IRAN: Work on nuclear weapon suspected by IAEA
By James Rosen
United Nations nuclear inspectors continue to harbor strong suspicions that Iran is actively working on developing a nuclear weapon, according to the latest report by the international body’s nuclear watchdog agency. These suspicions focus on the work of Iranian technicians, the report said, “including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.”
The November 16 report by Yukia Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, also warned about the Islamic regime constructing a “nuclear explosive device,” a somewhat oblique reference that could have been intended to mean either a warhead or a detonation mechanism.
“The agency has obtained more information,” Amano wrote, suggesting that “Iran has carried out activities that are relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device…that prior to the end of 2003 the activities took place under a structured program; that some continued after 2003; and that some may still be ongoing.”
These findings, presented to the IAEA board of governors, undergirded a broader conclusion that U.N. inspectors cannot verify that “all nuclear material in Iran is [being used] in peaceful activities.” What’s more, Amano said, Tehran’s intransigence in ongoing talks aimed at resolving these and other concerns – including a lack of access to key sites – has “seriously undermined the Agency’ ability to undertake effective verification.”
In stressing that Iran’s suspected work on late-stage nuclear weaponry equipment “continued after 2003,” the agency effectively rebutted a controversial 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, prepared by the U.S. intelligence community, that concluded the regime had completely halted such work four years earlier. Many analysts, situated both inside and out of the intelligence community, disputed that finding at the time the NIE was released.
Like prior reports, the IAEA’s November 16 update catalogues a broad range of activity by Iran relating to the enrichment of uranium – a process that several resolutions from the U.N. Security Council, which carry the weight of international law, have demanded Iran cease. For example, the report described a robust program of centrifuge installation at numerous facilities, and the feeding of gas into the centrifuges These activities have enabled Tehran to enrich uranium at different levels, some consistent with peaceful nuclear research and some not.
In his efforts to broker better working relations with Iran, Amano also recounted numerous overtures his agency has made to the regime. “No concrete results were achieved,” he reported glumly – save for an agreement to hold still another round of talks between IAEA inspectors and Iranian officials, scheduled to be held in Tehran on December 13.