(Washington, D.C., August 19, 2019) – The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has not demonstrably fulfilled its legal mandate to investigate the sites, equipment, and material documented in the clandestine nuclear archive that Israel seized from Tehran in a raid last year, according to a new Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) report issued today.
In “Politics vs. Protocol: Iran’s Nuclear Archive and the IAEA’s Responsibilities,” Senior Iran Analyst Tzvi Kahn examines the archive’s contents and the corresponding responsibilities of the IAEA, the UN body tasked with monitoring Iran’s nuclear program. Noting that the archive identifies Iranian nuclear facilities, equipment, and activities previously unknown to the agency, Kahn argues that further investigation of Tehran’s nuclear program remains necessary to ensure that no covert nuclear activity continues today.
“Iran’s nuclear archive and the IAEA’s efforts – or apparent lack thereof – to act upon its findings have received insufficient attention in Washington, with some analysts dismissing the archive as a relic of the past with no policy implications for today,” Kahn said. “This report aims to dispel this myth by providing an overview of the archive – in clear, accessible language aimed at non-specialists – and its relevance for the multiple nonproliferation agreements that Iran has concluded.”
Historically, the IAEA has played a vital role in monitoring the spread of nuclear material worldwide. In the years before the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the IAEA provided detailed reporting about Tehran’s nuclear activity, enabling the international community to reach informed decisions regarding appropriate countermeasures.
Since the JCPOA, however, the IAEA has provided insufficient transparency and clarity about its inspections in Iran. This opacity raises questions about the diligence of the IAEA’s investigations – particularly its probe of sites, equipment, and activities catalogued in the archive.
The agency’s approach, Kahn writes, invites criticism that political considerations have interfered with its obligation to serve as an objective, technical body. The actions and public statements of IAEA leaders convey a hesitation to scrutinize any Iranian activity that potentially violates the JCPOA, lest the resulting evidence undermine the accord’s viability. This reluctance is all the more notable in light of the IAEA’s comparatively swift responses to disclosures of new information in the years prior to the JCPOA.
“This report shines a much-needed spotlight on Iran’s longstanding nuclear mendacity, which strikes at the heart of the global nonproliferation regime,” said FDD chief executive Mark Dubowitz. “As importantly, however, the study also provides a much-needed refresher course on Iran and the IAEA’s core legal obligations, which are still widely misunderstood. Kahn incisively elucidates how the IAEA has shirked its duty – and what the agency still must do to determine the full nature of Iran’s nuclear program.”
The report provides several recommendations. It urges the IAEA to inspect promptly all Iranian sites, equipment, and materials discussed in the archive; to strengthen its investigation of past and present issues concerning the possible military dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program; to issue comprehensive, transparent reports on Iran’s nuclear activities; and to require Tehran to supply the IAEA with all documents that Israel failed to extract from the archive. The report also urges the Trump administration and Congress to call upon the IAEA to take these steps.
Since Israel publicly disclosed the archive in April 2018, FDD, in conjunction with the Institute for Science and International Security, has produced a series of papers analyzing the archive’s contents and significance. Kahn’s report builds upon these essays by providing a more detailed assessment not only of the archive’s legal implications, but also of the shortcomings in the IAEA’s response.
The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) is a Washington, DC-based nonpartisan policy institute focusing on national security and foreign policy. Visit our website at fdd.org and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
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