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Using the IAEA to Spy on Iran


In your “Introductory Statement to the Board of Governors” of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on September 22, 2008, you assured Iran that your agency will protect her legitimate military secrets if she supplies such information about some “alleged studies” (  You stated:

I reiterate that the Agency does not in any way seek to “pry” into Iran’s conventional or missile-related military activities. Our focus is clearly on nuclear material and activities. We need, however, to make use of all relevant information to be able to confirm that no nuclear material is being used for nuclear weapons purposes. I am confident that arrangements can be developed which enable the Agency to do its work while ensuring that Iran’s legitimate right to protect the confidentiality of sensitive information and activities is respected. I again urge Iran to show full transparency and to implement all measures required to build confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme at the earliest possible date.

Dr. Elbardei, as you know, your agency was used in the case of Iraq to “pry” into legitimate military secrets of Iraq. Indeed, some in your agency helped to prepare the ground for the eventual invasion of Iraq, an invasion where, as you have stated recently, “700,000 innocent civilians have lost their lives on the suspicion that a country has nuclear weapons” (AP, September 16, 2008). A case in point is David Kay, who served as the IAEA/UNSCOM (United Nations Special Commission) Chief Nuclear Weapons Inspector in Iraq. He was accused by Iraqi officials of being a spy and was quite instrumental in building the case for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He once admitted that some inspections in Iraq went hand in hand with spying. When in 1999 he was asked by PBS’s Frontline what he thought about infiltration of the UNSCOM by intelligence agents, he answered:

Well, I think it was a Faustian bargain. The intelligence communities of the world had the only expertise that you could use if you were unmasking a clandestine program. . . .  So, from the very beginning, you needed that expertise, but I can say for myself personally—and I’m really only comfortable talking about myself—although a number of us discussed this in the early days—I realize it was always a bargain with the Devil—spies spying. The longer it continued, the more the intelligence agencies would, often for very legitimate reasons, decide that they had to use the access they got through cooperation with UNSCOM to carry out their missions.

Given this “Faustian bargain,” it is difficult to imagine that the US and Israeli governments, which are trying to do to Iran what they did to Iraq, are not using your agency to gather information on the legitimate military capabilities of Iran. It is also difficult to imagine that after the invasion of Iraq your agency became clean of “spies spying,” and that it can now protect the confidentiality of Iran’s sensitive information and activities. This is particularly troubling since your agency cannot even safeguard its confidential reports. IAEA reports on Iran and related material marked “Restricted Distribution” often appear on the website of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), an organization that claims to be a “non-profit, non-partisan institution” ( The documents appear on the ISIS website as soon as they are distributed among the board members and many days before they are “derestricted.” For example, the restricted versions of IAEA reports of September 15, 2008, May 26, 2008, February 22, 2008, November 15, 2007, etc., as well many other confidential IAEA related documents, can be found on the website of the ISIS ( When a non-governmental agency receives IAEA documents that are designated “restricted,” one must conclude that your agency is still infiltrated with “spies spying.” What is worse is that when it comes to Iran, ISIS is not a neutral organization.  Its president and founder gave a “Policy Briefing” at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference on March 5, 2006, entitled “Nuclear Countdown: What Can Be Done to Stop Iran?” ( As you know, AIPAC and similar Israeli lobby groups and individuals are the main force in the US behind sanctioning Iran and pushing for a military confrontation between the US and Iran.

Given that the IAEA was infested with “spies spying” in the years prior to the invasion of Iraq, and given that today it cannot even safeguard its restricted documents, how can you claim that Iran’s legitimate military secrets are safe with you? Dr. ElBaradei, there has been considerable pressure on you and your organization to produce reports that are to the liking of the US and its allies. The first lines of the Associated Press report on September 9, 2007, read: “Chief nuclear inspector Mohamed ElBaradei is coming under intense pressure for his handling of the Iran file, with the United States and key allies accusing him of overstepping his authority. The diplomats suggested that U.S. disenchantment with the International Atomic Energy Agency chief was at its highest since early 2005.”

Subsequently, Reuters reported on September 19, 2007, that US Secretary of State Rice, who has previously accused ElBaradei of “muddying the message” stated: “The IAEA is not in the business of diplomacy.” Following your comments about the deaths of 700,000 innocent Iraqi civilians on the suspicion that the country had nuclear weapons, Israeli officials threatened you with losing your job. The first line of a news item in Agence France Presse on October 29, 2007, read: “An Israeli cabinet minister [Avigdor Lieberman] on Monday accused the UN atomic watchdog chief of trying to whitewash Iran’s nuclear programme for ‘ideological reasons’ after he said there was no proof Tehran was seeking an atomic bomb.” Lieberman, Minister for Strategic Affairs, was quoted as saying: “Mohamed ElBaradei is, simply, instead of fighting against Iran’s nuclear programme, looking for all the reasons to whitewash and justify it. . . . There is no doubt that the role ElBaradei and the IAEA are playing today is a very, very negative role in the process that is currently under way in the Security Council.” A few days later, on November 8, 2007, Agence France Presse reported that Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz has called for the removal of ElBaradei. Mofaz stated: “The policies followed by ElBaradei endanger world peace. His irresponsible attitude of sticking his head in the sand over Iran’s nuclear programme should lead to his impeachment.” Following these threats, the tone of the IAEA reports changed and old allegations—which had been around since 2005, and, as I have shown in my book, were doubted to be authentic even by your agency—resurfaced (please see The United States and Iran: Sanctions, Wars and the Policy of Dual of Dual Containment). It now appears that these same allegations are behind the IAEA’s recent reports and your promise to keep Iran’s legitimate military secrets safe if Iran reveals them to your agency.

Dear Dr. ElBaradei, those of us who watched very closely how your agency was used to lay the foundation for the invasion of Iraq are concerned that the IAEA is once again under sever pressures and threats to prepare the ground for military attacks on Iran. We can only hope that your agency will not become a vehicle to kill another 700,000 innocent civilians in the Middle East.



SASAN FAYAZMANESH is a Professor of Economics at California State University in Fresno. He can be reached






Sasan Fayazmanesh is Professor Emeritus of Economics at California State University, Fresno, and is the author of Containing Iran: Obama’s Policy of “Tough Diplomacy.” He can be reached at:

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