Iran Spy Data Need Checks as Amano Prepares for New TermJonathan Tirone
Intelligence information given to United Nations monitors showing possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear work should be double-checked, said Hans Blix, the former director-general of the UN atomic group.
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s board of governors yesterday endorsed its current leader, Japan’s Yukiya Amano, for a second four-year term. The appointment, which needs ratification by the agency’s full membership in September, may shape the way Iran’s decade-long investigation is carried out.
“The IAEA must not be the prolonged arm of intelligence agencies,” Blix said in a March 4 interview in Dubai. “I don’t think you can possibly have a decent relationship with the country you inspect if they see that the inspectors contain people that come from intelligence or maybe even collect information about suitable targets.”
The Vienna-based IAEA is pressing Iran to give greater access to people, places and documents to clear up allegations of atomic-bomb work made by anonymous intelligence agencies. While the IAEA calls the information “credible,” the Islamic Republic says inspectors are using forged documents to raise international pressure against a peaceful nuclear program.
“We have to work on the Iran nuclear issues,” Amano said at a briefing in the Austrian capital late yesterday. “I need cooperation from Iran, and through this cooperation I have to produce concrete results. That is the way to ensure a peaceful solution.”
No Blank Check
Iran, whose nuclear scientists have been targets of assassinations and whose infrastructure has been subject to sabotage, says that while it’s willing to work with monitors, it won’t do so at the expense of national security.
“We are committed to continue our dialogue with the IAEA,” Iran’s agency envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh told reporters yesterday in Vienna. “At the same time, we cannot write a blank check because of our national security. No country would give a blank check. There should be a criteria, a framework.”
Soltanieh criticized Amano for elevating concern over his country’s atomic work by publicizing intelligence information that hasn’t been authenticated. Amano’s decision to publish unsourced intelligence, a break in policy from his predecessor, Nobel Peace Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, drew U.S. praise.
A February 2010 U.S. State Department cable called Amano’s first Iran report “sharper in tone” than those produced by ElBaradei, adding that the document “creates a positive precedent for how he intends to run safeguards investigations.”
“Also, unlike in the previous director-general’s reports, the IAEA does not mention the need for member states to provide original documentation to Iran,” according to the cable. Citing U.S. government policy, a State Department spokeswoman declined to comment.
The IAEA subsequently released an overview of the intelligence it called credible in a November 2011 report. ElBaradei wrote in his 2011 biography, “The Age of Deception” (Metropolitan Books), that the IAEA didn’t make the information public during his tenure because it couldn’t be authenticated.
“It may be that they are exaggerating it,” Blix said, referring to the intelligence shared with the IAEA. “There’s also a danger in telling us without revealing the actual sources. One has to be very careful about that.”
Blix, who led the IAEA for 16 years until 1997 and was in charge of the UN’s Iraq nuclear-monitoring and verification group from 2000 to 2003, called the IAEA’s focus on the Parchin military complex a “sideshow.” Even if the alleged blast chamber was found at the site, “it doesn’t take us much further” in terms of measuring Iranian intentions.
The Persian Gulf country is “ready to cooperate with the agency and the director-general, but we hope the course of action will be changed,” Soltanieh said. “These reports provoke member states. They should be purely technical.”