On November 15th, Mohammed Elbaradei released his report to the IAEA board of Governors. The board is set to meet on Thursday November 22nd to consider the issue. The report finds that Iran provided "timely information" and much greater access to both documents and to personnel than previously, but did not fully answer all the IAEA's questions. The report said that Iranian cooperation was not complete, and in particular pointed out that: "since early 2006, the agency has not received the type of information that Iran had previously been providing... The agency's knowledge about Iran's current nuclear program is diminishing." Secondly, it confirmed that Iran has 3,000 functioning centrifuges.
The report stressed that Iran 'needs to continue to build confidence about the scope and nature of its present programme.' The report also stated that the IAEA has no evidence that Iran has a weapon programme but reiterated that, 'confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme requires that the Agency be able to provide assurances not only regarding declared nuclear material, but, equally importantly, regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran,' something that would not be possible without full implementation of the Additional Protocol.
US media generally emphasized the failures, even suggesting the report raised new doubts (not true), and reporting that the US government was calling for new sanctions. Britain and other European governments reserved judgment.
At the meeting on November 22nd, it is expected that the US, France, Britain and Germany will push for the UN Security Council to enforce more sanctions (which have already been drafted). The Russian and Chinese have been less supportive. A Chinese Diplomat this week explained that China was not certain further sanctions would work: "The main thing for the Security Council is to help the IAEA answer these outstanding questions, and we are not convinced that additional sanctions would help." The P-6 had planned to meet in London Monday 19th in order to plan a strategy ahead of the Thursday meeting in Vienna, however the Chinese delegation cancelled, citing diary problems.
In response to the report, President Ahmadinejad called for the US and allies to apologize to Iran, saying that the report showed Iran had been truthful about its nuclear activities. Ahmadinejad also dismissed the possibility of attacks against Iran saying but continued to say that Iran was "prepared to face any development".
Another report on Iran's nuclear programme, this one by EU negotiator Javier Solana, is due before the end of November. Iranian and EU negotiators are due to meet on 21 November. The IAEA Board is to meet 22-23 November.
In an interesting twist, Daniel Levy, previously an adviser in the Israeli Prime Minister's Office, wrote in the October 21 Haaretz that a deterrence and containment strategy for dealing with a nuclear Iran would be preferable to the military option, even for Israel. Efraim Halevy, recent head of Mossad (until 2003), is reported in November 11 Washington Post as saying that he believes the US and Israel are being too bellicose with Iran, that Iran is not an existential threat to Israel and that Israel needs to negotiate seriously with Iran. "They are deterrable", he said. Meanwhile, Israel and the US set up two joint working committees to try to establish a united response to Iran's nuclear programme - one to discuss the intelligence evidence and the other sanctions and other coercive tools.
In an interview with the Financial Times, a group of US experts claimed that Iran is speeding up its nuclear programme and could develop enough material for a bomb well ahead of the 2010-2015 period estimated by western intelligence agencies. However, Ellen Tausche, chairman of the House of Representatives subcommittee on strategic forces, questioned the quality of US intelligence on Iran, saying that British and French intelligence had greater reach and efficacy within Iran. A split in the US intelligence community over the level of threat posed by Iran has held up the publication of the National Intelligence Estimate for Iran for over a year.
Ita O'Sullivan, BASIC
stories and links
In Gesture, Iran Provides Nuclear Document, NY Times, Nov 14
Delayed [US] intelligence report on Iran to be finished soon, Washington Post, Nov 14
Mixed UN report for Iran, BBC, Nov 15
Nuclear negotiator charged with passing secrets, Washington Post, Nov 15
Iran was blocked from buying nuclear materials at least 75 times, group says, NY Times, Nov 16
Iran eyes nuclear options abroad, BBC, Nov 18
Comments, editorials and analysis
Pressure for Iran sanctions continues, BBC, Nov 16
'And then what?' A strike on Iran may be one problem too many for Bush, Financial Times, Nov 11
US dismissed report on Iran, Asia Times, Nov 17
UN debate looms over Iran crisis, LA Times, Nov 16
Tehran could reach nuclear goal 'in a year', FT, Nov 17