Leaving the PMD Issue BehindPosted: January 13, 2014
When I first wrote about the new Joint Plan of Action between Iran and the P5+1 here, I noted how remarkable it was that in the text of that agreement, as well as in the text of Iran’s recent agreement with the IAEA, the issue of past possible military dimenstions (PMD) to Iran’s nuclear program was not mentioned. As I said in an earlier piece on the agreement with the IAEA, I was pleased to see that in both documents, neither the PMD issue generally, nor the Parchin facility specifically, were mentioned. It would appear from these two recently negotiated statements that Western powers and the IAEA have made the prudent decision not to focus on these issues during negotiations aimed at resolving the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program, thereby avoiding the dynamic which seems to have been present so much in recent years of the tail of PMD issues, wagging the dog of a broader agreement on Iran’s nuclear program going forward. I’ve written about the PMD issues and Parchin previously including here. I continue to hope that in further negotiations these red herring issues will be similarly marginalized.
I was pleased, therefore, to see today a new Reuters piece by Fredrik Dahl, including quotes from a number of people that strengthen my optimism that this might actually be what is happening. Quoting from the piece:
However, some experts suggest that the powers may be more concerned with obtaining an agreement to limit future Iranian nuclear enrichment than with helping the IAEA get to the bottom of research and tests Iran may have carried out in the past.
Mark Hibbs, of the Carnegie Endowment think-tank, said it was possible that they, in the interest of quickly concluding a final deal, “might strongly urge the IAEA to accept what it would consider less than satisfactory demonstration by Iran” in response to suspicions about its past activity.
Jofi Joseph, until October a director for non-proliferation on the White House National Security Council staff, said the powers may be tempted to set past PMD issues aside and focus on limits to Iran’s future nuclear bomb breakout capability.
“There may be an implicit preference by the P5+1 to sweep the weaponisation issue under the rug,” he wrote in a commentary last week for Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
“It is always difficult to prove a negative and, even if Iran significantly expanded access to IAEA inspectors … doubts likely would persist that Iran was still hiding something.”
In Iraq after the 1991 war, the IAEA acted under the authority of a U.N. Security Council resolution giving inspectors carte blanche “anytime, anywhere” authority, former IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said.
“From an inspector’s perspective, this sounded idyllic,” he wrote in his 2011 book the Age of Deception. “But it worked only because Iraq was a freshly defeated country … No other country would have accepted such conditions.”