November 28, 2016 | Memo
Concerns about a Reduction of Transparency in IAEA Reporting on Iran’s Nuclear Program
FDD Research Memo
While the U.S. administration maintains that Iran has thus far complied with the nuclear deal, the recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report indicates that for the second time, Iran has exceeded the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’s (JCPOA) limit for its inventory of heavy water. Its heavy water inventory is now slightly greater than permitted quantities, though it does not at this stage, and in itself, materially impact on the breakout time under the agreement. Still, this is concerning due to the fact that Iran exceeded the limit intentionally. And while Iran stated that it is planning to ship out five tons of material at a later date, it shows disrespect for the nuclear terms of the agreement.
Iranian officials have also continued to flaunt their nuclear ambitions, raising questions about whether Iran is violating the spirit of the agreement. As recently as August 2016, Mohammad-Javad Larijani, a foreign affairs adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, called for building a “massive institute for nuclear research” and said that to deter a Western attack, Iran must convince the world that it can build a bomb within 48 hours.
To assess statements of this nature, transparency is critical, especially as Iran seeks to persuade the world that its nuclear program is and will continue to be strictly peaceful. Part of the JCPOA’s limit to ensure a one-year breakout time – time to produce enough high-enriched uranium for one nuclear weapon – was to push Iran back from crossing that nuclear threshold and build confidence through verification on the scope of the Iranian nuclear program until the IAEA draws a “broader conclusion.” Since Implementation Day, however, the IAEA has reduced the level of transparency and details in its reporting. This makes serious quantitative assessments on the progress of verification activities by member states practically impossible. Clarifications are also needed on the type, level, and frequency of all aspects of monitoring and verification work that both the IAEA and the United Nations Security Council are undertaking on a sustained basis to provide a full and unbiased picture of Iran’s current nuclear activities.