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– Lord Des Browne
Vice Chairman, Nuclear Threat Initiative

U.S. Punishes 14 for Iran Arms Trade

Wade Boese

The United States has sanctioned 14 entities from seven different countries for allegedly providing Iran with exports that could be used to develop unconventional weapons and the means to deliver them. The move came amid ongoing worldwide uncertainty about Iran’s nuclear intentions and ballistic missile advances.

On Sept. 29, the Department of State announced penalties on seven Chinese companies; two individuals from India; and one company each from Belarus, North Korea, Russia, Spain, and Ukraine for running afoul of the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000. That law authorizes the president to penalize any foreign entity that transfers items to Iran that could aid its pursuit of dangerous weapons. A State Department official told Arms Control Today Oct. 12 that the offending transactions occurred more than a year ago.

However, the official said some of the entities, namely those sanctioned multiple times by Washington, might still have an ongoing relationship with Iran. The North Korean and Belarusian companies and four of the Chinese companies had already been hit with sanctions under the same law in April.

All the recently sanctioned entities will be barred from U.S. government contracts and aid, as well as all U.S. arms and dual-use exports, for two years.

Although U.S. proliferation sanctions are largely symbolic because the entities rarely do business with the U.S. government, Bush administration officials argue sanctions are valuable because they help stigmatize companies and individuals, applying indirect pressure to foreign governments to rein them in.

The Bush administration has leveled sanctions for proliferation transactions 98 times over four years, exceeding 70 imposed by the Clinton administration in its eight years. More than half of the sanctions imposed by the Bush administration explicity concerned transactions with Iran.

Nonetheless, foreign governments and companies continue to pursue ties, including in the nuclear sector, with Tehran, which also appears to be forging ahead with its ballistic missile program.

Former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said Oct. 5 that Iran now had a missile capable of traveling 2,000 kilometers, according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). U.S. intelligence previously estimated the range of Iran’s most advanced, flight-proven missile, the Shahab-3, at roughly 1,300 kilometers.

Rafsanjani’s claim, repeated by other Iranian officials, followed August and September missile tests, about which Tehran admits providing deliberately vague information, including whether the August test was on the ground or in flight. (See ACT, September 2004.) The only information available about the September test are Iranian media reports that quote Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani as saying the test involved a “strategic missile.” Iran announced Oct. 20 that it had conducted another Shahab-3 test.

Purported photos of the August test showed a missile shaped differently than that in previous pictures of Iran’s Shahab-3. Rather than having a conical tip, the missile’s re-entry vehicle was shaped more like a baby-bottle’s top. This new configuration has spurred speculation by Uzi Rubin, a former top Israeli missile defense official, that Iran has received foreign help, possibly from Russia, in upgrading the Shahab-3 to have greater range and accuracy.

U.S. officials refused to discuss Iran’s latest missile tests or apparent new re-entry vehicle design, except to reiterate Washington’s long-standing concerns about Iran’s missile programs.

During a two-day visit to Russia, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Stephen Rademaker warned Oct. 6, “It is obvious to us that Iran’s intention is to deploy nuclear weapons on these missiles.” He added, “Fortunately for us, the United States is more than 2,000 kilometers from Iran, but obviously Iran intends to deploy longer-range missiles over time.”

Iranian officials, who assert Iran’s missiles are only for defensive purposes, have repeatedly denied working on a more powerful Shahab-4 ballistic missile. Instead, they claim Iran is pursuing space launch capabilities and in 2005 will attempt to lift a small satellite into space for the first time.

Time for Arms Talks? Iran, Israel, and Middle East Arms Control

Dalia Dassa Kaye

The Middle East has all it takes to frustrate international arms control regimes. Key regional actors do not recognize one actor’s right to exist, let alone share diplomatic relations. Countries in the region perceive their own security as requiring the insecurity of others, leading them to adopt offensive military postures. At the same time, there is virtually no regional arms control culture or constituency.

The ongoing showdown between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran is a case in point, underscoring the limitations of global nonproliferation norms in addressing regional proliferation. Despite Tehran’s stated commitment to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), as well as the IAEA’s success in uncovering a pattern of Iranian violations, the violations themselves raise many questions about the adequacy of the NPT in blocking determined states from acquiring nuclear weapons capabilities. Even strengthened verification measures under the Additional Protocol do not address the broader political and security context of proliferation problems in unstable regions such as the Middle East.

Without such consideration, even the best orchestrated international diplomatic efforts will fall short. Because effective arms control follows political relationships and is dependent on the broader security environment, current diplomatic efforts focused on Iran must take place in conjunction with attempts to create a more favorable regional climate for arms control. This will require altering political relationships and establishing new regional processes that focus not just on international disarmament goals but also on regional confidence-building measures.

Although solving current proliferation challenges such as Iran is not dependent on the creation of new regional security structures, strong political support for such processes by the United States and its Western allies could create a more favorable regional climate and provide some cover for regional actors to make concessions in the proliferation area. That said, the creation of a regional security dialogue should be viewed primarily as a long-term process to address the underlying motivations and security vulnerabilities that lead to the type of crises we are facing today with countries such as Iran.

Consequently, the United States and Europe need to work together, preferably in conjunction with Russia and other Western allies such as Japan, on three levels: first, rein in the Iranian nuclear program; second, involve Israel, the one nuclear power in the region, and its Arab neighbors more actively in regional and global nonproliferation efforts; and third, revive multilateral regional security talks. On none of these points are there reasons to be sanguine about the prospects for success, but neither are such efforts futile, particularly if international coordination and willingness to exert political capital on the Middle East proliferation problem increases.

Dealing With Iran

Iran’s potential acquisition of nuclear weapons must be addressed quickly and resolutely. No other proliferation challenge would more dramatically disrupt the regional balance of power and escalate the regional arms race, not to mention undermine the credibility of the NPT, than an Iranian nuclear weapons capability. The potential for nuclear breakout among other Middle Eastern states, in addition to the horrifying risks of such technologies reaching terrorists, would create a proliferation nightmare several times worse than previous threats to the NPT regime.

Indeed, the prospect of a nuclear Iran is one of the few issues currently generating transatlantic agreement, even if tactics differ. Compared to the Europeans, the United States considers sanctions against Iran more favorably and prefers a shorter timeline for imposing them if Iran does not comply with IAEA demands. Both sides are in agreement that Iran cannot be allowed to develop its own nuclear fuel cycle, which could enable Iran to produce enough weapons-grade material for a small arsenal within a short period of time.

The specter of Iranian acquisition of nuclear capabilities is so troubling that Israel predictably has not ruled out a preventive military strike. Such a military option would be much more difficult (militarily and politically) than the Israeli strike against Iraq’s Osirik facility in 1981. Worse still, it could prompt an Iranian military response, further destabilizing the region.[1] Still, the Israelis are leaving the option on the table, issuing statements and pursuing actions that are preparing the ground for such an attack, even if such preparations are solely for deterrent purposes.[2]

Although the IAEA has postponed a decision on whether to refer Iranian safeguards violations to the UN Security Council until its Board of Governors meeting on Nov. 25, Iran’s hard-line position since a September IAEA resolution called on Iran to suspend all enrichment-related activities raises the prospects for escalation. Iran’s refusal to fully abide by its previous commitment to the United Kingdom, France, and Germany to suspend all enrichment activity and hints that it might consider withdrawing from the NPT are raising the stakes.

Generating agreement in support of sanctions will be difficult given the importance of Iranian energy supplies to Western countries, particularly with oil prices at an all-time high.[3] Nevertheless, in the face of continuing Iranian defiance, such a course of action is possible, even though it may take place outside the UN Security Council context. Unfortunately, as the India and Pakistan cases demonstrated, international sanctions that are not pursued through a broad multilateral process over a sustained period of time (as was the case with Libya) are not always an effective instrument in persuading determined states to reverse course.

Time is running out, but the contours of a transatlantic approach are apparent, providing some hope for a nonmilitary solution. Such a strategy, most clearly and forcefully outlined by Robert Einhorn, assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation in the Clinton administration, essentially calls for the United States and Europe to switch roles, with Europe becoming the “bad cop” and the United States becoming the “better cop.”[4] The idea is to change the cost-benefit analysis of the Iranian leadership to the extent that pursuing the nuclear path will be viewed as too costly.

In practice, this translates into tougher and more credible European threats to isolate Iran politically and economically if it does not reverse course (i.e., using sticks instead of simply the threat of deferred carrots). At the same time, the United States will need to indicate what Iranian nuclear capabilities would be acceptable even under the current regime (e.g., nuclear technology that did not allow for an indigenous fuel-cycle capability and would require the return of all spent fuel to approved third parties). Recent discussions between the United States and the Europeans on a package of incentives for Iran, including imported nuclear fuel, suggest the United States and its allies may be moving in this direction.

Even more significantly, the United States would need to drop its regime-change rhetoric and explore the improvement of bilateral relations, beginning perhaps with limited dialogues focused on issues of mutual concern such as Iraq and Afghanistan.[5] Improved relations with Iran will face tremendous domestic resistance in the United States, but an increasing number of voices are calling for such a shift. Indeed, an altered U.S.-Iranian political relationship is the linchpin for any other efforts to address regional proliferation; rethinking this relationship should be the top priority for whichever U.S. administration comes to office this January. The outlines of a Western strategy to resolve this crisis may be clear, but the political will to carry it out, both in Washington and European capitals, is still questionable.

Israel and Its Neighbors

Diplomatic efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear challenge could gain momentum if other regional parties, particularly Israel, take steps to boost the nonproliferation agenda and improve the regional security environment. Accusations of double standards must be evaluated in the context of the existential threat Israel faces and its belief that nuclear weapons offer a valuable deterrent in warding off any attack. Iran’s recent parading of its Shahab-3 missiles, capable of reaching Israel and covered with banners calling for Israel’s destruction, only contributes to this security perception, even though Iran’s motivations for nuclear weapons capabilities are complex and extend beyond the Israeli factor.[6]

Still, the perception among Arab parties and others in the developing world that the West applies double standards when it comes to “acceptable” and “unacceptable” proliferators is real and needs to be addressed. The recent U.S. focus on the Iranian nuclear threat in the context of the Bush administration’s lack of commitment to global arms control treaties such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has only reinforced this perception of double standards.

Some specific steps by Israel could thus improve the climate in the Middle East. Expecting Israel to join the NPT or alter its policy of nuclear ambiguity is a nonstarter; efforts pressuring Israel in this direction will only backfire.[7] Still, Israel could move forward with other arms control measures, such as ratifying the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the CTBT (building on its recent signing of a facilities agreement with the CTBT Organization) and joining the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). At the 2005 NPT Review Conference, Israel could also reaffirm its commitment to join the NPT in the future if certain security conditions are met, such as peace treaties with all of its neighbors and the establishment of a verifiable weapons of mass destruction (WMD)-free zone (WMDFZ)—to include long-range missile capabilities—throughout the region.[8] The United States should encourage Israel to take such steps by offering assurances that renewed political attention to regional arms control will extend beyond a focus on the weapons themselves to include the broader agenda of transforming the security environment and nature of political relations in the region.

Moreover, because one cannot divorce nuclear arms control from other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, a comprehensive approach is necessary if arms control is to be a serious endeavor in the region. In particular, Egypt and Syria should be encouraged to join the CWC. Even if Syria is unlikely to move forward on the CWC until Israel’s posture on the NPT changes, Syria could take other nonproliferation steps, such as ratifying the BWC and the CTBT and subscribing to the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation.

Expectations in Europe that Syria may follow the Libyan model of completely ending its WMD programs may be unwarranted,[9] but the growing European attention to Syria in relation to weapons of mass destruction, especially its chemical weapons program, in conjunction with increasing U.S. pressure should continue. The European refusal to conclude its Trade and Cooperation Agreement with Syria until Damascus accepted the EU’s new standard nonproliferation clause is a welcome step.[10] Europe’s new Neighborhood Policy, which promises closer economic, political, and security relations with the EU’s neighbors in exchange for progress on a variety of “priority” areas including nonproliferation, may also prove a useful lever for European influence on these issues. The Neighborhood Policy, initiated after the EU’s enlargement in May 2004, applies to all non-EU participants in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, or Barcelona process, including key actors in the regional proliferation context such as Israel, Syria, and Egypt.[11]

Renewed Regional Security Dialogue

Specific steps taken by individual Middle Eastern actors can improve regional security, but ultimately the region needs a multilateral regional security process to address the interrelated web of security perceptions and vulnerabilities and the underlying sources for proliferation in the region. Such a process should work toward the creation of a WMDFZ in the long run, along the lines of the nuclear-weapon-free zone in Latin America. Given the political and security realities in the Middle East at present, however, a more realistic short-term agenda could focus on practical confidence-building measures in areas such as conflict prevention, misperception, and limitation of damage should conflict occur.

The short-lived history of the only official multilateral security experiment to date in the Middle East—the Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) working group of the Arab-Israeli multilateral peace process—demonstrates that such an agenda is possible.[12] Established with the Madrid peace conference in 1991, the ACRS process accomplished more than many thought was possible in this region, even if it ultimately collapsed in 1995. As the co-sponsor of the group, the United States sought to structure the ACRS group based on previous arms control experience in the European and U.S.-Soviet context, suggesting that incremental approaches to arms control tended to precede formal arms control measures, such as the banning of certain military activities or actual reductions in capabilities.

Consequently, the ACRS group focused on incremental confidence-building measures to encourage cooperative security norms rather than on a more advanced arms control agenda. After the Oslo breakthrough in Israeli-Palestinian relations in 1993, the ACRS group engaged in a number of conceptual and operational confidence-building activities, such as the drafting of a declaration of principles for regional security and arms control; the creation of a regional security center; the establishment of a communications network; the production of a Pre-notification of Certain Military Activities agreement; an Exchange of Military Activities document; and a number of maritime confidence-building measures such as Search and Rescue (SAR) and Prevention of Incidents at Sea (INCSEA) agreements.

Despite this active agenda, the ACRS group’s demise was brought about largely by the dispute between Israel and Egypt over the Israeli nuclear issue. Egyptian pressure on Israel to sign the NPT increased tension in the group and essentially held all other activities in the process hostage to this issue. Its progress was also limited by setbacks on the bilateral peace process tracks as well as by the exclusion of key regional parties from the process, most notably Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Libya.

The ACRS experience underscores that regional security dialogue can be fruitful and confidence-building measures in a variety of areas are possible. Future efforts, however, will need to adequately address Egyptian and other Arab concerns over the Israeli nuclear arsenal while assuring the Israelis that this will not be the sole focus of such discussions. The ACRS process thus demonstrates the need to work both on longer-term disarmament goals as well as shorter-term regional security confidence-building and cooperative activity. Moreover, a renewed regional dialogue must include the actors who were absent from the ACRS group if the process is to be comprehensive and address the full range of regional security relationships and concerns.

After the demise of the ACRS process, the prospects for a renewed, regional arms control dialogue appeared dim, despite a variety of unofficial track-two dialogues.[13] Yet, in the aftermath of the Iraq war, which highlighted weapons of mass destruction and made clear that Iraq desired to maintain a nuclear deterrent even though it did not actually possess such an active weapons program after 1991,[14] attention is once again being focused on a regional arms control agenda. The ongoing crisis with Iran as well as the positive developments with Libya have only further fueled interest in re-establishing some sort of official regional process.

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei underscored the critical need for a regional security dialogue during his visit to Israel in July 2004. As a result, ElBaradei secured the agreement of regional parties, including Israel, to participate in an IAEA conference this January, which will examine how negotiations established WMDFZs in other regions and what lessons these efforts might offer the Middle East. This meeting is a one-time event, however, and, although useful, cannot replace a more durable regional dialogue process with a broader agenda.

The recent Euro-Med agreement to start a dialogue on weapons of mass destruction is also a positive step. It will include both Israel and Syria, which participate in the Barcelona process. But it cannot replace a dialogue that includes key extra-regional actors such as the United States and critical regional parties in the Persian Gulf that are not part of the Barcelona process. In order to improve understandings of mutual threat perceptions and engage in confidence-building measures in such areas as surprise attack, transparency, conventional stockpiles, and the like, in addition to longer-term disarmament goals, a comprehensive regional security process is essential.

Many will argue that the creation of a multilateral regional security dialogue is impossible absent a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Few can doubt that progress on the Middle East peace process would create a more favorable climate for regional arms control, as occurred in the early 1990s with the ACRS process. A successful Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, for example, could generate momentum and provide political cover for the resumption of a regional arms control process, as would serious Israeli commitment to dismantling settlements deep inside Palestinian territory. Yet, the absence of progress on the peace process also should not provide an excuse for doing nothing. The WMD revelations in Iraq, the recent Libyan decision to dismantle its WMD programs, the growing vulnerability felt by Syria, and the current focus on the Iranian nuclear issue provide an opening for moving a regional arms control agenda forward even in the current environment, as the emergence of recent initiatives suggests.

A new regional security process can work toward a WMDFZ in the long run while maintaining a more pragmatic agenda in the short term. The fact that even under the best political conditions a WMDFZ in the Middle East may never fully transpire should not lead the international community and the region itself to avoid confronting the proliferation crisis and taking steps now to avoid further destabilization. Ultimately, a transformation of political relationships and the creation of a broad, durable, and effective regional arms control process will be key to meeting the proliferation challenges from the Middle East that so threaten stability today.


1. For an assessment of the risks regarding a use of force option, see Michael Eisenstadt, “The Challenge of U.S. Preventive Military Action,” in Checking Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions, eds. Henry Sokolski and Patrick Clawson (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, January 2004).

2. On statements by Israeli leaders not ruling force out in response to the Iranian threat, see Aluf Ben, “Waiting to Bomb Iran,” Ha`aretz, September 29, 2004. On one relevant defense acquisition, a purchase of 500 bunker-busting bombs from the United States, see Maggie Farley, “Powell Denies U.S. Plans to Attack Iran,” Los Angeles Times, September 23, 2004.

3. See George Perkovich and Silvia Manzanero, “Plan B: Using Sanctions to End Iran’s Nuclear Program,” Arms Control Today, May 2004.

4. See Robert J. Einhorn, “A Transatlantic Strategy on Iran’s Nuclear Program,” The Washington Quarterly 27, no. 4 (Autumn 2004): 21-32.

5. See “Iran: Time for a New Approach,” 2004 (report of the Council on Foreign Relations task force co-chaired by Zbigniew Brzezinski and Robert M. Gates). Ray Takeyh and Nikolas K. Gvosdev similarly argue that, because regime change does not appear imminent, we have the opportunity to engage more pragmatic elements within the conservative camp who might find improved relations with Washington in their interest. See Ray Takeyh and Nikolas K. Gvosdev, “Pragmatism in the Midst of Iranian Turmoil,” The Washington Quarterly 27, no. 4 (Autumn 2004): 33-56.

6. See Ray Takeyh, “Iran’s Nuclear Calculations,” World Policy Journal 20, no. 2 (Summer 2003).

7. Indeed, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s revelations regarding Iranian violations and growing capabilities have only reinforced the Israeli rationale for maintaining its current nuclear stance. See Emily B. Landau, “ElBaradei’s Message to Israel: Regional Security Dialogue,” Tel Aviv Notes, no. 106, July 15, 2004.

8. For a similar list of recommendations, see Universal Compliance: Strategy for Nuclear Security, George Perkovich et al (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, June 2004).

9. See Dalia Dassa Kaye, “Europe, Syria, and Weapons of Mass Destruction,” PolicyWatch, no. 824, January 8, 2004, pp. 204-38.

10. In December 2003, the European Union adopted a nonproliferation strategy and has since agreed to include a nonproliferation clause in all agreements with third parties; the Syrians were the first to put this clause to the test. For the text of the nonproliferation clause, see http://ue.eu.int/uedocs/cmsUpload/st14997.en03.pdf.

11. For the European Neighborhood Policy, see http://europa.eu.int/comm/world/enp/policy_en.htm.

12. For information on the Arms Control and Regional Security working group, see Bruce W. Jentleson and Dalia Dassa Kaye, “Securing Status: Explaining Regional Security Cooperation and Its Limits in the Middle East,” Security Studies 8, no. 1 (Fall 1998).

13. See Dalia Dassa Kaye, “Track Two Diplomacy and Regional Security in the Middle East,” International Negotiation 6 (2001): 49-77.

14. For the conclusive report on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, including assessments of Iraqi strategic intentions and perceptions, see “Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq’s WMD,” September 30, 2004, found at http://www.cia.gov/cia/reports/iraq_wmd_2004/.

Dalia Dassa Kaye is currently a visiting professor of political science at the University of Amsterdam. Kaye has published many articles on Middle East security issues and is author of Beyond the Handshake: Multilateral Cooperation in the Arab-Israeli Peace Process.

Iran Considers EU Compromise Proposal

Paul Kerr

Representatives from France, Germany, and the United Kingdom met with Iranian officials twice in October in an effort to head off a possible diplomatic showdown over its nuclear program. But Tehran sent mixed signals as to whether it will agree to a European compromise proposal or risk recriminations at a Nov. 25 meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors.

The European proposal would offer several benefits to Tehran in return for the latter’s suspension of nuclear fuel activities.
A European diplomat told Arms Control Today Oct. 18 that the idea is to present a clear choice to Iran: accept the proposal or risk that the IAEA board refer the matter to the UN Security Council at the November meeting. Taking what appears to be a “wait and see” approach, U.S. officials have publicly distanced themselves from the offer and expressed doubt that Tehran will comply.

At the November meeting, the board is scheduled to assess Iran’s compliance with a September resolution and formulate a response. That resolution called on Tehran to suspend all activities associated with its gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program. Such centrifuges can produce low-enriched uranium for use in nuclear reactors and highly enriched uranium for use in nuclear weapons. (See ACT, October 2004.)

Under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the board is required to notify the Security Council if a state-party is found in noncompliance with its safeguards agreements with the IAEA. Safeguards agreements empower the agency to monitor civilian nuclear facilities to ensure they are not diverted to military purposes. The council may then take action against the offending state.

The United States has been unsuccessfully pushing for such a referral since November 2003, when the IAEA adopted a resolution stating that Iran had conducted several nuclear activities in violation of its safeguards agreement.

This recent proposal is similar to a deal the three governments struck with Iran in October 2003. At the time, Iran agreed to suspend its uranium-enrichment program, but the scope of the suspension has been contentious for some time. Tehran had agreed in February to cease building centrifuges and manufacturing related components but did not entirely stop component production. In June, Iran fully resumed both activities after the IAEA adopted a resolution criticizing Iran. Tehran has not, however, resumed testing centrifuges with uranium hexafluoride—the feedstock for gas centrifuges.

Iran’s conversion of uranium oxide—lightly processed uranium ore—to uranium hexafluoride has also been controversial. Iran announced in September that it had begun to convert a quantity of uranium oxide sufficient eventually to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for several crude nuclear weapons. Hossein Moussavian, head of Iran’s delegation to the IAEA, told Agence France Presse Oct. 6 that Iran had processed “a few tons” of uranium oxide under IAEA supervision.

Tehran’s compliance with the other two provisions of the October 2003 agreement has also been limited. First, the agreement called on Iran to sign and ratify an additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement. Iran’s parliament has not yet ratified the protocol, but Tehran has been acting as if the agreement, which augments the IAEA’s ability to detect clandestine nuclear activities, is in force. Second, Iran agreed to cooperate with the IAEA’s ongoing investigation of its nuclear programs, but its cooperation has often been grudging and incomplete. (See ACT, October 2004.)

Proposal Details

Officials familiar with the issue confirmed details of the Europeans’ proposal, first presented Oct. 21 in Vienna. Matching the provisions set out in the September IAEA resolution, Iran would suspend the manufacture and import of centrifuges and related components, as well as the assembly, installation, testing, and operation of such centrifuges.

Iran would also freeze operation of its uranium-conversion facility and suspend any other efforts to produce feedstock for centrifuges. Any converted uranium would be placed under IAEA safeguards.

The suspension would be indefinite until the two sides reach an acceptable long-term agreement. Although the proposal promises to reaffirm Iran’s right to pursue peaceful nuclear technology, European diplomats have said they ultimately want Iran to dismantle its nuclear fuel facilities. States-parties to the NPT may produce nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes under IAEA safeguards.

Once the suspension is verified, discussions will focus on specific plans for implementing several incentives for Tehran to stop enrichment altogether. Perhaps most importantly, the proposal holds out the promise that the Europeans will guarantee that Iran can obtain nuclear reactor fuel from other countries. The spent fuel would be removed from Iran.

Additionally, the Europeans will support Iran’s acquisition of a light-water research reactor to replace a heavy-water reactor Iran is planning to construct. The United States has labeled the latter a proliferation concern. The Europeans would also resume negotiations on a trade agreement between the European Union and Iran, as well as support ongoing Iranian nuclear cooperation with Russia.

The proposal includes additional promises to pursue cooperation on other issues, such as a Middle Eastern nuclear-weapon-free zone and drug trafficking.

It is unclear when the other benefits would be provided.

If Tehran declines the offer, the three countries will support the referral of Iran to the Security Council. In that case, the council may consider making the suspension mandatory or increasing the inspection powers of the IAEA.

The council would also consider further measures if Iran still refuses to cooperate but the proposal does not elaborate.

Iran’s Reaction

Tehran has not ruled out reaching an agreement with the Europeans but has not yet accepted the offer. Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Hassan Rowhani suggested Oct. 25—two days before the second meeting—that Iran may agree to suspend its enrichment activities for the duration of the talks.

However, Moussavian expressed dissatisfaction with the Europeans’ proposal. He told the Financial Times Oct. 24 that the offer was not “balanced,” indicating that it should be more specific about the incentives and provide a “clear timetable.” He did not say whether Iran would comply with the IAEA resolution in the absence of an agreement with the Europeans.

Tehran has been ambiguous about dismantling its enrichment program. Iranian officials have repeatedly stressed that they want any settlement to recognize their “right” to enrich uranium, pointing out that any suspension agreement goes beyond Iran’s NPT commitments.

It is not clear, however, that Tehran will insist on exercising that right. Foreign ministry spokesperson Hamid Reza Asefi would not say whether Iran would produce nuclear fuel when asked during an Oct. 17 press conference. Moussavian stated that Iran is “prepared for a mechanism” to provide “assurances” that Iranian enrichment activities will be peaceful but did not elaborate. He acknowledged that Iran’s enrichment capabilities will perpetuate concerns that it has a nuclear weapons program.

Perhaps providing a partial explanation for Tehran’s reluctance to go beyond the NPT, Moussavian expressed concern that there will be no limits to European demands if they go beyond Tehran’s current legal commitments. Iranian officials have also said they do not want to have to rely on other countries for nuclear fuel.

Moussavian also claimed that Iran did not fear a referral to the Security Council, saying Iran had made “preparations.” Iran may leave the NPT if Security Council demands “go beyond” the treaty, he added. Rowhani has previously warned that Iran may withdraw if the council imposes economic sanctions.

U.S. Pushes IAEA to Probe Suspected Iranian Nuclear Site

Paul Kerr

The United States wants the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to investigate a site where Iran may be conducting tests for a nuclear weapons program, a Department of State official told Arms Control Today Sept. 21.

The official said the site, called the Parchin military complex, has facilities that could “lend themselves” to testing conventional high explosives for use in an implosion-type nuclear weapon. In such weapons, conventional charges compress a core of fissile material in order to start a nuclear chain reaction.

The official said the facilities have vents and duct work indicating that they may be suitable for such tests. Additionally, the “configuration” of some buildings on the site is similar to some found in a high-explosives testing facility Iraq built for its nuclear weapons program prior to the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

The United States has been aware of the Parchin site for some time, the official said, adding that work on the suspect facilities appears to have accelerated during the past 18 months.

Although anonymous administration officials have been quoted in press reports as saying that the Parchin site shows Iran’s intention to develop nuclear weapons, the State Department official said such statements went “too far” and that Washington has no compelling evidence Iran has been conducting nuclear weapons activities there.

Nevertheless, the official said Washington and the IAEA share “concerns” about the site. An IAEA official told Arms Control Today that the agency has asked Tehran for permission to visit Parchin, but according to the U.S. official, Iran ignored the request. The U.S. official also confirmed a Sept. 17 Washington Post report that the IAEA first requested to visit the site in June.

Iranian officials first denied that the IAEA had asked to visit Parchin, but in a Sept. 19 television broadcast, Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Hassan Rowhani acknowledged that the agency had done so. Dismissing the reported U.S. characterization of Parchin as a possible nuclear site as a “lie,” Hossein Moussavian, head of Iran’s delegation to the IAEA, said agency inspectors may visit the site if they wish, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Despite the IAEA’s request, the U.S. official argued that the agency should pursue the matter more aggressively, asserting that the IAEA “seems” to have been reluctant to press the issue with Tehran.

The United States wants IAEA inspectors to take environmental samples at the site in an effort to detect any secret nuclear activities. However, such samples may not produce conclusive results, the official acknowledged, arguing that Iran may have already been able to thwart inspectors by removing traces of nuclear materials and otherwise altering the site.

Concerns that Tehran has taken similar measures at other sites have surfaced throughout the IAEA’s two-year-old investigation of Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program. For example, the IAEA found that Iran altered the interior of a building under agency investigation in an unsuccessful attempt to conceal secret past nuclear activities. (See ACT, July/August 2004.)

In June, State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher asserted that Iran was trying to conceal nuclear activities by demolishing buildings and removing topsoil at a suspected nuclear site in Tehran. However, Boucher declined to discuss the Parchin site during a Sept. 16 press briefing.

IAEA Puts Off Showdown With Iran

Paul Kerr

With three key European countries intent on giving Iran a final chance to resolve international concerns about its nuclear program, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Board of Governors has again refused to meet U.S. demands that the matter be sent immediately to the UN Security Council.

Instead, the board adopted a resolution Sept. 18 calling on Iran to cooperate fully with the agency’s investigation of its nuclear programs and to suspend “all” activities related to its uranium-enrichment program. Tehran, however, has not yet complied with the latter request, setting the stage for a possible showdown at the board’s next meeting in November, after the U.S. presidential elections.

The latest in a series of similar measures, the resolution calls on IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei to provide the board with three reports before its November meeting: a report on the “implementation” of the most recent resolution, an account of the IAEA’s investigation since its inception in September 2002, and a report on Tehran’s response to requests made in previous IAEA resolutions. It also states the board is to decide in November “whether or not further steps are appropriate.”

Furthermore, the resolution “strongly urges” Tehran to cooperate with the IAEA’s investigation into its nuclear programs, including providing agency inspectors with documentation of its nuclear activities, as well as access to nuclear-related sites.

ElBaradei submitted a report to the board Sept. 1 describing the investigation to date as a mixed picture. Additionally, in Sept. 20 remarks to the IAEA general conference, ElBaradei stated that IAEA inspectors have “gained access to requested locations” in Iran.

But a Department of State official told Arms Control Today Sept. 27 that Washington is concerned that Tehran may be complicating the agency’s investigation in other ways. For example, Iran is not allowing IAEA inspectors to take pictures in some facilities and is also insisting that all interviews be conducted in Farsi. Iran has previously delayed inspectors’ visits to the country and limited their access to certain facilities. (See ACT, May 2004.)

Frayed Suspension

In its most diplomatically charged provision, the resolution states that the board “considers it necessary…that Iran immediately suspend all enrichment-related activities.” It further specifies that the suspension should include the “manufacture or import of centrifuge components, the assembly and testing of centrifuges,” and the production of uranium hexafluoride.

Iran has a gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program, which can produce low-enriched uranium for use in nuclear reactors and highly enriched uranium (HEU) for use as the explosive material in nuclear weapons. Gas centrifuges spin uranium hexafluoride gas at very high speeds to increase the concentration of the uranium-235 isotope, thus “enriching” the uranium.

Iran originally agreed to suspend its enrichment activities as part of an October 2003 agreement with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The scope of this suspension, however, has been contentious for some time. Tehran had agreed in February to cease building centrifuges and manufacturing components, but did not entirely stop component production. Then, irritated by a June IAEA resolution, Iran fully resumed both activities.

According to a European diplomat interviewed Sept. 27, the October agreement included an understanding that Iran would permanently suspend enrichment and eventually dismantle its enrichment facilities. Iran, however, has repeatedly stated that its suspension is “temporary.”

An IAEA official told Arms Control Today Sept. 28 that, contrary to the agency’s previous understanding, Iran has now said its suspension agreement does not include uranium hexafluoride production. Iran has already produced uranium hexafluoride in its uranium-conversion facility, and Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh announced three days after the resolution’s adoption that Tehran had begun another test of the facility. That “test” is to use approximately 37 metric tons of uranium oxide, a quantity sufficient to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for several crude nuclear weapons.

The State Department official said that Iran seems anxious to test the conversion facility for possible weaknesses. U.S. officials judge that Iran cannot manufacture some necessary equipment for the facility and that Tehran lacks sufficient quantities of fluorine to process the quantity of nuclear material Iran has described. The United States is waiting on IAEA inspectors to present more details about the conversion facility so Washington can verify these judgments, the official added.

Since the October agreement, Iran has maintained a freeze on its gas centrifuge facilities, which consist of a pilot facility and an uncompleted commercial facility, both located at Natanz. Although Tehran had previously introduced uranium hexafluoride into some centrifuges at the pilot facility, it has refrained from doing so since the October agreement. (See ACT, September 2003.)

The September resolution also repeats past calls for Iran to ratify its additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement. As a state-party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran has a safeguards agreement, which empowers the IAEA to monitor its nuclear facilities to ensure that they are used solely for civilian purposes. Iran signed an additional protocol as part of its agreement with the three European countries and has agreed to act as if it is in force. The protocol augments the IAEA’s existing authority to detect clandestine nuclear activities.

Pointed Diplomacy

The resolution was the product of intense diplomacy, mainly between the United States and the three European countries that have been dealing with Iran. According to the State Department official, the final resolution was “the bare minimum we could have lived with.”

The Bush administration initially wanted the board to find Iran in noncompliance with its safeguards agreement. Such a finding requires the board to refer the matter to the UN Security Council, which may then take action against Tehran, including imposing economic sanctions. The Bush administration believes that European diplomatic efforts have run their course but was unable to persuade the board to go along. The United States first tried to get such a finding in November 2003. (See ACT, July/August 2004.)

The United States also failed to win support for a draft resolution that would have included an Oct. 31 deadline for Iran to cooperate with the agency and suspend its enrichment activities. Including the deadline would have increased Iran’s “defiance” of the agency, the European diplomat argued, adding that the Europeans felt that Washington’s wish for a “trigger” requiring a Security Council referral was “going too far.” Rather, the Europeans wanted the resolution to convey to Iran that it had a “last chance” to comply with the IAEA’s wishes.

Persuading the board to refer Iran to the Security Council will be nearly impossible unless other countries believe Iran has been given a “reasonable chance” to meet its IAEA obligations, the European diplomat added.
The diplomat also argued that the November date mentioned in the resolution is “clear enough” and Iran “knows what it has to do.” Iran will need to act in a timely fashion in order to enable ElBaradei to write his reports, the diplomat said, adding that the date also serves as a signal to Tehran that the process cannot last indefinitely.

Showdown Ahead?

Although Iran has criticized the resolution and somewhat accelerated its enrichment activities, it has also suggested that it is prepared to negotiate a settlement.

A critical element of the dispute concerns Iran’s legal obligations as an NPT member. Because parties to the NPT may enrich uranium under IAEA safeguards, Tehran’s suspension agreement is not legally required by the agency but is part of the political agreement Tehran concluded in October 2003. Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Hassan Rowhani told reporters Sept. 19 that Tehran will discuss the suspension in negotiations, but it will not decide the question based on IAEA resolutions.

Hossein Moussavian, head of Iran’s delegation to the IAEA, told the Islamic Students News Agency Sept. 25 that Iran is willing to negotiate with its European interlocutors about its enrichment technologies. If the Europeans recognize Iran’s “right to benefit from the capabilities of the fuel cycle,” Iran will be “flexible” on measures to assure other countries that it is not pursuing nuclear weapons, he said. As an example, Moussavian said that Iran will guarantee that it will not enrich uranium “above the level determined by the agency’s regulations.” He also hinted that Iran may “one day” give up its enrichment technologies.

Despite this display of flexibility, Rowhani also warned that Iran may stop adhering to its additional protocol if its nuclear activities are referred to the Security Council. Iran may also withdraw from the NPT if the council imposes economic sanctions, he added.

The State Department official dismissed Iran’s apparent flexibility as a tactic to dissuade the IAEA board from taking stricter action. U.S. officials are now attempting to line up the European countries to support a finding of noncompliance at the November board meeting in the event that Iran does not comply with the resolution.
For their part, the three European governments are willing to talk with Iran about providing possible benefits if the latter fully suspends its enrichment activities, according to the diplomat. Outlined in the original October agreement, these benefits include potential technology transfers, a possible “informal security dialogue,” and a guaranteed “external supply of nuclear fuel,” the diplomat added.




ElBaradei Cites Progress by Iran, but Investigation Continues

Paul Kerr

In a Sept. 1 report to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors, Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei said he was closing the agency’s probe into two aspects of Iran’s nuclear program. But contrary to Iran’s wishes, he said that the more than two-year-old investigation would continue.

In his report, ElBaradei pointed to “steady progress” that has allowed him to conclude special investigations into Iran‘s laser-based uranium-enrichment program and its past uranium-conversion experiments, adding that “further follow-up [on these issues] will be carried out as a routine safeguards implementation matter.”

The agency is still investigating several other issues relating to Iran’s nuclear program, but the report contains little new information about them.

Most importantly, IAEA investigators continue to probe the source of uranium particles enriched by centrifuges and found at several locations in Iran. Uncertainty about the particles’ origin has caused concern because it suggests that Iran may have conducted nuclear experiments that it has not yet admitted or may be concealing nuclear material it either produced or imported. Such actions would also violate Iran’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. (See ACT, July/August 2004.)

Uranium enrichment increases the concentration of the uranium-235 isotope to produce low-enriched uranium for civilian nuclear reactor fuel or, if enriched enough, highly enriched uranium (HEU) for nuclear weapons. Uranium conversion can produce uranium compounds from uranium oxide. These include uranium hexafluoride, which can be used as the feedstock for gas centrifuges. Such centrifuges enrich uranium hexafluoride gas by spinning it at very high speeds. (See ACT, September 2004.)

Iran has admitted to testing centrifuges with nuclear material, but maintains that it only produced uranium enriched to a very low level and asserts that other types of enriched uranium particles originated from centrifuge components obtained from a procurement network run by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan. Iran continues to say that it does not know the origin of the components.

According to the report, several unanswered questions about the particles remain. For example, the IAEA still does not know why Iran’s domestically manufactured centrifuge components have been contaminated with a different type of enriched uranium than their imported equivalents or why uranium enriched to 36 percent U-235 has been found at some facilities where imported components were located, but not at other sites.

Previous reports from ElBaradei have said that some HEU particles found in Iran likely did not come from imported components. The September report, however, states that it “appears plausible” that uranium particles found at the Kalaye Electric Company and Iran’s pilot uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz “may not have resulted from enrichment of uranium by Iran.” Tehran tested centrifuges at Kalaye Electric and has a pilot centrifuge facility at Natanz, where Iran also is constructing a much larger commercial centrifuge facility.

A diplomatic source in Vienna close to the IAEA told Arms Control Today in August that imported components can probably account for all of the uranium particles in question, but cautioned that this will not be confirmed for some time. The source confirmed press reports that particles enriched to 54 percent came from centrifuges imported from Pakistan and that particles enriched to 36 percent apparently came from equipment originating in the former Soviet Union. That equipment reached Iran via China and Pakistan, the source said.

The IAEA also is still attempting to determine the source of uranium hexafluoride found in a storage facility located at the Tehran Research Reactor. According to the report, agency experts continue to regard “as not technically plausible” Iran’s claim that the material leaked from bottles stored at the site.

The agency also continues to examine the scope of Iran’s advanced P-2 centrifuge activities, which Iran initially omitted from an ostensibly complete October 2003 declaration of its nuclear activities. Tehran later claimed that the program was solely for research and development and that it had not obtained any components from foreign sources.

However, Iran later admitted to acquiring magnets for the centrifuges from foreign suppliers. Furthermore, Tehran has indicated interest in acquiring thousands of additional magnets, suggesting that it intends to mass-produce centrifuges. Iran has not yet provided the IAEA with enough information regarding these procurement efforts, the report says.

Additionally, the IAEA continues to doubt Iran’s claim that it obtained the designs for the P-2 centrifuge in 1995 from a foreign source, but did not test any components until 2002. In discussions with the IAEA, Iran attributed this lack of activity to its focus on the P-2’s predecessor, as well as to “organizational” changes in the relevant government agency. The report, however, says this explanation does not “provide sufficient assurance that there were no related activities carried out” during the period in question. IAEA experts believe that Iran’s program is too advanced for Tehran’s time frame to be accurate.

Suspension of Enrichment Activities

The IAEA continues to monitor Iran’s declared suspension of its uranium-enrichment activities. Iran agreed to the suspension as part of an October 2003 agreement with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Tehran then specifically agreed in February to stop assembling centrifuges and manufacturing related components. However, ElBaradei reported in June that Iran had not stopped manufacturing components.

In June, responding to European support for a toughly worded IAEA resolution adopted earlier that month, Iran notified the IAEA that it would resume both component manufacturing and centrifuge assembly under agency supervision. The resolution had specifically called on Iran to fully suspend these activities.

According to the September IAEA report, Iran has since removed from relevant facilities the IAEA seals used to monitor the suspension. As of mid-August, Iran had assembled about 70 centrifuge rotors. Iran has not accepted an IAEA proposal to place these rotors under seal after they have been tested, the report says, adding that the agency’s supervision of the suspension “cannot be considered effective” without such seals.

In addition to its centrifuge activities, Iran produced “about 30-35” kilograms of uranium hexafluoride in its uranium-conversion facility between May and June. Tehran also told the IAEA that it would soon begin another test involving a larger quantity of uranium oxide. Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh announced Sept. 21 that Tehran had begun the test, Reuters reported.

According to ElBaradei’s report, Iran intends to use 37 metric tons of uranium oxide for the test. This amount of uranium could yield a quantity of uranium hexafluoride sufficient to produce HEU for four or five crude nuclear weapons, an IAEA official told Arms Control Today Sept. 22.

Other Issues

The IAEA also is continuing to investigate Iran’s plutonium separation experiments. Separating plutonium from irradiated reactor fuel is another method for obtaining explosive material for a nuclear weapon. According to the report, Iran previously understated the amount of plutonium it separated from uranium irradiated in a research reactor in Tehran, but now agrees with the IAEA’s assessment that Iran produced “milligram quantities” of plutonium. Additionally, the agency continues to investigate the timing of Iran’s plutonium experiments, which may have been conducted more recently than Tehran stated.

The report also describes the agency’s investigation of the Lavizan Shian site, which agency inspectors visited in late June. The IAEA still needs to analyze environmental samples taken at the site, but the Vienna source told Arms Control Today in August that there is no evidence Iran undertook prohibited nuclear activities there. According to the report, Iran told the IAEA that it had established a physics research center at Lavizan Shian in 1989.

Additionally, the report states that the IAEA and Iran have “discussed…open source information relating to dual-use equipment and materials,” apparently a reference to press accounts describing Iranian attempts to purchase deuterium and high-speed electronic switches. Both of these materials can be used in more advanced nuclear weapons.


Iran: Getting Back on Track

Daryl G. Kimball

Since the world’s nuclear watchdog agency confirmed reports of Iran’s extensive and secret nuclear activities more than two years ago, international concerns that Tehran might soon acquire bomb-making capabilities have grown.

The crisis will surely worsen in the next few months unless Iran exercises greater restraint and stops short of completing a large-scale nuclear material production capability. At the same time, the United States must recalibrate its strategy to complement, not complicate, the European diplomatic initiative to reduce Iran’s incentives to acquire the bomb and keep it within the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

Last year, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom persuaded Iran to agree to voluntarily and temporarily halt its uranium-enrichment program and accept tougher International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections. The deal created valuable diplomatic breathing space and the opportunity for the IAEA to gather detailed information about the full extent and nature of Iran’s program.

Iran has grudgingly allowed the IAEA extensive access and information about its covert projects. But several questions still remain, including whether Iran has already enriched uranium. And, last spring, Iran began to undermine confidence by delaying the entry of inspectors and by continuing to manufacture parts for centrifuges for the enrichment process.

The leaders of energy-rich Iran insist these activities are for peaceful purposes and are allowed under the NPT. Their assurances are hardly reassuring. Uranium-enrichment technology cannot only be used to produce low-enriched fuel for power reactors, but also weapons-grade nuclear material.

A close reading of the NPT makes it clear that peaceful nuclear endeavors are a benefit that accrues only to those nonweapons NPT states that credibly fulfill their obligation not to divert nuclear material and technology for weapons.

Accordingly, the Europeans have privately held out the possibility of greater economic ties and a guaranteed nuclear power fuel supply if Tehran’s leaders agree to forgo the capacity to produce nuclear weapons-usable materials. Though this would open the way for much needed foreign investment and allow Iran to produce nuclear energy, the idea has not yet been embraced by Tehran.

Meanwhile, U.S. diplomats have maintained a harder line, charging that Iran has already violated its safeguards agreements. U.S. and Israeli officials have unsuccessfully called on IAEA states to refer the case to the UN Security Council, where they could seek international sanctions against Iran.

This, in turn, has inflamed Iranian nationalism and hardened the government’s stance. Shortly after IAEA member states urged it not to do so, Iran announced last month that it will begin processing about 40 tons of uranium into feed material, which, if enriched to weapons grade, would be enough for several bombs.

Some U.S. officials argue that diplomacy at the Vienna-based IAEA has run its course. However, referral of the Iranian case to the Security Council may push Iran to eject IAEA inspectors or withdraw from the NPT. Getting the council’s approval for sanctions is far from guaranteed and would do little to halt Iran’s advanced nuclear program. More drastic action is also unwise. The effect of a pre-emptive strike by Israel or the United States on Iran’s capabilities would be temporary and would likely trigger a wider war in the region involving exchanges of ballistic missiles.

Although difficult, diplomacy remains the best option. First, Iran should be careful not to escalate the crisis. The European powers must hold Iran to its earlier pledge to halt all uranium-enrichment work and provide the access and cooperation necessary to finally resolve outstanding questions about its past activities. Otherwise, the credibility of Iran’s claim that it has no weapons ambitions will diminish further.

For its part, the United States should tone down its tough talk and work with the Europeans to test Iran’s “peaceful” intentions by endorsing the proposal to provide Iran with a guaranteed supply of nuclear fuel. If Iran is only interested in developing a nuclear power capacity and its perceptions of vulnerability are not reinforced, it should eventually agree to such a deal.

To prevent other states from acquiring the means to produce nuclear bomb material, the international community must be prepared to guarantee nuclear fuel services to states that forgo indigenous uranium-enrichment and plutonium production capabilities. In addition, all states should be pressed to allow more intrusive inspections under the terms of the IAEA Additional Protocol.

Even if Iran complies with its NPT commitments now, it may still choose to follow the nuclear weapons route in the future. Given the stakes, the United States must counter arguments from Iranian hard-liners who wrongly believe that nuclear weapons will enhance Iran’s prestige and counter Israel’s nuclear arsenal. To help do so, Washington should reiterate its long-standing commitment to achieve a Middle East nuclear-weapon-free zone.

Time is running out. The situation demands a new and more sophisticated U.S. strategy that increases Iran’s incentives to halt its dual-purpose nuclear projects and reinforces the view within Iran that it does not need and will not benefit from nuclear weapons.

Israel, Iran Flex Missiles

Wade Boese

Israel and Iran spent the last weeks of the summer conducting missile tests and exchanging verbal volleys about their determination to match each other’s weapons capabilities.

On July 29, Israel, for the first time, successfully tested its Arrow-2 missile defense system against what was widely reported as a Scud ballistic missile. U.S. and Israeli officials would not officially confirm that the target was a Scud—a mainstay of the Soviet missile arsenal that has spread around the globe, including to Iran—but a Missile Defense Agency spokesperson implied as much, commenting Aug. 13 that the target was a “liquid-fueled short- to medium-range ballistic missile.”

The joint U.S.-Israeli test took place off California’s coast to provide a more realistic test scenario. Israel’s territory is too small and densely populated to fire the Arrow-2 against targets at ranges that would replicate a real attack.

The Arrow-2 system failed Aug. 26 to replicate its earlier success, missing an air-launched target off the coast of California. Although U.S. and Israeli officials said they did not know the cause of the failure, they reaffirmed their confidence in the system, which has been tested a total of 13 times but never used in combat. Israel has deployed two Arrow batteries and is seeking to deploy more of the interceptors.

Unlike U.S. missile interceptors that are designed to destroy enemy targets through collisions, the Arrow-2 carries a conventional explosive warhead. Israel Aircraft Industries, which works with U.S.-owned Boeing Corp. to build the Arrow-2 system, said the July 29 test marked “an important step in proving the system’s operational ability and its response to the existing and growing threat of ballistic missiles in our region.”

With Iraq and Libya currently out of the ballistic missile business, Syria and Iran were clearly the intended audiences. Iran was paying attention. Tehran announced Aug. 11 a successful test of its Shahab-3 ballistic missile, which is estimated to be capable of reaching Israel.

Speaking a few days earlier, Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said Iran intended to match Israeli military advances with its own missile improvements. Iran declared the Shahab-3 ready for operations last year but is believed only to possess a handful of the estimated 1,300-kilometer-range missiles.

Iranian officials indicated that the August test sought to verify enhancements to the missile’s range and accuracy, but they were vague about whether the test was a flight or ground experiment. A U.S. official refused to comment on that aspect of the test.

The Department of State released an Aug. 11 statement warning that the United States has “serious concerns about Iran’s missile programs” and that it “will continue to take steps to address Iran’s missile efforts, and to work closely with other like-minded countries in doing so.”

In July, Congress approved $155 million in fiscal year 2005 for the Arrow system. Since 1988, the United States has funneled $1.2 billion to the program, the total cost of which is estimated to reach $2.2 billion by 2010.

The missile tests occurred against a backdrop of growing tension in the region surrounding Iran’s nuclear program, which Washington and Tel Aviv charge is intended for weapons purposes and Tehran defends as a civilian energy project.

IAEA Iran Probe Winding Down; Dispute With U.S., EU Countries

Paul Kerr

In advance of a meeting beginning Sept. 13, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei is to present the agency’s Board of Governors with a report describing progress in the two-year investigation of Iran’s nuclear programs.

In contrast to several past reports, ElBaradei will not reveal any undisclosed Iranian nuclear activities, a diplomat close to the Vienna-based agency told Arms Control Today Aug. 20. The report will resolve, or nearly resolve, most outstanding issues that the agency has been called upon to investigate with regard to Iran’s nuclear activities, the source added.

However, the meeting is unlikely to resolve the controversy surrounding Iran’s nuclear activities or diminish U.S. pressure on Tehran to give up its nuclear program. Questions regarding Iran’s nuclear intentions remain, and Tehran has not taken most actions the board called for in a June resolution, the latest of several that have criticized Iran’s lack of cooperation with the IAEA. (See ACT, July/August 2004.)

IAEA Investigates

In particular, the June resolution emphasized concerns about Iran’s uranium-enrichment activities, especially questions concerning its advanced centrifuge program and the IAEA’s previously reported discovery of enriched uranium at several locations in the country. Gas centrifuges can produce civilian nuclear reactor fuel as well as highly enriched uranium for use in nuclear weapons.

Iran’s clandestine centrifuge program has sparked concern that it has a secret nuclear weapons program. Countries party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) are permitted to enrich uranium, but they must do so under IAEA safeguards agreements. These accords empower the IAEA to ensure nuclear facilities are used solely for civilian purposes. Iran covertly tested some of its centrifuges with nuclear material—a violation of its agreement.

The resolution called on Iran to implement fully its October 2003 pledge to suspend its uranium-enrichment program, a pledge that was part of an agreement with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. (See ACT, November 2003.) However, irritated by the Europeans’ support for the June resolution, Iran stated later that month that it would resume making centrifuge components and assembling centrifuges.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi told reporters July 31 that Tehran had started building centrifuges, Reuters reported. Iran’s centrifuge work is taking place under IAEA supervision, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations Mohammad Javad Zarif told the Financial Times Aug. 9. Iran has not resumed actual uranium enrichment.

Such activity has caused controversy before. Iran continued to manufacture components and assemble centrifuges even after it suspended activities at its other enrichment facilities late last year. Iran agreed in February to stop both component manufacturing and centrifuge assembly, but ElBaradei reported in June that Iran had not stopped manufacturing components. (See ACT, March 2004.)

The resolution also called on Iran to refrain from producing uranium hexafluoride—the feedstock for gas centrifuges—in its uranium conversion facility. Iran told the agency it would begin testing the facility in May, but the Vienna diplomat said Iran has not yet done so.

The board further called on Iran to “voluntarily…reconsider its decision to start construction” of a heavy-water nuclear reactor. Iran was supposed to start construction in June but has not yet done so, a Department of State official said Aug. 27. The United States views this reactor as a proliferation concern, arguing that it is well suited for producing plutonium, which also can be used in nuclear weapons.

As for the enriched uranium particles that the IAEA reported earlier this year, the agency’s investigation has apparently made progress. Iran claims that the particles originated from imported centrifuge components, but previous IAEA reports have questioned that explanation. This uncertainty suggested that Iran had either obtained or produced enriched uranium that it did not report. However, the Vienna diplomatic source stated that, despite these earlier reports, the imported components can probably account for all of the particles in question, but cautioned that this will not be confirmed for some time.

Specifically, the source confirmed press reports that uranium enriched to 54 percent U-235 came from centrifuges imported from Pakistan. Uranium particles enriched to 36 percent U-235 apparently came from equipment originating in the former Soviet Union and reaching Iran via China and Pakistan. Iran’s use of a network run by former Pakistani nuclear weapons official Abdul Qadeer Khan to acquire materials for its centrifuge program has been known for some time. (See ACT, March 2004.)

This, however, does not explain other outstanding issues such as Tehran’s experiments with polonium, an element with limited civilian uses that can be used to trigger a chain reaction in a nuclear weapon.

The IAEA also is investigating allegations that Iran tried to cover up undisclosed nuclear activities by demolishing buildings located at a site called Lavizan Shian. Despite the fact that satellite images appeared to show that Iran razed buildings and scraped topsoil from the site, there is no evidence that Iran removed the soil or undertook prohibited nuclear activities there, the Vienna source said. (See ACT, July/August 2004.)

The source also revealed that the IAEA has completed its preliminary assessment of Iran’s May declaration under the additional protocol to its safeguards agreement. As part of its October 2003 agreement, Iran agreed to sign an additional protocol and act as if it were in force until the Majlis (Iran’s parliament) ratifies it. The board urged Iran in June to ratify the protocol, but the Majlis has yet to do so.

Next Steps
Diplomatic efforts since the June meeting have failed to moderate Iran’s provocative behavior. A July 29 meeting between the European governments and Tehran failed to persuade Iran to stop its centrifuge activity. According to a European diplomat, Iran had agreed in October to an unwritten “understanding” to eventually dismantle its nuclear fuel facilities in return for a guaranteed external fuel supply. However, Iranian officials continue to insist that they will not accept such an arrangement, although Zarif indicated that Iran wished to “address the legitimate concerns” of the United States and the Europeans regarding its nuclear program.

A State Department official interviewed Aug. 17 said Washington believes that the European governments’ diplomacy “has run its course” and that more pressure needs to be applied to Tehran. The June resolution did not set a deadline for Tehran to cooperate or mandate any consequences to be imposed if it did not.

Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton conveyed a sense of urgency regarding Iran’s nuclear program to a Hudson Institute audience Aug. 17, asserting that, “[i]f we permit Iran’s deception to go on much longer...Iran will have nuclear weapons.” He added that Iran told its European interlocutors in July that it could “enrich enough uranium for nuclear weapons within a year.” Bolton told Reuters two days later that Iran further claimed “it could possess nuclear weapons within three years.” But foreign diplomats familiar with the meeting contradicted these reports.

Bolton also alluded to recent press reports suggesting that Iran is acquiring additional materials with possible nuclear weapons applications (see sidebar).

The current estimate for when Iran might acquire nuclear weapons is unclear. A February 2003 Defense Intelligence Agency estimate says Iran will have a nuclear bomb by 2010 if it acquires the necessary technology and fissile material. Israeli intelligence estimates that Iran will be able to develop a nuclear weapon by 2007, according to July press reports.

The Bush administration has not yet decided whether to try and persuade the board to find Iran in noncompliance with its safeguards agreement at the September meeting. Such a finding requires the board to refer the matter to the UN Security Council, which may then take measures, including economic sanctions, against Tehran. The United States failed to persuade the board to adopt such a stance in a November 2003 resolution and has not attempted to do so since.

The official acknowledged that the tone of ElBaradei’s report will play a large factor in determining whether Washington will be able to get a noncompliance finding. “We have our work cut out for us,” the official said, adding that the European governments are still deciding on their position.

Kharazi said on state television that Iran wants the board to resolve the issues concerning its nuclear program at the upcoming meeting, Agence France Presse reported Aug. 19. Zarif said that Iran may not follow through on its commitment to ratify the additional protocol if the matter is referred to the Security Council.

Bushehr Delay
Meanwhile, Assadollah Sabouri, deputy head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, announced Aug. 22 that Iran’s nuclear reactor under construction near the city of Bushehr will not begin operating until 2006, Agence France Presse reported. This marked yet another delay from its scheduled 2003 beginning date.

Sabouri also stated that Iran will begin using domestically produced nuclear fuel for its reactors after a 10-year fuel-supply agreement with Russia ends. Moscow is building the reactor and has agreed to supply fuel for it. Russia promised the United States that it would take back the reactor’s spent fuel to prevent Iran from extracting plutonium from it. The agreement is not yet concluded, and Russia has refused to send nuclear fuel to Iran until it is.

The announcement that Iran eventually plans to provide its own fuel for the Bushehr reactor could exacerbate U.S. concerns. Bolton stated Aug. 17 that the reactor “would produce enough plutonium each year for about 30 nuclear weapons.”

Steps to Developing a Nuclear Weapon: The Uranium Route

Paul Kerr

Along with plutonium, highly enriched uranium (HEU) is one of two key materials that can be used as the explosive material in nuclear weapons. For two years, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been probing Iran’s covert use of uranium enrichment technologies to determine whether Tehran has a secret program to build nuclear weapons in violation of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

Enrichment is the process of increasing the concentration of the uranium-235 isotope, which fissions far more readily than the more common uranium-238 isotope. Natural uranium is only 0.7 percent uranium-235. Uranium that contains uranium-235 (low-enriched uranium) is used as fuel in power reactors.

But the same technologies that produce weapons-grade uranium, also can produce low-enriched uranium for civilian nuclear power plants, complicating the IAEA’s task.

In July, new information emerged suggesting that Iran is attempting to develop nuclear weapons. Western diplomatic sources, as well as a U.S. official, confirmed press accounts of intelligence describing Iranian attempts to purchase deuterium (or heavy water) and high-speed electronic switches. Both are dual-use materials, which can be used to produce a more advanced nuclear weapon. Undersecretary of State John Bolton stated Aug. 17 that the United States wants the IAEA to investigate these “procurement attempts.”

Step 1 Mine and process uranium

• Iranian President Mohammad Khatami announced Feb. 9, 2003 that Iran had started mining uranium near the city of Yazd.

Step 2 Convert uranium oxide into uranium hexafluoride for enrichment

• On March 3, 2003 Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Rowhani declared Iran’s uranium conversion facility operational.
• A June 6, 2003 report from IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei revealed that Iran had imported uranium compounds such as uranium hexafluoride, uranium tetrafluoride, and uranium dioxide in 1991.
• ElBaradei presented a report Aug. 26, 2003, which included Iran’s admission that it had conducted uranium conversion experiments in the early 1990’s.
• Iran informed the IAEA April 29 that it would begin “hot tests” of the facility’s uranium hexafluoride production line beginning May 6, but there is no public indication that it has done so.

Step 3 Enrich Uranium

Gas Centrifuges: Precision rotors containing uranium hexafluoride gas spin at very high speeds. Heavier isotopes concentrate toward the wall of the rotor, where they can be removed.

• During a Feb. 21-22, 2003 visit, ElBaradei reportedly expressed surprise at the progress of the Iranian gas centrifuge facility. Iran was operating a small pilot facility with more than 160 centrifuges and planning to install up to 50,000 centrifuges at a commercial facility located at the same site. Iran suspended work at the site last December after agreeing to do so in October 2003.
• The subsequent IAEA investigation revealed that Iran had covertly tested centrifuges with nuclear material. Under
the NPT, states are permitted to possess enrichment facilities, but they must allow the IAEA to monitor their operation. Iran publicly tested a single centrifuge June 25, 2003 and began to test 10 more centrifuges two months later. On Feb. 24, 2004 ElBaradei stated that Iran had continued to manufacture centrifuge parts and assemble entire centrifuges. Iran agreed in February to suspend this activity, but it never entirely stopped manufacturing components. Tehran then announced June 24, 2004 that it would resume making components and assembling centrifuges.
• ElBaradei also revealed in February that Iran had conducted research and development on a centrifuge more advanced than the type it had disclosed to the IAEA. He further reported June 1 that a private Iranian company had made inquiries about procuring components for thousands of centrifuges.

Laser Enrichment: Laser-based enrichment technologies utilize small differences in light frequencies to ionize lighter uranium-235 from heavier uranium-238. The weapons-grade atoms are then collected on a negatively charged plate.

• In late October 2003, Iranian officials admitted to pursuing and making significant progress on laser technology but said it no longer has operating laser enrichment facilities.

Step 4 Bomb design and development, computer simulation, and non-nuclear high-explosive testing

• Intelligence reports described in July press accounts indicate that Iran has attempted to obtain high-speed electronic switches, although it is unclear when these attempts took place or whether Tehran is still attempting to do so. Such switches are used to ensure that conventional high explosives in implosion weapons detonate simultaneously.
• The February 2004 report from ElBaradei stated that Iran had conducted experiments with polonium, which can be used as a neutron initiator to trigger a nuclear chain reaction.
• Intelligence reports also indicate that Iran is attempting to acquire deuterium from Russia. Deuterium, along with tritium, is used as the “boost gas” in a certain type of nuclear weapon. Additionally, deuterium and tritium are used as neutron initiators in modern nuclear weapons. The boost gas greatly increases the yield of a given amount of fissile material. Deuterium also can be used as a moderator in heavy-water nuclear reactors (heavy water is another name for deuterium). Iran has said it is constructing such a reactor, along with a heavy-water plant.

Step 5 Fabricate highly enriched uranium into a bomb core or “pit,” and assemble the weapon

• No evidence.

Possible Step Nuclear testing.*

• No evidence.

* HEU can be used to make two fundamentally different types of weapons: gun-type weapons and implosion weapons. Gun-type weapons (such as the “Little Boy” bomb used in the 1945 attack on Hiroshima, Japan ) require more HEU, but are far simpler to design and build. Such weapons require neither a neutron trigger, nor high-explosive testing or assemblies. These weapons also allow manufacturers very high confidence that the devices will explode, even without testing. Implosion weapons use one-third as much HEU (or less), but are much more difficult to design and build.

IAEA Report Questions Iran's Nuclear Programs

By Paul Kerr

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei provided an update on the agency’s investigation of Iran’s nuclear programs in a June 1 report to the IAEA Board of Governors.

According to the report, the most important outstanding issues concerning these programs have yet to be resolved, partly because Iran delayed until April the IAEA inspections that were scheduled for March. The delay meant that environmental samples could not be taken and analyzed in time for the board’s most recent meeting, which began June 14.

Last October, Tehran gave the IAEA what it claimed was a complete declaration of its nuclear programs, but a February report from ElBaradei stated that the agency’s subsequent investigation revealed the declaration to be incomplete.

Uranium Enrichment

Gas Centrifuge Program

The IAEA reports that several major issues concerning Tehran’s gas centrifuge uranium-enrichment program still need to be resolved. The program began in 1985 and now consists of a small pilot facility at Natanz, as well as a larger commercial facility at the same site. Uranium-enrichment facilities can produce fissile material for nuclear weapons, as well as fuel for civilian nuclear reactors. Iran was operating the pilot facility and planning to install up to 50,000 centrifuges at the commercial facility, but suspended work at the site last December after agreeing to do so in October 2003.

The agency is still investigating the source of enriched uranium particles found at several locations in Iran. This “contamination” has caused concern because it suggests that Iran may have conducted nuclear activities that it has not yet admitted to and may be concealing nuclear material it either produced or imported.

Iran has admitted to testing centrifuges with nuclear material at a facility called the Kalaye Electric Company without first informing the IAEA, a violation of its safeguards agreement with the agency. However, Tehran has said it produced only uranium enriched to a very low degree and has attributed the IAEA’s discovery of other types of enriched uranium particles to contamination from centrifuge components obtained from a procurement network run by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan. Iranian officials maintain that they do not know the components’ origin, but a February report from Malaysia’s Inspector General of Police states that used centrifuges were sent from Pakistan to Iran via the United Arab Emirates during the mid-1990s.

ElBaradei reported in February that Iran’s domestically manufactured components have been contaminated with a different type of enriched uranium than their imported equivalents. Furthermore, environmental samples taken at the Kalaye facility and another site called Farayand Technique indicate the presence of 36 percent enriched uranium—material Iran has not declared to the IAEA and which probably did not come from imported components.

IAEA and Department of State officials told Arms Control Today that such uranium has been used in Soviet-designed research reactors, and as fuel for nuclear-powered submarines. Uranium enriched to this level would probably not be used in nuclear weapons.

The IAEA is also trying to determine the source of uranium hexafluoride contamination found in a storage facility located at the Tehran Research Reactor. Uranium hexafluoride is the feedstock for centrifuges. The IAEA’s discovery, first reported in June 2003, that uranium hexafluoride was missing from cylinders imported in 1991 raised suspicions that Iran had tested centrifuges with it—a suspicion that proved correct. Before it admitted to the testing, Iran had said the material leaked from the cylinders, but this admission still left unexplained the contamination in the storage facility.

Tehran now admits that it stored “bottles containing [uranium hexafluoride] from domestic [research and development] conversion activities,” but insists that this material leaked from the bottles. IAEA experts do not “consider this explanation credible.” Iran has admitted to conducting uranium-conversion experiments and has a facility that can convert uranium oxide to uranium hexafluoride. (See ACT, December 2003.)

Additionally, the agency is in the process of determining the scope of Iran’s research and development into a centrifuge based on a common design known as the “P-2,” which is more advanced than the type installed in the Natanz facility. Libya also acquired from the Khan network centrifuges based on this design called the “L-2.” This part of the investigation has been particularly contentious because Iran failed to declare this work to the agency in October. ElBaradei reported in February that Iran had told the agency that it had not received any centrifuge components from foreign sources.

Iran has now admitted, however, to acquiring magnets for the centrifuges “from Asian suppliers” and has also disclosed that a private Iranian company made inquiries about procuring 4,000 magnets “suitable for use” in the advanced centrifuges. Moreover, IAEA Deputy Director-General Pierre Goldschmidt stated June 17 that the agency has “indications” that Iran “had shown interest in acquiring up to 100,000” additional magnets. The new procurement information “bring[s] into question previous statements by Iran that the P-2 programme was research and development,” Goldschmidt added.

Furthermore, Tehran has stated that a key component for the P-2 centrifuges was manufactured in a facility associated with Iran’s Ministry of Defense, contradicting Iran’s previous assertion that the components were manufactured at a private workshop. This revelation perhaps suggests that Iran’s nuclear program is for military purposes.

The report also casts doubt on Iran’s account of the pace of its P-2 centrifuge work. Iran contends that it obtained the designs in 1995 from a foreign source but did not begin work until 2001. IAEA experts, however, believe that Iran’s program is too advanced for this time frame to be accurate. The report adds that Iran received the designs from the same source Libya used to obtain designs for its recently ended centrifuge program, but does not explicitly name the Khan network. (See ACT, March 2004.)

Laser Enrichment

Iran told the IAEA in October that it had been pursuing a laser-based uranium-enrichment program since 1991, but ElBaradei’s June report indicates that Iran understated the enrichment capabilities of its laser equipment.

Suspension of Enrichment Activities

Despite an October pledge to suspend its enrichment activities, Iran continued to assemble centrifuges until mid-January and manufacture centrifuge components until February, claiming that such activities were consistent with its agreement.

At that point, Iran told the IAEA that, beginning the following month, it would suspend its assembling and testing of centrifuges, as well as the manufacture of related components. However, despite Iran’s claim that manufacturing had stopped in early April, three private companies are continuing to build components.

The report cautions that “[s]ome of the activities subject to suspension, such as component production, are inherently difficult to verify,” adding that the IAEA “cannot provide any assurance” that components are not being produced at sites Iran has not identified to the IAEA.

Iran has provided IAEA inspectors access to facilities they wish to inspect, the report says, but Tehran’s discussions with the agency regarding the details of inspections at military sites delayed visits to workshops at those sites. Inspectors had visited two of the three military sites in question as of June 1.

Moreover, Iran has also announced that it plans to produce uranium hexafluoride in its uranium-conversion facility. Iran says it is only testing the facility, but the IAEA has told Iran that the amount of material it plans to use qualifies the so-called testing as “production of feed material for enrichment processes,” an activity that the report says is “at variance with the [a]gency’s previous understanding of Iran’s decision.” Although Iran told the IAEA that it would begin the tests May 6, it had not done so as of May 21.

Tehran has not undertaken any activities at either its laser facility or the Natanz facility, the report says.

Other Concerns


The IAEA is also concerned about Iran separating spent reactor fuel. Such separation is needed before spent nuclear fuel can be reprocessed. Reprocessed fuel can be used to produce plutonium, another explosive material for nuclear weapons.

According to the report, Iran “understated” the amount of plutonium it secretly separated from spent fuel produced in a research reactor in Tehran, although “the amounts produced were only in the milligram range.” In addition, the report suggests that these separation experiments, which the IAEA first reported in November, occurred more recently than Iran had previously declared.

Concern about reprocessing has grown as Iran has nearly completed a light-water reactor (LWR) and announced earlier this year that it would start building a heavy-water reactor in June. (See ACT, May 2004.)

Iran claims the heavy-water reactor is for producing isotopes for civilian purposes, but the report states that Iran was attempting to procure hot cells—facilities used in isotope production that can also be used in reprocessing spent nuclear reactor fuel—with a “wall thickness…more indicative of that required for handling spent fuel.” Iran now says it no longer plans to build hot cells.


The IAEA is continuing to investigate Iran’s production of polonium, a radioisotope that has limited civilian applications but can also be used to trigger a nuclear chain reaction in certain types of nuclear weapons. Iran continues to maintain that it produced the substance for possible use in batteries, but agency investigators regard this explanation as thinly documented and “not entirely adequate,” the report says

ElBaradei reported in February that Tehran had told the IAEA three months earlier that it had produced polonium.

Satellite Photos Show Possible Nuclear Site in Iran

Iran has demolished buildings at the Lavizan Shian site located in Tehran and removed a layer of topsoil, according to commercial satellite images obtained by a U.S. nongovernmental organization. The disclosure led U.S. officials to suggest that Iran has not yet disclosed all facilities and activities associated with its nuclear programs.

The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) provided the images to ABC News, which first aired the story June 16. The site was intact in an August 2003 picture, but images from March and May of this year revealed that the buildings were razed and the earth removed.

The revelations were particularly controversial because they came as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was formulating a June 18 resolution condemning Iran’s failure to disclose all information relevant to its nuclear programs.

Department of State spokesperson Richard Boucher told reporters June 17 that this new evidence “raises serious concerns and fits a pattern…that we’ve seen from Iran of trying to cover up on its activities, including by trying to sanitize locations which the IAEA should be allowed to visit and inspect.” Iran previously altered the interior of a building located at the Kalaye Electric Company in an apparent attempt to thwart IAEA inspection efforts. Despite this attempt, the IAEA managed to obtain detailed data indicating that Iran conducted secret nuclear activities there. (See ACT, September 2003.)

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei told Agence France Presse June 28 that agency inspectors had visited Lavizan Shian site that day and had taken environmental samples.

U.S. officials have repeatedly charged Iran with pursuing nuclear weapons, but Iran claims its nuclear programs are entirely peaceful.





IAEA Report Questions Iran's Nuclear Programs


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