You are on page 1of 2

The Latest IAEA Report on Iran and the Options Facing the International

Community INSS Insight No. 73, September 22, 2008


Asculai, Ephraim

September 22, 2008 marks the opening of the week-long session of the International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors (BOG), which is followed by the annual General
Conference of this organization. Before the BOG lies the periodic report of the IAEA Director
General on the "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement… in the Islamic Republic of
Iran," distributed a week earlier. Although it is not much different from its immediate predecessor
in its technical content, this is a very serious report. The two main areas mentioned in the report
that give immediate cause for alarm are "current uranium enrichment activities" and "possible
military dimensions" of Iran's nuclear development program. Additional aspects are mentioned
in the report, but these are not of immediate cause for alarm.

Iran has added uranium enrichment gas centrifuge machines to the existing ones, is
further enlarging its enrichment capacity, and has stepped up both the rate of uranium
enrichment and the development of more advanced types of gas centrifuges that in turn would
increase the rate of enrichment further. If all goes well for Iran, it would be able to amass a
sufficient quantity of low-enriched uranium (LEU) to enable it to further enrich it and produce a
quantity of military grade uranium by the turn of the decade, sufficient for the production of a
single nuclear explosive device. Iran defied all calls by the IAEA, the Security Council, and
many countries to suspend its uranium enrichment activities.

The technical facts concerning the possible military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear
development program, detailed in the September 15, 2008 report, are similar to those
mentioned in the previous report, but are exacerbated by the fact that the Iranians did not
provide any additional significant clarification to the issues and questions addressed to them by
the IAEA. Although the report states that "[The IAEA], regrettably, has not been able to make
any substantive progress on the alleged studies and other associated key remaining issues
which remain of serious concern" the penultimate paragraph of the present report states that
"The Director General urges Iran to implement all measures required to build confidence in the
exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme."

A response of sorts was received the next day when the AFP reported that Alaeddin
Borujerdi, head of Iran's parliament's national security and foreign affairs commission, said, "We
are against offering the agency an open door once more and that they expect Iran to respond to
any claim." In addition, Iran's envoy to the IAEA stated, "We continue cooperating with the IAEA
but they should not expect us to apply the additional protocol." Without the application of the
Additional Protocol the IAEA cannot be expected to achieve much in confirming the "peaceful
nature" of Iran's nuclear program, or for that matter, to uncover the details of Iran's military
nuclear program. It can only be concluded that the talks with Iran and all but the basic
inspection activities are practically at a dead end. The IAEA Director General, however,
refrained from reaching this conclusion, leaving it to the BOG and the General Conference.

What can these two highly political bodies do? Not much in the way of taking action, as
this is the prerogative of the UN Security Council. They can, however, denounce Iran and
recommend that the Security Council take strong action against Iran. Agreeing on a resolution
condemning Iran for its apparent nuclear development program and its intransigence in failing to
accede to the IAEA's requests for information could be a major step forward in agreeing on a
new set of severe sanctions against Iran, severe enough to make Iran suspend its activities and
sit down and sincerely negotiate a new set of rules for permitting only peaceful uses of nuclear
energy. Ironically, both Iran and its ally Syria are vying for a seat on the BOG, which would
make it all the more difficult, if not impossible, for that body to agree on an unfavorable
resolution on Iran.

The Security Council, however, is another matter. It is up to the Security Council now to
decide which way things will now go. There are three main possible future directions: strong
economic and diplomatic sanctions to force Iran into serious negotiations; military action; or a
nuclear Iran. The Council can and should act if it does not want the situation to further
deteriorate. It is suggested that the Security Council adopt a threefold program: a) prohibit sale
of any goods to Iran with the exception of food and medical supplies b) prohibit external travel of
Iranian residents by not issuing entry visas to UN member states except for humanitarian or
health reasons or for negotiating purposes, and c) start, with the appointment of a sub-
committee or other agreed negotiators, serious ongoing negotiations with Iran on the complete
cessation of nuclear fuel activities in Iran and on vital mutual security issues, including security
guarantees to Iran, abandonment of Iranian assistance to terror organizations, and the
establishment of normal relations with all nations.

This program must be viewed as a complete package. There is very little chance that
Iran would cease its nuclear development agenda and start serious negotiations unless strongly
and effectively pressured. Without strong, painful sanctions Iran will continue its game of playing
for time. Iran must be made to consider the cost-benefit relationship of its actions. Once Iran
realizes that it has a lot to gain by giving in on nuclear, terrorism, and other political issues and a
lot to lose by doing otherwise, the talks would have a chance of succeeding. Should the Security
Council find itself unable to agree on such a program, this option should be taken up by others
such as the European Union, which together with like-minded countries should enforce the
above restrictions while negotiating with Iran on the topics mentioned above. This will perhaps
have less effect than Security Council action, but still could be quite effective.

If the Security Council or major political blocs do not quickly agree on the strong
sanctions-negotiations route, the possibility of a military action will become more realistic. If that
does not happen, there will be no way to avoid the least desirable option – a nuclear weapons
Iran.