Technical and Diplomatic Analysis of the IAEA PMD Report

I wanted to follow up about the new IAEA PMD report by pointing to a couple of very good analytical pieces that have been written about it from, respectively, technical and diplomatic perspectives.  Both are at Lobelog:

Robert Kelley’s technical piece here,

and Peter Jenkins’ diplomatic/political piece here.

I highly recommend both. They are a breath of fresh air compared to most of the think tank commentary going on right now.

I really try to stay away from personally commenting on technical questions that come up in the nuclear nonproliferation area.  I try to be very careful in recognizing that I am simply not qualified to provide my own original analysis on such technical questions.  This is precisely the kind of self-awareness that I don’t see in far too many members of the arms control think tank community who, with either no or thin legal education qualifications, have zero qualms about confidently asserting their own original analysis of legal questions.

In that vein of prudential personal reserve, I will not comment at length about Jeffrey Lewis’ new piece over at Foreign Policy, in which he interprets the IAEA PMD report as having made

a straightforward assertion that Iran attempted to build a nuclear weapon prior to 2003.

But let’s do remember what the report actually concluded:

The Agency assesses that a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003 as a coordinated effort, and some activities took place after 2003. The Agency also assesses that these activities did not advance beyond feasibility and scientific studies, and the acquisition of certain relevant technical competences and capabilities. The Agency has no credible indications of activities in Iran relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device after 2009.

The Agency has found no credible indications of the diversion of nuclear material in connection with the possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme.

Again, from a non-technical-specialist point of view, it seems to me that Lewis is overstating the case.  I don’t see that the PMD report findings substantiate an assertion that, prior to 2003, Iran was in fact attempting to build a nuclear weapon – as if there was a full blown Iranian Manhattan Project going on.

It seems to me that a more reasonable and responsible interpretation of the technical findings of the PMD report would be that Iran was, prior to that date, engaging in a coordinated effort to gain the technical capability necessary to build a nuclear bomb, should the political decision at some point be made to do so.  Again, the report says that the agency found “no credible indications of the diversion of nuclear material” to this capacity building R&D program.  So they apparently weren’t actually experimenting with nuclear material at any point.  And the report further says that “these activities did not advance beyond feasibility and scientific studies.”  Again, this doesn’t seem to support the identification of an intent to in fact manufacture, or at least attempt to manufacture, a nuclear weapon.  It seems to me that this identification is an unwarranted assumption, in a case where other intentions are just as persuasively indicated.

That’s all I’ll say. Perhaps technical specialist types can chime in in the comments section. I do think, though, that it is important to be as clear as we can be about what the PMD report actually says, and what we should understand about Iran’s past weaponization program. I’ll mostly leave it to the likes of Bob Kelley and other actually qualified people to provide that interpretation.  But Lewis’ assertion struck me as particularly excessive and unsupported by what the report actually says.

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34 Comments on “Technical and Diplomatic Analysis of the IAEA PMD Report”

  1. yousaf says:

    If Jeffrey Lewis knows that Iran was building a bomb before 2003, he should hand over his evidence to the IAEA because what the IAEA actually says contradicts Jeffrey Lewis: “[t]he Agency…assesses that these activities did not advance beyond feasibility and scientific studies…”

    The IAEA also just said: “The Agency has found no credible indications of the diversion of nuclear material in connection with the possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme.”

    Maybe Jeffrey Lewis can also explain how a Manhattan project works without nuclear material?

    Are feasibility studies not allowed by the NPT or CSA? I wish it were the case but unfortunately they are allowed. They would violate the spirit of the treaty but they would not violate the spirit of the NPT or the CSA. This is exactly why I think the NPT should be updated to an NPT 2.0.

    None of this is new of course.

    Here is my piece in Politico from 2011:

    http://www.politico.com/story/2011/11/dont-blame-iran-blame-the-npt-068794?paginate=false

    Quote:
    ===
    “More important, it’s unclear whether Iran was breaking the letter of the law — even when it allegedly carried out research into nuclear weapons-relevant technologies prior to 2004. The NPT is focused on preventing non-nuclear weapons states from manufacturing nuclear weapons. Studying or researching nuclear weapons designs; carrying out computer simulations, or even conducting experiments using conventional high-explosives of the sort that could be used in a nuclear bomb are not specifically proscribed – though such activities would certainly be against the spirit of the treaty.
    ===

    Lastly, let’s remember all the (wrong) conclusions in Jeffrey Lewis’ piece are based on the debunked PMD file — here is what Mohammed El Baradei thought of the PMD file:

    https://books.google.com/books?id=AfngHRNcCYYC&pg=PA280&lpg=PA280&dq=%E2%80%9CNo+one+knew+if+any+of+this+was+real.%E2%80%9D&source=bl&ots=xVCpYTWy_4&sig=UrJKKgFIL1xVn1t1CFp0eF75kJ8&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiWo7zlksrJAhUJOT4KHfvBADQQ6AEIHTAA#v=onepage&q=%E2%80%9CNo%20one%20knew%20if%20any%20of%20this%20was%20real.%E2%80%9D&f=false

  2. Johnboy says:

    IAEA: “these activities did not advance beyond feasibility and scientific studies”

    That, surely, is the important point, isn’t it?

    What the NPT prohibits is the “manufacture” of nukes, and while we can argue all day and all night what the definition of “manufacture” is there must be some aspect of “manufacturing” actually taking place.

    “feasibility studies” are not “manufacturing”.
    “scientific studies” are not “manufacturing”.

    The obvious take from the IAEA report is that Iran was checking out the “scientific feasibility” of them crossing the Rubicon and “going for a nuke”.

    But that’s not at all the same thing as claiming that in 2003 they WERE “going for a nuke”.

    After all, a company can carry out multiple “scientific studies” into the “feasibility” of developing a product for market, but that does not mean that they HAVE decided to embark on the manufacture of that commercial product.

    They haven’t, and they may actually decide that It’s A Dumb Idea, So We’re Canning It.

  3. Johnboy says:

    Dan, a lawyerly question: the prohibition in the NPT is that a party not “manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons”.

    Looking at Lewis’ article, and I note this:
    JL: “though the evidence assembled by the IAEA should convince all but the most hardened Internet troll that Iran was working to build a bomb before 2003”

    Okay. In which case I would have assumed that the language used by the IAEA would include these words: “manufacture” or “otherwise acquire”.

    So what does Lewis see in that report?
    JL: “While noting Iran’s denial of a ‘coordinated programme aimed at the development of a nuclear explosive device,’ ”

    Is it – lawyerly-speaking – merely hair-splitting to point out that the phrase used in that IAEA report is “development of”, even though the phrase used in the NPT is “manufacture of”?

    JL: ” [A] ‘range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device,’ the IAEA found, ‘were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003 as a coordinated effort.’ ”

    Again, there is that word “development”.

    The IAEA report does seem to insist on using that word in place of the correct word: “manufacture”.

    JL: “Apart from the passive voice, that is a straightforward assertion that Iran attempted to build a nuclear weapon prior to 2003.”

    Well, actually, Jeffry, no.

    It is a straightforward assertion that Iran attempted the “development of a nuke”.

    Which may – or may not – be the same – or different – to “build a nuke”, which in turn may – or may not, though that’s much more of a stretch – mean the same thing as “manufacture a nuke”.

    I just find it…. odd….. that the IAEA knows what the word is that is contained in the plain text of the NPT, yet can’t bring itself to use that same word.

    The report insists on using another word – “development” – which is used in the NPT, but is used in a completely different context.

    Maybe Amano has never read the damn thing?

    It really does seem to me that Lewis wants to condemn Iran, but he needs to hop from one foot to the other like a demented frog to get from *there* to *here*.

    As in: he has to take the IAEA report’s “development of” a nuke and just assume that this is – obviously! how could it not? – the same thing as “build a” nuke.

    And since everyone knows that “build a” nuke means the same thing as “manufacture of” a nuke then, viola!, QED, So It Is So.

    • Dan Joyner says:

      Hey Johnboy,
      Insightful questions as ever. So why doesn’t the PMD report use the word “manufacture”? I’ve been saying for years that the IAEA has no business – meaning no mandate or authority – to be investigating and assessing weaponization activities not involving nuclear material. There is no provision in any relevant legal instrument giving such authority to them. This in turn means they have no legal standard by which to measure their findings, in order to make some determination about whether Iran is in compliance with some applicable norm. The NPT does provide the language you reference. But the IAEA has no authority or mandate to adjudge whether states are in compliance with their NPT obligations. So even if they were to use that word in such a report, it wouldn’t mean anything.

      What the IAEA has said about this report is that it is a statement of facts as they see it. They don’t have a safeguards law standard to apply. And apparently they shied away for political and perhaps legal reasons from trying to apply the NPT standard. So they just chose words that they, and the JCPOA parties, could agree on and live with.

      The PMD report is an intensely political thing. The IAEA had to dig themselves out of a hole that they had imprudently dug for themselves back in 2011. The JCPOA couldn’t go forward without this issue being put to rest. But the report couldn’t be too much in favor of the arguments of either Iran or the West or it would scuttle the diplomatic negotiations. So the IAEA, in consultation with the parties, chose words that would give everyone something they could live with – words concluding that nuclear weapons R&D went on in Iran, but not either legally or normatively characterizing those activities. I think that’s the explanation behind all of these non-terms-of-art.

      • Johnboy says:

        Hi Dan,
        I wrote the post down at the bottom before I saw this reply from you.

        Yes, I agree that the IAEA was remarkably foolish when it decided in 2011 that it was A Good Idea to list those PMD accusations in an official report.

        Currying favour must have seemed like a good idea at the time, and probably was – at the time.

        But once you start currying favour then all respect goes out the window. After all, if you don’t care about your reputation then neither will anyone else.

        PMD accusations are useful? Then stick ’em in a report, Amano.

        They are now an impediment? Well, put them down like a sick dog, Mr DG.

        Hop this way, dude.

        Double-backflip that way, Sunshine.

        Jump.

        Nope, higher.

        No, I said HIGHER.

        Amano must now mightly regret writting that 2011 report.

        At least I hope so. The alternative would be even sadder.

  4. noone nowhere says:

    “Relevant to” nukes. Let’s not forget that bit of obfuscation.

    • yousaf says:

      “HLC” over at ACW sums it up like a true scientist or engineer:

      ” ‘The Agency assess that a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003 as a coordinated effort’. Activities that are relevant to nuclear weapon development are not necessarily activities directed at nuclear weapon development.

      The words I’ve emphasised may only be a fig leaf: covering what might be an accepted fact within the agency (that these activities were intended to develop nuclear weapons) to maintain what might be considered proper agency decorum in this situation. On the other hand, the agency may have no solid and reliable means of assigning intent to the limited array of dual-use activities it has been able to confirm.”

  5. Denis says:

    Pls consider an analogy that might be helpful: I want to re-plumb my house. There are three stages.

    1. Intel/information gathering/education.
    I read everything I can find about how to plumb a house, which pipe to use, which cement, how to connect the pipe, whether to remove the copper pipe, etc.

    2. Materials acquisition/logistics
    Once I know what I have to do, I figure out the process sequence, source the PVC and other materials, purchase the materials and get them on site. This step might require some experimentation and practice. Certainly drawing up plans. There might be some training, too. Like training my wife how to crawl through a 12″ crawl space without breaking her nails.

    3. Physical assembly
    She crawls under the house and takes measurements. I boldly cut pipe to length. She crawls back under and glue pieces together. Repeat a seemingly infinite number of times until all the pipe is in place. Then I connect it all to the water main. She crawls back under and checks for leaks. She crawls out and files for divorce.

    Now, the local building code only controls the 3rd step, except, of course, the divorce. And even if I am planning to boot-leg the job and have not applied for a permit, I haven’t broken any laws just by “developing” my plan – short of “manufacture.” But if I have not yet started the 3rd step, and the building inspector gets a tip from Home Depot that I have bought a couple hundred feet of PVC pipe and 6 cans of cement, would he have probable cause to inspect my house? Or if he checked my online browsing history and finds – in addition to multiple downloads of “Debbie Does Dallas” – lots of downloads of plumbing DIY articles, would he have probable cause?

    At some point the answer to such questions becomes “yes.” Steps one and two are not against the building code or any statute, but the mere fact that they have been taken would lead a reasonable person to conclude that I’m about to do (or have already done) some serious plumbing that would require a permit. And since they can’t see my crawl space without an inspection, how could they know I haven’t cobbled together a boot-legged plumbing system?

    I guess what I’m saying is that while folks here naturally push the legal niceties of what, precisely, can and cannot be done under the precise wording of the NPT or other relevant treaties, there is the more difficult issue with respect to parties who are staying within the bounds of the treaty and yet develop the knowledge and logistics needed to violate the treaty in the future – i.e., to produce nukes quickly on an as-needed basis, and here I’m thinking of ACME bombs with red Marks-A-Lot lines scrawled across them. That preposterous image/memory does contain a kernel of valid concern.

    And so when Peter Jenkins argues: “It was hard to conceive how some of the PMD allegations, e.g. the design of a missile nose cone, could have involved nuclear material,” he is correct but off the mark. Design of a missile nose cone doesn’t “involve” nuclear material directly just as buying 6 cans of PVC cement doesn’t “involve” plumbing a house directly, but, absent any innocent explanations, they are clear indicia of wrong-doing in the present or future tense.

    The pertinent questions are: How much relevant information has IRI acquired? How much of the acquisition/logistics step is complete? Have they started, or completed, assembly? Seems like verifiable answers to those questions should be demanded, on an annual basis, of not just IRI but every country in the world that is not yet an admitted nuclear power as a condition for membership in the UN.

    BTW, Robt. Kelley and Peter Jenkins are both worth their weight in platinum, IMO (assuming they’re not grossly obese, of course).

    • yousaf says:

      Good points — which would lead one to argue for more stringent laws if one believes that the current laws are insufficiently harsh and allow too much scope for plumbing, or gaining nuclear weapons knowledge — seems like someone ought to propose an NPT 2.0 and/or CSA 2.0 :

      http://foreignpolicy.com/2012/12/19/radioactive-decay/

      Also, before getting overly concerned about putative nosecones’ research and such, it would be good to have an expert opinion about the overall quality of the allegations being made — ex-IAEA chief El Baradei who actually received the PMD details has weighed in what he thinks about the PMD dossier:

      https://books.google.com/books?id=AfngHRNcCYYC&pg=PA280&lpg=PA280&dq=%E2%80%9CNo+one+knew+if+any+of+this+was+real.%E2%80%9D&source=bl&ots=xVCpYTWy_4&sig=UrJKKgFIL1xVn1t1CFp0eF75kJ8&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiWo7zlksrJAhUJOT4KHfvBADQQ6AEIHTAA#v=onepage&q=%E2%80%9CNo%20one%20knew%20if%20any%20of%20this%20was%20real.%E2%80%9D&f=false

      A more scientific analysis of the quality of the PMD is also available here:

      https://armscontrollaw.com/2014/06/17/what-is-the-quality-of-scientific-evidence-against-iran/

    • Cyrus says:

      The analogy is false because “steps 1 and 2” that Iran supposedly undertook are not necessarily indicative of bomb making intent but have civilian applications and furthermore according to the IAEA report these steps were fragmentary and very limited so they weren’t really “taken”, and many other nations could be similarly accused if the same “relevant to” standard is applied to them.

      Furthermore Iran allowed the IAEA extraordinary access so it wasn’t the case that the plumbing inspector was not allowed into the crawlspace.

      Also, the IAEA is not an “enforcer” of the NPT, its job is not similar to the local plumbing code enforcement agency, nor is its job to “catch” criminals based on “probable cause” — the NPT and IAEA are two entirely different organizations, and the job of the IAEA within the framework of the NPT is merely to act as an accountant to ensure that the amount of nuclear material declared by a nation matches what they measure. That’s it.

    • Cyrus says:

      Also, the NPT not only does not prohibit the “knowledge or logistics” of making nukes, it positively promotes nuclear know-how that can be very very “relevant” to nukes — in fact not only does the NPT require sharing nuclear technology to the fullest extent possible and without discrimination, it even allows for the sharing of data from nuclear test explosions. The problem is that nuclear technology itself is inherently dual use. Any country that develops a perfectly civilian nuclear infrastructure can be accused of engaging in activities “relevant to” making, or of “intending to obtain the capability” of making nukes. The fact that the accusations against Iran are worded in such fashion should be a giveaway: there’s no actual evidence of a nuclear weapons program and this latest report only confirms that further

    • Johnboy says:

      “At some point the answer to such questions becomes ‘yes.’ ” ….. “And since they can’t see my crawl space without an inspection, how could they know I haven’t cobbled together a boot-legged plumbing system?”

      Actually, in your analogy that answer was made in the negative in 2007 i.e. when the US Intelligence community concluded that Iran made a decision in 2003 not to procede to your “step 3”.

      Simple logic insists that a decision in 2003 NOT to procede to your “step 3” means that “pre-2003” must have been “pre-step 3”.

      You can’t have it both ways i.e. you can’t accept that 2003 marked a pivotal moment when Iran decided *not* to procede to “manufacture” and a.l.s.o. argue that it is a reasonable proposition to be suspicious of a “cobbled-together boot-legged nuke”.

  6. Scott Monje says:

    With all due respect, reading Dan and Yousaf would lead you to believe that Jeffrey Lewis had called on the Pentagon to nuke Iran. It is quite the opposite. He believes that Iran was “working toward” a bomb, but he never suggests that it had a “Manhattan Project,” and he concludes that they’ve stopped whatever it was that they were doing and that people should get over it and move on, while maintaining due diligence. Even Iran has agreed to the diligence. It might be appropriate to note the continuing differences in interpretation and then express appreciation for a fairly supportive conclusion rather than quibbling about the nomenclature..

    • yousaf says:

      Jeffrey Lewis’ piece is titled “Iran was building a nuclear bomb…”

      There is no evidence he gives to support that statement.

      Most certainly, the IAEA has not given any evidence for that.

      The IAEA has some questionable evidence about PMD allegations of which this is what El Baradei had to say:

      https://books.google.com/books?id=AfngHRNcCYYC&pg=PA280&lpg=PA280&dq=%E2%80%9CNo+one+knew+if+any+of+this+was+real.%E2%80%9D&source=bl&ots=xVCpYTWy_4&sig=UrJKKgFIL1xVn1t1CFp0eF75kJ8&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiWo7zlksrJAhUJOT4KHfvBADQQ6AEIHTAA#v=onepage&q=%E2%80%9CNo%20one%20knew%20if%20any%20of%20this%20was%20real.%E2%80%9D&f=false

      I agree folks should move on — on that I agree with Lewis.

    • Dan Joyner says:

      Hi Scott,
      Welcome to ACL. I reciprocate your respect. But I will say that you’re fighting an uphill battle trying to convince a lawyer that words don’t matter!

      Words and the concepts/facts they convey can among other things have legal implications. If Iran had in fact “attempted to build” a nuclear weapon, this might, according to the discrete facts, have constituted a violation of NPT Article II which prohibits the manufacture of a nuclear weapon. Also, “attemp[ing] to build” a nuclear weapon could be easily understood to include the involvement of nuclear material in this attempt, which if true would constitute a violation of Iran’s safeguards obligations.

      The language that we use in the specialist community matters because people in the non-specialist community can be influenced by it to either correctly or incorrectly understand what the IAEA PMD report found. I would therefore like for that language to convey correctly the facts and interpretation of the report’s findings, among other reasons so that the legal implications of those findings can be correctly understood.

      • Scott Monje says:

        I’ll keep in mind your point about lawyers and words! And I understand the significance of your argument. All I’m saying is that the agreement has real enemies, and Lewis isn’t one of them. It’s an argument on a political level rather than a legal-technical level.

    • Johnboy says:

      SM: :”He believes that Iran was “working toward” a bomb, but he never suggests that it had a ‘Manhattan Project,’ “….

      Lewis: “Apart from the passive voice, that is a straightforward assertion that Iran attempted to build a nuclear weapon prior to 2003.”

      I’m sorry, Scott, but Lewis was being quite explicit: Iran was attempting to BUILD a bomb prior to 2003.

      Not “working towards” one.
      Not “checking out the feasibility” of same.
      Not “scientifically studying” that idea.

      No.

      He clearly and unambiguously said that Iran was attempting to BUILD a bomb.

      He is wrong, and so are you.

      • Scott Monje says:

        But Johnboy, the line you cite is describing what the IAEA said.

      • Johnboy says:

        No, sorry, Scott, it most definitely is not “describing what the IAEA said”

        The IAEA said this: “The Agency assesses that a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003 as a coordinated effort, and some activities took place after 2003.”

        Jeffrey Lewis claims that the IAEA said this: “Apart from the passive voice, that is a straightforward assertion that Iran attempted to build a nuclear weapon prior to 2003”

        Lewis is wrong.

        He simply isn’t “redescribing” the IAEA’s words without the “passivity”, he is inventing his own words.

        A simple example: uranium enrichment is an example of an “activity relevant to the development of a nuclear explosives device”. Indeed, it would be an example par excellence

        Q: Is pointing to the existence of a uranium enrichment plant therefore a “straightforward assertion” that there is an “attempt to build a nuclear weapon”?
        A: No.

      • FlamesInTheDesert says:

        Jeffrey Lewis latest quote on the subject,evidently those who disagree with him on the issue are now “trolls”

      • Johnboy says:

        A question: has anyone ever seen Jeffrey Lewis debate those who disagree with him?

        Ever?

        I’ll note that Dan Joyner will engage in debate even when his detractors outnumber him two-against-one e.g. Christopher Ford and Andreas Persbo, as you can read here
        http://thebulletin.org/iran-and-bomb-legal-standards-iaea-0

        And, obviously, Ford and Persbo will debate with opponents, as will Mark Hibbs.

        But Lewis?

        Not so much, as far as I can tell.

        Jeffrey Lewis will “debate” controversies by podcasting with Aaron Stein.

        And while the latter certainly seems to possess a much more pleasant personality than Lewis it has to be said that their podcasts go like this:
        JL: Blah, Blah [snide comment] Blah, Blah, [insult] Blah, Blah.
        AS: First off, just let me say that I agree with you 100%….

        And if Aaron Stein isn’t available then Lewis substitutes the likes of Cheryl Rofer, who is also most unlikely to ever take a contrary view to The Great Lewis.

        That’s his big problem: he insists on conducting his profession inside an echo-chamber.

        Heaven forbid that he debate with anyone who disagrees. The concept would be most disagreeable to him since, you know, anyone who doesn’t agree with him must – obviously! – be a troll.

        I wonder how he deals with the likes of David Kelly? Just pretend that the guy doesn’t exist? Or does he conclude that Kelly is, likewise, nothing but a troll?

        Lewis is a dick, nought but a smart man who is convinced that he is a genius, and utterly determined never to allow that self-image be threatened.

  7. Cyrus says:

    Scott Ritter’s take on the Iran IAEA report:

    “Upon closer examination, the ‘range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device’ are far less threatening than the ominous description provided by the IAEA would lead one to believe. In every case, the IAEA was either forced to concede that their information was baseless (allegations concerning the manufacture of “uranium metal, for instance), or else could be explained through “alternative applications” involving Iranian commercial and military activities unrelated to the Iranian nuclear program. There was, in short, no “smoking gun” which could breathe life into the moribund PMD issue.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/scott-ritter/saving-face-on-iran_b_8724878.html
    Saving Face on Iran by Scott Ritter

    • Johnboy says:

      True, and David Kelly nailed it as well: “In fact, the final report appears designed as much to deflect criticism of the 2011 report as to provide any new information substantiating that report’s allegations”

      Amano must have felt like he had been hung out to dry: he had gone out on a limb with that 2011 report, and now those whose favour he had been currying in 2011 required him to put a stake through it.

      Must have been a very galling experience.

  8. etienne marais says:

    It is no coincidence that commentary on the PMD Report is split exactly along previously defined/declared political lines; the entire Get-Iran enterprise has been a purely geo-political one all along. It is not at all strange (although, it ought to be extraordinary) that none in the Iran-is-evil crowd have been “convinced” by the retractive nature of the report. The egos involved are simply way too big, and they stand to lose to much professionally (as it were).

    • Johnboy says:

      This is exactly right.

      There was a time when airing all the PMD allegations was a useful stick for some to wield against Iran, and so Amano faithfully aired that dirty linen in public.

      You know, around 2011.

      Those PMD allegations are now as much an impediment to their aims post-JCPOA as they were useful to those same people back in the Lets-Confront-Iran world of 2011.

      What to do?
      What to do?
      What to do?

      Well, Amano is as much a “team player” in 2015 as he was back in 2011, and so if a new “retractive report” is required, well, wheel him up to the microphone. He knows what to do.

      So was that 2011 report a compendium of compelling truths?
      Who cares. It served its purpose.

      Does this 2015 report now reveal some “truths” to be less that compelling?
      Who cares. It serves its purpose.

      And, let’s face it, it serves only one purpose: to allow the proponents of that report in 2011 to now walk away from it without any recriminations.

      Personally, I think that’s very wrong. I think there should be a lot of recriminations within the IAEA for that monumental error of judgement in 2011.

      Starting with – but not limited to – the Director General.

      • etienne marais says:

        Listen to this podcast:
        http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/1200684/russian-cruise-missiles/

        This is how the wonks do “analysis”. Its all high-pitched, giggling, speculation, no information -add, other than what anyone can find on wikipedia. From there onwards it’s a succession of shrill and excited leaps of the imagination, until their shrieking stacatto ejaculates into a call to kinetic action. This round is about Russia, but it sickens me to think that it is exactly this sort of playground sophistry that almost led to a war against Iran. How anybody in any technical domain can take their juvenile sleuthing seriously, defies logic (and good tatste). That they have an audience at all, is as serious an indictment on American society as is Donald Trump’s preliminary success in the Presidential campaign. By “them” and “their”, I should clarify, that I mean, mostly, Jeffrey Lewis (and all seven of his voice pitches, i.e. excluding the one that only baby cats can hear).

      • Johnboy says:

        But it’s not just Lewis: the arms control community appears to suffer badly from group-think, to the point where many wonks can’t imagine ever questioning their preconceptions.

        Or even recognizing that they have preconceptions.

        Here, an example in miniature:
        http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/1200632/the-jcpoa-and-the-broader-conclusion/

        Note the post by Scott Monje pointing (correctly) to an odd statement in the IAEA report i.e. the IAEA saw some weapons related research programs continuing up until 2009, even though all were supposed to be canned in 2003.

        Note also Andreas Persbo’s “interested reply”, where he posits various But I Never Got That Memo! excuses, or simple “bureaucratic inertia” as possible explanations how those programs continued after that 2003 cut-off.

        But neither questions a basic assumption i.e. the IAEA was infallible in identifying research that was “related to the development of a nuclear explosive device”.

        Because there is another, much simpler, explanation i.e. a research program that sailed through 2003 unscathed was probably never “nuke related”, even if the IAEA believed otherwise.

        As in: they were “false positives” that the IAEA had incorrectly placed in the left-hand column of its Naughty or Nice Ledger.

        That’s not where group-think thinking would ever take you, but it is nonetheless an idea well worth considering.

        But not by Monje, apparently.

        And certainly not by Persbo, to whom the very idea appears to be unimaginable.

  9. yousaf says:

    fyi, 2 former senior IAEA officials who have first-hand knowledge of the PMD file weigh in, over at SIPRI:

    http://www.sipri.org/pdfs/final-assessment-iaea-december-2015

    • Johnboy says:

      Yes, an interesting read.

      It correctly points out that the current ad-hoc method of accepting intelligence from “member states” leaves the IAEA wide open to manipulation by intelligence agencies and, therefore, greatly increases the risk of politicization of the organization.

      The recommendations make much sense, especially as it places the onus on the “member state” to defend its own allegations. Put up or shut up, dudes.

      It would also make it much more difficult for the Director General to dig a hole for himself, as this one did by promulgating allegations without himself being in a position to release the evidence.

      Only an incompetent allows himself to be manoeuvred into that position.

      And – let’s face it – any organization should have mechanisms in place to protect its reputation from the self-inflicted damage of its own incompetent employees.


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