FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

US / Iran Nuclear Talks as Political Kabuki

In the final phase of the negotiations with Iran, the US-led international coalition is still seeking Iran’s agreement to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit any military facilities it deems suspicious and to interview a selected list of Iranian nuclear scientists.

Such measures are not necessary to ensure that Iran is adhering to its commitments under the agreement, but they are necessary to manage the political threat from the pro-Israel extremists in the Senate to sabotage the whole agreement.

To fend off that threat, the Obama administration made the spurious claim that it had succeeded in getting Iran to agree to the demand for IAEA inspection of any site it found suspicious. In fact, Iran had agreed only that IAEA would have “enhanced access through agreed procedures” – as reflected in the wording of the joint statement of the P5+1 and Iran on 2 April. Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei and senior military officials have vehemently ruled out both IAEA inspection of military sites on demand and interviews with Iranian scientists.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano claimed on 12 May that Iran’s acceptance of the Additional Protocol as part of a comprehensive nuclear deal meant that Iran had accepted inspections of its military sites on demand. “In many other countries from time to time we request access to military sites when we have the reason to, so why not Iran?” Amano said. “If we have a reason to request access, we will do so, and in principle Iran has to accept it.”

But that was a brazen misrepresentation of the Additional Protocol. That agreement allows unrestricted IAEA access to sites that have already been designated previously by state as related to the nuclear fuel cycle. For all other sites, IAEA access under the Additional Protocol clearly depends on the approval of the state in question. Article 5 (c) of the agreement, provides that, if the signatory state is “unable to provide such access,” it “shall make every effort to satisfy Agency requests without delay through other means”.

Now the New York Times has further muddied the waters by reporting on 31 May that the Iranian rejection of those demands had “prompted concern that Iran might be backtracking from understandings sketched out in earlier talks”.

The Times tries to support the US demand by asserting that “experts” say “wide-ranging inspections are needed to guard against cheating”. That is a reference to the argument that opponents of a nuclear deal with Iran have been making for years that Iran is likely to try a “sneakout” route to nuclear weapons, using covert supplies of enriched uranium or plutonium and a covert enrichment facility.

The main figure to make that argument is David Albright, the founder of the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington think tank on nuclear proliferation, who had testified on 24 March that Iran must be compelled to accept “anywhere, anytime inspections”. He argued that, without such inspections, Iran could “produce enough weapons grade uranium for a bomb while avoiding detection by the IAEA”.

Another source cited by the Times in the past for that argument is Gary Samore, who was Obama’s adviser on negotiations with Iran until early 2013. Last November, the Times quoted Samore as saying, “From the beginning, the administration thought a nuclear agreement with Iran would need elements to deal with the overt program and one to detect covert facilities.” After leaving the administration, Samore became President of the organisation called United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), which got one-third of its funding in 2013 from Sheldon Adelson, the notorious right-wing extremist and the primary funder of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaigns.

But, although Samore has frequently reiterated the argument that the primary danger is Iranian “sneakout,” he admitted to Times correspondent David Sanger when he was still in the Obama administration that if Iran tried to deceive inspectors by using covert facilities, “We’re pretty certain we would detect it.”

An analysis by Robert Reardon of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University published in 2011 explains why the alarmist views of the problem put forward by Albright and Samore are politically motivated. “The technical and resource barriers” to achieving a secret enrichment program, Reardon pointed out, “are likely prohibitive”. Iran would have to “find a foreign supplier willing and able to provide a substantial supply of yellowcake secretly and without detection,” he wrote. And then Iran would have to “build and operate a number of secret facilities,” which would involve a “significant risk of detection”.

The IAEA demand for interviews with Iranian scientists has long been contentious, because the IAEA wanted to talk with individuals based merely on the fact that their names had been found in the “laptop documents” collection. Those were the intelligence documents that the Bush administration claimed had come from a covert Iranian nuclear weapons program. Both Iran and former IAEA Director Mohamed El Baradei challenged the authenticity of those documents, which bear the fingerprints of Israel’s Mossad.

The Iranian objection to such requests was validated when Israel carried out a series of assassinations of Iranian scientists from 2010 through 2012. Israel’s Mossad had chosen its targets for assassination, moreover, on the basis of open publications and positions in the nuclear program that were publicly known. Iran has every reason to believe that Israel could obtain any information gleaned from IAEA interviews with scientists on their list to plan more assassinations.

Even before Israel began killing Iranian scientists and engineers, however, it had strong objections to the request for interviews with leading scientists and engineers. For years, the IAEA explicitly demanded classified engineering data on the redesign of Iran’s Shahab-3 missile, even though a senior IAEA official acknowledged to this writer that it meant compromising Iran’s national security. The official claimed it was necessary to prove that it had not been for the purpose of integrating a nuclear weapon into the missile. Iran’s military leadership undoubtedly drew the conclusion that IAEA demands for interviews with senior scientists and engineers were essentially an intelligence fishing expedition on behalf of US and Israeli governments.

A US State Department official told the Times that Iran had agreed to work on a “list of people and places for access”. That means they are simply going to recapitulate the long-running history of the IAEA-Iran negotiations over the issue.

Amano has steadfastly demanded to visit Parchin, where the Agency says Iran installed an explosives container the Agency says related to nuclear weapons research. Iran has made the counter-offer to let the IAEA carry out an inspection at Marivan, where, according to the Agency, Iran had carried out “large scale high explosive experiments” on the “multipoint initiation concept” for a nuclear weapon.

The IAEA has rejected the offer without any explanation. The refusal to visit what ought to be its highest priority suggests that either the IAEA doesn’t have the coordinates of the alleged site of the experiments or it has reason to doubt that it is going to find anything there. In either case, its refusal to visit the site reveals the reality that Amano is not carrying out an objective investigation but supporting US policy by keeping the political pressure on Iran for as long as the US deems it necessary.

Behind the US political posturing of which the Times story is a part, the US delegation is almost certainly preparing to give up its demands for visits to military sites on demand and interviews with Iranian scientists. Meanwhile, however, we can expect the Kabuki theatre over those demands to continue as long as it can be useful for managing the Obama administration domestic political problems.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and historian writing on US national security policy.  His latest book, “Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare,” was published in February 2014.

This article originally appeared in Middle East Eye.

More articles by:

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

December 13, 2018
John Davis
What World Do We Seek?
Subhankar Banerjee
Biological Annihilation: a Planet in Loss Mode
Lawrence Davidson
What the Attack on Marc Lamont Hill Tells Us
James McEnteer
Breathless
Ramzy Baroud
The Real Face of Justin Trudeau: Are Palestinians Canada’s new Jews?
Dean Baker
Pelosi Would Sabotage the Progressive Agenda With a Pay-Go Rule
Elliot Sperber
Understanding the Yellow Vests Movement Through Basic Color Theory 
Rivera Sun
The End of the NRA? Business Magazines Tell Activists: The Strategy is Working
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Historic Opportunity to Transform Trade
December 12, 2018
Arshad Khan
War, Anniversaries and Lessons Never Learned
Paul Street
Blacking Out the Yellow Vests on Cable News: Corporate Media Doing its Job
Kenneth Surin
The Brexit Shambles Rambles On
David Schultz
Stacking the Deck Against Democracy in Wisconsin
Steve Early
The Housing Affordability Crisis and What Millennials Can do About It
George Ochenski
Collaboration Failure: Trump Trashes Sage Grouse Protections
Rob Seimetz
Bringing a Life Into a Dying World: A Letter From a Father to His Unborn Son
Michael Howard
PETA and the ‘S’-Word
John Kendall Hawkins
Good Panopt, Bad Panopt: Does It Make A Difference?
Kim C. Domenico
Redeeming Utopia: a Meditation On An Essay by Ursula LeGuin
Binoy Kampmark
Exhuming Franco: Spain’s Immemorial Divisions
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Democratizing Money
Laura Finley
Congress Must Reauthorize VAWA
December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail