Mark Hibbs on the IAEA’s Legal Authority to Investigate PMD AllegationsPosted: December 17, 2014
Mark Hibbs has a new post over at Arms Control Wonk. In it he addresses Iran’s invitation to the IAEA to visit a site in Iran which the IAEA previously alleged was the site of nuclear weaponization work. This of course was also the subject of a recent post by Bob Kelley, which I highlighted here.
Aside from a bit of thinly veiled snark about Bob’s and Gareth Porter’s articles on this topic, overall I think Mark’s post is thoughtful and fair. And in the end it seems to me that he does not essentially disagree with what Bob and Gareth have written about the Marivan invitation. He concludes:
In the short term, it looks like Iran has maneuvered Amano into a corner. If the IAEA doesn’t go to Marivan on Iran’s terms, Iran’s spin doctors will claim that the IAEA is not cooperating to resolve PMD allegations. If the IAEA instead goes to Marivan, and finds nothing, Iran will declare the case closed.
I was actually most interested, though, in a paragraph earlier in the piece in which Mark writes this:
There may be internal deliberations concerning the IAEA’s authority and priorities. While UNSC resolutions endorse the IAEA’s pursuit of PMD-related activities in Iran, Iran’s CSA (and for that matter the AP) expressly endorse the IAEA’s authority to inspect as deriving from a nexus to nuclear materials. To my knowledge, no allegations have come forth that Iran used nuclear materials in any undeclared activity at Marivan. The IAEA may be more interested in pursuing allegations at Parchin if it has information suggesting that nuclear materials may have been involved in undeclared activities at that site.
This interests me because it seems that here Mark is agreeing in essence with a point that I have been making for a long time – i.e. that the IAEA does not have the legal authority to investigate or assess questions concerning nuclear-weaponization-related activities that do not directly involve fissile materials.
I wrote this back in 2011 here, and have repeated it many times on this blog. Since then, the assertion that the IAEA does have the authority to investigate PMD issues not necessarily involving fissile materials, has been made by many in the establishment arms control wonk community.
Mark and Andreas Persbo wrote a piece back in January that discussed the issue of the IAEA’s authority to investigate PMD allegations against Iran, but as I read that piece they didn’t take a clear position on the matter at that time. But reading Mark’s new ACW piece at least appears to clarify his position, and demonstrate that it is in agreement with mine. Good to know.