Iran and ‘clandestine
nuclear activity’

Cyrus Safdari


Iran Affairs
September 29, 2008





So, ElBaradei is quoted by the media as saying that the IAEA can't guarantee that Iran isn't running a clandestine nuclear program:

 A six-year probe of Iran has failed to rule out the possibility that the country may be running clandestine nuclear programs...

This is a case of the media spinning the IAEA's conclusions in order to make it appear that Iran has an on-going clandestine nuclear program.

As Michael Spies of the Lawyer's Committee for Nuclear Policy has explained:

For some it is tempting to declare, based on the inability of the IAEA to presently draw a conclusion on the absence of nuclear activities, that Iran continues to operate concealed facilities and that any such facilities must be for a military program. But the IAEA has cautioned that the lack of a conclusion does not imply suspicion of undeclared nuclear materials and activities, as the matter is frequently spun in the media and by some governments.

Note how the media reports fail to mention that ElBaradei himself has repeatedly said that the IAEA has "no concrete evidence" of any such undeclared nuclear activities in Iran either. For example this is what ElBaradei stated regarding the 2007 NIE:

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei ... notes in particular that the Estimate tallies with the Agency’s consistent statements over the last few years that, although Iran still needs to clarify some important aspects of its past and present nuclear activities, the Agency has no concrete evidence of an ongoing nuclear weapons program or undeclared nuclear facilities in Iran.

And in his interview with Wolf Blitzer:

We haven’t seen any concrete evidence to that effect, Wolf. We haven’t received any information there is a parallel ongoing active nuclear weapon program. What we have seen in the past that certain procurements that have not been reported to us, certain experiments. And that’s where we are working now with Iran to clarify the past and the present, but I have not received any information that there is a complete active nuclear weapon program going on right now. . .But have we seen Iran having the nuclear material that can readily be used into a weapon? No. Have we seen an active weaponization program? No.

This is what the media is spinning:

The IAEA has verified that all of Iran's known (declared) nuclear activities are progressing under IAEA safeguards exactly as they're supposed to be, and are not being used to make weapons. However, the IAEA has said that it cannot legally verify that there are no undeclared nuclear activities in Iran.

Naturally, this point is being manipulated and spin-doctored by the media to make Iran appear suspect. However, the IAEA's refusal to guarantee the absence of clandestine nuclear activities in Iran is not because there's actually any reason to suspect the existence of such undeclared activities -- rather, it’s because the IAEA does not verify the absence of undeclared activities for ANY country that hasn’t signed and ratified the Additional Protocol. In short, it is a legal technicality, which is being exploited and misrepresented by the media for political purposes.

According to the IAEA’s own Annual Safeguards Implementation Report of 2004, of the 61 states where both the NPT safeguards and the Additional protocol are implemented, the IAEA has certified the absence of undeclared nuclear activity for only 21 countries, leaving Iran in the same category as 40 other countries including Canada, the Czech Republic, and South Africa:

With regard to 21 States with both CSAs [Comprehensive Safeguard Agreements] and AP [Additional Protocol] in force or otherwise applied, the Agency concluded that all nuclear material in those States remained in peaceful nuclear activities. For 40 other such States, the Agency had not yet completed the necessary evaluations, and could therefore only draw the conclusion that the nuclear material placed under safeguards remained in peaceful nuclear activities.

Iran has signed the Additional Protocol, voluntarily implemented it for 2 years (during which time no evidence of any clandestine nuclear activity was found in Iran) and has offered to ratify the AP once its nuclear rights are recognized. However to allow excess inspections under the AP when Iran is being threatened with bombings is to give away crucial intelligence that can only be used to make such bombings more effective.