On June 23, 2014, India ratified the Additional Protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), six years after committing to allow IAEA inspectors access to its civilian nuclear program. Under the Additional Protocol, India commits to placing all 14 of its civilian nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards by the end of the year, allowing more intensive and intrusive IAEA inspections.
A new report from the IAEA, the latest in a series of monthly reports on Iran’s progress under the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), confirms that Iran has continued to comply with its obligations under the agreement. In addition, Iran has completed six initial practical measures agreed to with the IAEA in November 2013, along with seven additional measures agreed to in February 2014.
Over the past few years, reading the IAEA’s regular reports on Iran has become a bit tedious – much like a game of “Where’s Waldo,” searching for the small bits and pieces that have changed, for better or worse. But with the implementation of the November Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) and separate agreements with the IAEA, the game has changed. My eyes almost don’t know how to read an IAEA report with so much good news.
Rather than list the same ongoing concerns and nuclear progress that was almost always for worse, the IAEA’s latest report shows that Iran is complying with the restrictions required by the November first step deal. For the first time in four years, the size of Iran’s stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium has gone down. As required by the JPOA, the IAEA has confirmed that Iran is not enriching uranium above 5 percent at any of its declared facilities; is not operating any of its cascades in an interconnected configuration; is continuing to dilute and convert its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium (and currently has no process line to revert that converted fuel back into 20 percent); and has not conducted “any further advances” at its enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow or its heavy water reactor at Arak. This includes the installation of any additional IR-1 or IR-2 centrifuges.
Since the IAEA’s previous report in November, Iran’s stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium has grown by 37.4 kg, to 447.8 kg. Of this, 160.6 kg remain in the form of uranium enriched up to 20 percent. This is 35.4 kg less than the IAEA’s previous report. Additionally, Iran has reconfigured its centrifuges at Fordow to produce only uranium enriched to 3.5 percent as opposed to 20 percent.
On January 20, pursuant to the implementation of the JPOA, Iran ceased its production of 20 percent enriched uranium and began downblending some of what it had produced into uranium enriched to no more than 5%. The remainder is being converted into uranium oxide.
In addition, the IAEA has installed additional containment and surveillance measures at Iran’s nuclear facilities to confirm compliance with the JPOA, and has been granted daily access to Natanz and Fordow. The IAEA was also able to visit Iran’s centrifuge assembly workshops, rotor production facilities, and centrifuge storage facilities.
Despite this progress, however, the IAEA report documented plenty of areas of continuing concern and is yet another reminder that there is still much diplomatic work to be done to lengthen breakout timelines, shorten our ability to detect breakout, and ensure Iran is not pursuing a secret path to the bomb.
For example, the report documents the IAEA’s outstanding questions regarding the military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program including its request for access to Parchin. The details of Iran’s past weapon’s related work will be one of the top topics of discussion between the P5+1 and Iran in discussions that began in Vienna this week on a final deal. A good omen for progress on this front came as part of an agreement earlier this month between the IAEA and Iran, in which Iran agreed to provide information on its need for the development of Exploding Bridge Wire detonators.
Also of some concern is Iran’s intention to begin testing a new centrifuge, the IR-8, at Natanz, and its intention to build a new light water reactor that would be fueled by 20 percent enriched uranium. While these issues are of some concern, any construction is likely many years off and continued research and development on centrifuges is allowed under the JPOA. Iran’s future centrifuge and reactor plans are still unclear, and neither poses a threat at this time. These are issues that will be dealt with as part of a final deal.
Although Iran still has a long way to go to prove that is program is exclusively peaceful, and a final deal is still an uncertain prospect, as someone who’s gotten used to such a dearth of good news on Iran, especially from the IAEA, this latest report is a refreshing break. A final deal with the P5+1 will address the additional concerns on the table and ensure that Iran is put farther away from a nuclear weapon than at any time since it began enrichment, so it’s good to see implementation of the JPOA going smoothly, bringing us one step closer to that final deal.
The IAEA confirmed Monday that Iran has officially ceased all uranium enrichment beyond 5 percent in line with the Nov. 24 “Joint Plan of Action” (JPOA). Iran has also begun diluting its current stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium, and the IAEA has commenced daily inspections at Iran’s Natanz and Fordow enrichment facilities.
A few big things have come out recently with regard to Iran’s nuclear program. While some were long awaited and highly anticipated, such as the new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), none turned out to be particularly earth shattering.
A new NIE on Iran’s nuclear program will remain classified, but reportedly walks back the conclusions of the controversial 2007 NIE, which stated that Iran had ceased its nuclear weapons activities in 2003. Reports indicate that while Iran may not have made the ultimate decision to build a nuclear weapon, due to internal politics and external pressure, it is likely working on the components of such a device.
“We believe Iran is moving to the threshold of a nuclear weapons capability,” Robert Einhorn, the State Department’s senior adviser for nonproliferation and arms control, said at a briefing today. Due to the inefficient nature of Iran’s uranium enrichment technology, though, Einhorn says that “it would make no sense” for Iran to make the decision to build a nuclear weapon at this point.
Likewise, the most recent report (GOV/2011/7) of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) continues to express concern over the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program, noting that some of these activities may have continued past 2004. According to the IAEA, Iran continues to deny a number of its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) obligations, including implementation of the Additional Protocol and modified Code 3.1 of the Subsidiary Arrangements General Part to its Safeguards Agreement; suspension of enrichment and heavy water related activities; and “clarification of the remaining outstanding issues which give rise to concerns about possible military dimensions to its nuclear program.”
Additionally, IAEA Chief Yukiya Amano reported Monday that Iran may have engaged in nuclear weaponization studies more recently than previously thought.
“Unfortunately, I cannot say a lot on this issue. But I can tell you that we have received information…” since the last board meeting in December, Amano said, “we have received some information raising further concerns.”
Tomorrow, Army Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), will appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee to deliver his assessment of world threats facing the US. His prepared statement, released today, suggests that any new news from the US is likely to be equally optimistic.
Guest post by Alex Bollfrass
Below is a summary of remarks made on 2/24 at Princeton University by Hossein Mousavian, Iran’s lead nuclear negotiator from 2003 to 2005.
Hossein Mousavian, Iran’s lead negotiator from 2003 to 2005, presented his vision for a resolution to the confrontation over Iran’s nuclear program. In his first public statement since his 2007 arrest, Ambassador Mousavian laid out a plan for political and diplomatic engagement with Iran.
The ex-negotiator described a space for mutual agreement that would respect the US redline of Iranian nuclear weapons and Iran’s non-negotiable right to uranium enrichment.
Without straying far from the official Iranian position, he argued for direct bilateral and comprehensive negotiations between Iran and the United States, while recommending the continued pursuit of P5+1 negotiations. The proper institutional setting, in his view, is the IAEA. The UN Security Council’s involvement and its punitive resolutions should be ended.
Mousavian emphasized that any solution would require the international recognition of Iran’s right to nuclear technology, including uranium enrichment. Iran would also need the provision of security assurances not only from the United States, but regional countries, as well…
Inside Iranian decision-making
In his rhetorical warm-up, he hypothesized that if the shah had remained in power, Iran would today have an arsenal of nuclear weapons. In his view, the West “owes a debt of gratitude to the Islamic Republic” for its restraint on the nuclear front over the past 30 years.
He mourned the lost opportunity for an agreement during President Khatamei’s presidency, which the former negotiator blamed on the Bush administration’s hard line and the West’s misreading of Iran’s suspension of uranium enrichment as a sign that it could be pushed to surrender its right to enrichments.
Mousavian identified Ayatollah Khomenei as the ultimate decision-maker on Iranian national security questions, and as having driven the harder line in Iran’s confrontation with the international community upon Ahmedinejad’s election. In a glimpse into the mode of operation in Iran’s government, the ambassador confessed that he had only learned of the Qom uranium enrichment when President Obama revealed it in September 2009 at the G8 meeting in Pittsburgh.
In a review of the P5+1’s options, he described the counterproductive effects of military strikes for the entire region. Sanctions have also failed to prevent Iran from developing missile and nuclear technology, while serving the interests of Iranian hardliners. He also argued that the sabotage of Iran’s nuclear facility and assassination of nuclear scientists only raised distrust among Iranians and strengthening the arguments for the development of a nuclear deterrent.
Only diplomacy, in his view, holds promise for a resolution. However, so far the Obama and Ahmedinejad administrations diplomatic attempts have yielded no results because neither has proposed a comprehensive solution.
Mousavian argued that the US should engage Iran directly beyond the nuclear issue and build trust through cooperation on Afghanistan. He saw the UN Security Council’s involvement as counterproductive, in particular its use of sanctions, and as an obstacle to resolution. Therefore, the Iranian issue should be taken off the Security Council’s agenda and placed within the IAEA.
The NPT would serve as the basic framework to guarantee Iran’s right to enrichment and Iran’s fatwa against nuclear weapons should be taken as an assurance. However, he underlined that Iran would accept no inspections or restrictions that went beyond what is required of other NPT signatories.
Under Mousavian’s plan, there would be two steps of the regional component of engagement. The first would be engagement with the Persian Gulf states. This framework would later be expanded to the broader Middle East in an effort to establish an OSCE-type regional organization. In a veiled reference to Israel’s nuclear weapon, Mousavian called for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East as part of this regional integration.
In response to a question about Iran’s insistence on uranium enrichment despite its lack of reactors that could put this fuel to use, Mousavian cited Western and Russian abrogation of past agreements for the provision of nuclear technology and fuel.
Persona non grata in Iran
Following Ahmedinejad’s election in 2005, Mousavian was removed from his position on Iran’s negotiating team with the P5+1 and the IAEA. Two years later, the Iranian government arrested Mousavian on espionage charges. Despite most charges having been dropped, he received a commuted sentence and barred from serving in the diplomatic corps. Mousavian then left the country for the West.
He has been a fellow at Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security for a year and a half. In poor standing with the Iranian regime, he would likely face arrest if he returned.
Alex Bollfrass is the NoH Senior New Jersey correspondent and a graduate student at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs.