of the
intelligence it called credible in a November 2011 report.
ElBaradei wrote in his 2011 biography, “The Age of Deception”
(Metropolitan Books), that the IAEA didn’t make the information
public during his tenure because it couldn’t be authenticated.
    “It may be that they are exaggerating it,” Blix said,
referring to the intelligence shared with the IAEA. “There’s
also a danger in telling us without revealing the actual
sources. One has to be very careful about that.”
    Blix, who led the IAEA for 16 years until 1997 and was in
charge of the UN’s Iraq nuclear-monitoring and verification
group from 2000 to 2003, called the IAEA’s focus on the Parchin
military complex a “sideshow.” Even if the alleged blast
chamber was found at the site, “it doesn’t take us much
further” in terms of measuring Iranian intentions.
    The Persian Gulf country is “ready to cooperate with the
agency and the director-general, but we hope the course of
action will be changed,” Soltanieh said. “These reports
provoke member states. They should be purely technical.”

–With assistance from Andrew J. Barden in Dubai . Editors:
Jennifer M. Freedman, Francis Harris

To contact the reporter on this story:
Jonathan Tirone in Vienna at +43-1-513-266-025 or
jtirone@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story:
James Hertling at +33-1-5365-5075 or
jhertling@bloomberg.net

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6 Comments on “More Gold from Blix on the IAEA’s use of Information from National Intelligence Agencies”

  1. Don Bacon says:

    Excellent, because as we know the IAEA’s only legal authority is regarding non-diversion. The mention of “suitable targets” should also be taken literally, as some in Iran suspect IAEA involvement in scientist assassinations.

    As I understand it, the IAEA is not staffed with people who know anything about nuclear weapons (as is also true in Albright’s enterprise). That certainly includes Amano If true, the IAEA is not only stepping outside its legal authority but also is divorced from technical expertise when addressing the issue of nuclear weapons..

    IAEA Director General
    – Yukiya Amano
    Law, Nuclear Energy, Non-proliferation

    Deputy Directors General
    – Kwaku Aning
    Metallurgical & Mechanical Engineering, Solid State Physics
    – Alexander Bychkov
    Nuclear Energy – Reactors
    – Denis Flory
    Nuclear Energy – Reactors, Safety
    – Daud Mohamad
    High Level Radioactive Waste Management
    – Herman Nackaerts
    Electrical and Mechanical engineering, Safeguards
    – Janice Dunn Lee
    Management

  2. yousaf says:

    Intelligence based safeguards should not be allowed as it sets up biases and makes the IAEA subject to proxy fights and doctored intel.

    However, if they are to be used — as they are being — then non-NPT member states (even if they are IAEA member states) should not be allowed to proffer (possibly doctored) intel on NPT members.

    That’s just common sense.

  3. yousaf says:

    IAEA works with spies but checks data — RT:

    http://rt.com/news/iran-nuclear-iaea-spies-289/

    [……..]

    “Of course, intelligence can always try to fool everybody,” he said. “Half of the information may be true, half of it may be disinformation, and therefore they have to examine it critically.”

    […….]

    There are still things that can be put on the negotiation table with Iran, but for that a colonial tone should be dropped and more attention should be paid to the reward side, Hans Blix believes. The US could, for instance, promise resumption of diplomatic ties in exchange for the settlement. Or Israelis could drop their nukes in exchange for the halt of the nuclear enrichment in Iran, with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey joining in the nuclear non-proliferation.

    “That is what you call a nuclear-weapon-free zone for the Middle East,” he said. “I think that is where the aim should be, but if I mentioned that today they would laugh at me.”

  4. Don Bacon says:

    I believe that information from national intelligence agencies — or “information
    provided to the Agency by Member States” in the recent IAEA Reports — has only been referenced for “possible military dimensions.” If true, we should note that these sources have not been used (yet) to fuel other speculations by the IAEA regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

    Specifically, recent IAEA Reports have complained that Iran has (1) plans for new enrichment sites and (2) possessed laser enrichment technology, but hasn’t provided specifics.

    Iran has not provided a substantive response to Agency requests for further information in relation to announcements made by Iran concerning the construction of ten new uranium enrichment facilities, the sites for five of which, according to Iran, have been decided.

    Nor has Iran provided information, as requested by the Agency, in connection with its announcement on 7 February 2010 that it possessed laser enrichment technology.

    As a result of Iran’s lack of cooperation on those issues, the Agency is unable to verify and report fully on these matters.

    http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Board/2013/gov2013-6.pdf
    wow — Iran has plans and technology! Imagine that. It’s almost like Amano is inviting “Member States” to fill in the blanks,as they have with “possible military dimensions.” We could have another intelligence coup like we had with Fordow. (not)

    By the way, here is the key graph (from page 12 of the November 2011 IAEA Report) describing the information obtained in 2005 — 2005! — which has the IAEA all atwitter.

    6. The Agency continued to seek clarification of issues with respect to the scope and nature of Iran’s nuclear programme, particularly in light of Iran’s admissions concerning its contacts with the clandestine nuclear supply network, information provided by participants in that network and information which had been provided to the Agency by a Member State. This last information, collectively referred to as the “alleged studies documentation”, which was made known to the Agency in 2005, indicated that Iran had been engaged in activities involving studies on a so-called green salt project, high explosives testing and the re-engineering of a missile re-entry vehicle to accommodate a new payload. All of this information, taken together, gave rise to concerns about possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme.

    “Member State” later became pluralized.

    • Especially since virtually ALL of the “alleged studies” documents have been clearly debunked by investigators external to the IAEA.

      What, the IAEA is allowed to take “intelligence” from Israel but not allowed to read Gareth Porter’s “open source intelligence” articles? 🙂

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