IAEA indicts Iran
New intelligence continues to blast away like a sledgehammer at
Iran's rocklike insistence that its nuclear program is purely
peaceful and not a nuclear weapons effort as many strongly believe.
The latest evidence comes out of the United Nation's nuclear
watchdog in Vienna, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),
which released a nine-page report that casts serious doubt on
Iran's purported pacifist power program.
In a dramatic change, based on new, multi-source, multilateral
intelligence received over time from its members, the IAEA has
shifted its position from being unable to prove Iran has a nuclear
weapons program to being unable to prove Iran doesn't have
Regrettably, the nuclear weapons shoe increasingly fits Iran's
foot quite snuggly.
Based on 18 hard-copy and electronic documents provided to the
IAEA, the nuclear-monitoring agency revealed in its report in late
May several deeply disturbing concerns on the nature of Iran's
nuclear program, especially possible military dimensions. In its
first formal assessment of Iran's nuclear efforts since February,
the IAEA states: "The agency is of the view that Iran may have
additional information, in particular on high explosives testing
and missile-related activities, which could shed more light on the
nature of these alleged studies and which Iran should share with
The IAEA considers these unanswered questions on Iran's nuclear
work "a matter of serious concern," because the existence of this
sort of activity might indicate Tehran is secretly developing a
nuclear weapon, contrary to its repeated public
Moreover, the report states: "Iran has not provided the agency
with all the information, access to documents and access to
individuals necessary to supports Iran's statements," despite the
new intelligence, which is "detailed in content and appears to be
The first charge is that Iran is suspected of conducting high
explosives testing. This includes work with exploding bridge wire
(EBW) detonators and a detonator firing unit, which could be used
for triggering a nuclear weapon; 500 EBW detonators were
In addition, a five-page document described experiments for a
"complex multipoint initiation system" to "detonate a substantial
amount of high explosive in hemispherical geometry" that could be
employed in an implosion-type nuclear device.
Tehran also is accused of developing plans for underground
explosives testing, which could be used for detonating a nuclear
weapon similar to the testing done by North Korea when it joined
the once-exclusive nuclear club in October 2006.
The documents include a diagram for what is described as a
400-meter-deep shaft located 10 kilometers from a firing control
point, showing "the placement of various electronic systems such as
a control unit and a high-voltage power generator."
There is also a mysterious piece of information the IAEA calls
the "uranium metal document" in its report, which is related to the
"actual design or manufacture by Iran of nuclear material
components of a nuclear weapon." The document reportedly involves
procedures for machining highly enriched uranium metal into a
hemispherical shape, key to producing the rounded pits used in
modern implosion-type nuclear weapon warheads.
Strikingly, the report notes that "Pakistan has confirmed, in
response to the agency's request, that an identical document exists
in Pakistan" to the one found in Iran -- possibly showing
connections to Pakistan's nuclear weapons program.
Another IAEA concern is work on a new ballistic missile warhead,
known as Project 111, for Iran's medium-range ballistic missile,
the Shahab-3, which can range all of the Middle East, as well as
parts of southern Europe. According to six technical documents in
the IAEA's possession, Iran appears to have been involved in the
redesign of the payload chamber of the current "Shahab-3 missile
re-entry vehicle to accommodate a nuclear warhead."
Although not detailed in the report, Iran also is suspected to
be involved in the aggressive development of an intercontinental
ballistic missile, perhaps under cover of a civilian space program.
In the report, the IAEA also questioned the Iranian military's
seeming involvement in Tehran's civilian nuclear efforts. It seems
military-related institutions are involved in suspicious
procurement activities for Iran's purported nuclear power
There are also concerns about an unexplained letter published
by the chairman of Iran's high-ranking Expediency Council in
September 2006, which makes "reference to possible acquisition of
It gets worse.
UNABATED URANIUM ENRICHMENT
The report also notes that Iran continues uranium enrichment,
the proverbial long-pole in the tent in producing a nuclear weapon
-- at least in comparison with developing a delivery platform or
warhead. As the American IAEA representative, Ambassador Gregory
Schulte, told the press: "At the same time that Iran is
stonewalling its [IAEA] inspectors, it's moving forward in
developing its enrichment capability in violation of [U.N.]
Security Council resolutions."
Iran's uranium enrichment plant at Natanz already is using at
least 3,000 centrifuges. Theoretically, if operating efficiently,
this line could produce enough weapons-grade fissile material to
build one bomb in a year to 18 months time. The uranium enrichment
process can produce fuel for a nuclear power reactor or fissile
material for a nuclear weapon. To date, Iran has publicly stated
enrichment rates of more than 4 percent, suitable for reactor fuel
if produced in sufficient quantities; weapons-grade uranium is
usually enriched to above 90 percent. Some experts say they think
Iran could have as many as 6,000 centrifuges online, spinning at
supersonic speed in the near future -- by, perhaps, this summer --
turning uranium hexafluoride gas into some level of enriched
Tehran has steadfastly insisted that it has the right to
enrich uranium for nuclear reactor fuel as stipulated under the
terms of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty -- ironically, an
accord Iran violated by failing to declare its nuclear program to
the IAEA for some 20 years.
The new IAEA report also notes the previously undisclosed
development of a new generation of centrifuge. The IR-3 improves
upon previous models based on the less-efficient Pakistani design
procured from A.Q. Khan's nuclear proliferation network. Khan, the
father of the Pakistani bomb, led a network of nuclear enablers
that serviced not only the Iranian nuclear program with equipment
and know-how, but also the North Korean and Libyan programs.
Agency inspectors also raised concerns about the fact that
"substantial parts of the centrifuge components were manufactured
in the workshops of the [Iranian] Defense Industries Organization,"
blurring the lines between Tehran's civilian and a possible
The bottom-line anxiety here, besides the fact Iran didn't
declare this new equipment (and capability) to the IAEA as
required, is that the new, more-efficient centrifuges will allow
Iran to produce more enriched uranium -- for reactors or bombs --
Iran, with Russian assistance, also is continuing construction
of its nuclear plant at Bushehr -- its first nuclear reactor. A
good deal of the reactor's fuel is already in place, having been
shipped in from Russia since last December. The IAEA also is
monitoring construction of an Iranian nuclear research reactor that
experts are concerned could be used for experimentation on
reprocessing spent nuclear reactor fuel, from a reactor such as
Bushehr, into fissile material for use in nuclear weapons.
Interestingly, in all of this, Iran doesn't see an indictment
of wrongdoing but, on the contrary, views the report as an
exoneration of guilt. Iran's IAEA envoy, via the Iranian news
service, said the report is "a vindication and reiteration of the
peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear activities." In addition, Tehran
officially said the IAEA documents "do not show any indication that
the Islamic Republic of Iran has been working on a nuclear weapon,"
adding that many of the documents had been "forged" or
"fabricated," especially because they were in an electronic
In some cases, Iran didn't quibble with the information,
instead insisting that "the events and activities concerned
involved civil or conventional military applications," such as the
testing of detonators for use in the oil industry. Although Iran
has promised to address all concerns, many of these questions are
likely to remain a mystery because of Iran's regular refusal to
allow the IAEA access to procurement personnel and scientists or
open suspect sites to the agency's atomic sleuths.
The new IAEA report more starkly calls into relief questions
about the intent of Iran's nuclear efforts, leaving Tehran's claims
to a purely civilian nuclear power program increasingly in doubt.
As a result, the IAEA has called upon Tehran to increase
transparency by signing an Additional Protocol, which would give
agency inspectors access to any facility suspected of undeclared
nuclear activity. This is a fundamental requirement in a large
country such as Iran (four times the size of California), where
sites are numerous and sometimes well hidden. Verification of
compliance, even under the best of conditions, is difficult.
But old habits die hard. Tehran likely will continue to
obfuscate and dissemble, preventing the IAEA from gaining a
realistic assessment of the nature of Iran's nuclear program --
which, unfortunately, places time squarely on Tehran's side.
Key findings of the Iran report
- Iran has continued to operate the original unit at the fuel
enrichment plant and installation work has continued on four other
units; it also has reported and installed a new generation
- As of May 12, about 11 metric tons of uranium had been produced
since Feb. 3, bringing the total amount of uranium produced since
March 2004 to 320 metric tons, all of which remains under IAEA
containment and surveillance.
- Iran has not agreed to IAEA's request for access to additional
locations related to nuclear processing.
- Iran's alleged studies on the green salt project (converting
uranium dioxide to uranium tetrafluoride, or green salt, an
important component the uranium refining industry), and its alleged
high explosives testing and a missile re-entry vehicle project
remain of "serious concern."
- Substantive explanations are required, but not forthcoming,
from Iran to support its statements on alleged studies and other
information with possible military dimensions.
- Iran has not suspended its enrichments related activities,
contrary to decisions of the U.N. Security Council.
Senior Fellow for National Security Affairs at the Heritage
Foundation and is a member of the U.S.-China Economic and Security
First appeared on familysecuritymatters.com