June 2, 2022 | The Wall Street Journal

The U.N. Nuclear Watchdog Must Censure Iran

A new agreement with Tehran is pointless if IAEA inspectors are unable to do their jobs properly.
June 2, 2022 | The Wall Street Journal

The U.N. Nuclear Watchdog Must Censure Iran

A new agreement with Tehran is pointless if IAEA inspectors are unable to do their jobs properly.

Excerpt

Iranian officials plotted in the early 2000s to deceive the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and defeat its inquiries into Tehran’s covert nuclear weapons program. The Journal reported last week that the Islamic Republic even stole internal IAEA documents, the better to organize its deceptions. Iran has also stonewalled, for nearly four years, a new, little-publicized IAEA investigation into its covert nuclear activities, and the watchdog reported Monday that Tehran has not answered questions about its undeclared nuclear work. These revelations underscore how foolish President Biden has been in negotiations over a new nuclear deal. To enforce transparency, he must push for the IAEA to censure Iran when its members assemble on Monday.

The Biden administration has focused its diplomatic efforts on reviving the expired 2015 nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The Biden administration and officials from France, Germany and the U.K. have discussed the prospect of a new deal with the Iranians, but Tehran has shown little interest in compromising. Still, the U.S. and its European allies have withheld IAEA censure—which would insist that Iran comply with the agency’s investigation or else the issue could be referred to the U.N. Security Council—lest it disrupt negotiations.

That was a mistake. The IAEA’s new inquiry revealed what many policy makers have long known: The JCPOA did little to stop Iran from pursuing its nuclear interests. The IAEA began its investigation in 2018, after Israel obtained an archive of secret Iranian nuclear documents. The files, dating mainly from the late 1990s to 2004, showed that Tehran had gotten closer to a nuclear weapon than previously realized. In 2003, with American troops to Iran’s west in Iraq and its east in Afghanistan, Tehran’s leaders suspended their easily detectable efforts to make atomic weapons. But the exfiltrated files show that Tehran planned to maintain clandestine activities aimed at weaponization—the ultrasensitive process of fabricating a nuclear bomb—and the documents pointed the IAEA to several suspicious sites that could host secret nuclear research.

Ms. Wolcott was the U.S. representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (2018-21). Mr. Ruggiero was senior director for counterproliferation and biodefense on the National Security Council (2019-21). Andrea Stricker contributed to this article. Follow Anthony and Andrea on Twitter @NatSecAnthony and @StrickerNonpro. They are all affiliated with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ new Nonproliferation and Biodefense program.

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Issues:

International Organizations Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran Nuclear Nonproliferation