Iran Nuclear Report at Center of Dispute Said to Come Dec. 2

  • IAEA assessing possible military dimensions of Iran's past
  • Nuclear monitors say Iran moving at `high pace' to comply

Did Iran’s past nuclear work include possible military dimensions?

The question at the center of Iran’s dispute with world powers might be answered on Dec. 2, when investigators plan to publish a report on Iran’s nuclear past, according to three people familiar with the situation.

While the International Atomic Energy Agency’s report is unlikely to allay all suspicion, it will set the stage for the July nuclear accord to be implemented. That’s because its publication will give Iranian technicians the green light to start removing the nuclear gear stipulated under the agreement. Once that’s accomplished, sanctions will be lifted.

Understanding possible military dimensions of Iran’s program is a core part of the IAEA’s job of ensuring nuclear material is used for exclusively peaceful purposes. Should the agency conclude illicit activities took place, it will need verified records from the people, places and technologies involved to make sure the activities ceased.

The IAEA report will be issued ahead of a special Dec. 15 board of governors meeting in Vienna, according to the three envoys involved in the July accord. They asked not to be named discussing confidential information.

“Iran is taking these preparatory steps at quite a high pace,” IAEA director general Yukiya Amano said on Wednesday in Brussels. “We are at the final stage.”

The July accord stipulates that Iran needs to mothball more than 10,000 of its installed centrifuges, disable the core of a reactor in Arak, eliminate its enriched-uranium stockpile and install monitoring equipment to let inspectors keep closer track of future activities. Once the IAEA verifies that those steps have been taken, oil and financial sanctions that have crimped Iran’s economy will be removed.

While Iranian technicians have made preparations, they were told Oct. 21 by the country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, not to remove any equipment before the report.

The IAEA press office declined to comment on the timing of their report.

Speaking last month at the United Nations, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on governments to enforce the Iran deal they made with more rigor. “Keep Iran’s feet to the fire,” Netanyahu said. “Unleashed and unmuzzled, Iran will go on the prowl.”

Face-Saving

The IAEA’s report may end one of the most contentious standoffs in the Vienna-based agency’s 58-year history. Inspectors have said they’re in possession of “credible” information showing Iran may have experimented with nuclear-weapons technologies. For its part, Iran accused the IAEA of being a dupe of foreign intelligence agencies bent on framing the country for violations it didn’t commit. 

Former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said on his official website last month that while some nuclear activities “may have gone too far,” there was never a concerted effort to seek bombs.

“When we first started the nuclear program we were at war and we prepared for a possible day when our enemy used nuclear weapons,” said Rafsanjani, who oversaw Iran’s military during its war with Iraq and was president from 1989 to 1997. “It never became serious.”

Iran’s admission that war-time thinking played into the development of its nuclear program is unlikely to sway the IAEA’s assessment when it’s published, according to Amano.

“It is not possible to verify the intention in the past and in the future,” Amano said. “That is not our job. We are focused on the facts: why do they have this technology, what is this technology, how can this be used.”

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