LA Times Reports the IAEA is Unlawfully Sharing Safeguards Information with the U.S. GovernmentPosted: March 17, 2015
I saw this story in the LA Times from yesterday, entitled “Top-Secret U.S. Replica of Iran Nuclear Sites Key to Weapons Deal.” After talking with friends, the paragraph that strikes me most in this story is this one, with my added emphasis:
U.S. officials won’t comment on the classified research, which is being conducted at an undisclosed location in the United States. But former officials and private analysts say American agencies have constructed models of the Iranian facilities, relying on informants in Iran, information from foreign governments and voluminous data about Iran’s program collected by the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog.
So to cut to the chase, this new replica enrichment facility – which I can’t help thinking of as a Madurodam for US nuclear engineers (“Bill, look at the little Iranian nuclear scientist, he’s going into the centrifuge hall. And look, there’s a little Mossad figure on a motorcycle outside, waiting to kill him when he goes home from work.”). Ok, that got too tangential and too weird to continue. Let’s start that sentence again.
So to cut to the chase, this new replica enrichment facility that the US has built, was based inter alia on “voluminous data” that the US obtained from the IAEA. What?!? But Article 5(b) of the Iran’s comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA provides that:
The Agency shall not publish or communicate to any State, organization or person any information obtained by it in connection with the implementation of this Agreement . . .
So how did the US government get this “voluminous data” from the IAEA? And isn’t it not OK that this happened?
This isn’t the first time that concerns have been raised about the IAEA’s inability to keep confidential information obtained through safeguards implementation in Iran. Iranian officials have complained of exactly this sort of thing happening before. And, coincidentally, the IAEA just today released a statement by Iran communicated to the agency, which on page 3 contains an entire section devoted to expressing Iran’s concerns about the IAEA’s inability to keep information gained through safeguards implementation confidential.
But while it isn’t the first time these concerns have been raised by Iran, it is the first time I know of that a major news outlet has reported this inappropriate information sharing by the IAEA as a fact.
If what the LA Times has reported is accurate, then it’s hard to see how this isn’t a serious violation by the IAEA of its safeguards agreement with Iran. Maybe there are other explanations for how the US government got this information from the IAEA, that don’t involve bad faith by the IAEA. I don’t know. But I can’t think of any off the top of my head.
Suspicions of arms control inspection agencies being used as tools of Western espionage are not new. Allegations of this type are basically what killed UNSCOM, the first incarnation of the UN’s arms control inspection agency in Iraq after the first gulf war.
It is an absolute imperative for the IAEA to be seen as above reproach when it comes to its ability to keep confidential information obtained through safeguards implementation. If it is not so perceived, its credibility as an independent monitoring and verification body, and its effectiveness in performing this role, will be seriously undermined.