Australia/Israel Review

The IAEA and the JCPOA

Dec 21, 2015 | A. Savyon, Y. Carmon & U. Kafash

A. Savyon, Y. Carmon and U. Kafash


On Dec. 2, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Secretary-General Yukiya Amano released his report on the Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program.

The report’s findings, whatever they turned out to be, were not supposed to impact the continued implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in any way – even if they were completely negative regarding Iran. From the outset, it was agreed that all that Iran was obligated to do was to cooperate with the IAEA investigation of its PMD, and nothing more.

The next milestone date for the continued implementation of the JCPOA was Dec. 15, when Amano’s PMD report was to be presented to the IAEA Board of Governors, with the latter then having to resolve whether to close Iran’s PMD dossier in the IAEA. This resolution is meant to be adopted by the UN Security Council.

The implementation process is meant to be continued by Iran – that is, Iran must meet its obligations under the JCPOA. These consist primarily of the removal of nine tons of low-grade enriched uranium from the country, the dismantling of centrifuges so that only 6,000 active ones remain, the pouring of concrete into the core of the Arak nuclear reactor such that it will not be able to be used to manufacture plutonium, the adoption of the Additional Protocol, and more.

After that, the IAEA will check to verify that Iran has carried these out. When it announces that it has, the next milestone date, Implementation Day, will come into force. At that time, Europe and the US will carry out their promise, made Oct. 19, 2015, to lift and suspend their sanctions on Iran.

It was Iran itself that made Amano’s PMD report a problematic issue, and, essentially, a condition for its continued implementation of the JCPOA. Iran demanded that the IAEA Board of Governors close its PMD dossier, and, according to some Iranian spokesmen, it should do so in a way that completely exonerates Iran of accusations against it regarding development of a military nuclear program. That is, Iran will not be satisfied with a closure of the dossier that is merely formal if Amano’s report does not completely exonerate it.

To this end, in the days leading up to the release of the report, Iran pressured the IAEA and the P5+1, with the aim of ensuring that the report would completely clear Iran of suspicions regarding PMD.

In addition to its direct pressure on Amano, Iran also implemented political pressure on the P5+1, warning that if the dossier remained open, Iran would not implement its obligations under the JCPOA, and that the West had to choose between the PMD, that is, accusing Iran of developing a military nuclear program, and implementing the JCPOA.

The Findings Of Amano’s PMD Report

Iran’s pressure netted only partial success. Prior to the report’s release, Amano stated: “What I can now say is that this is an issue that cannot be answered by ‘yes’ and ‘no.'”The report included aspects that were both positive and negative for Iran.

On the one hand, it stated: “The Agency has not found indications of an undeclared nuclear fuel cycle in Iran, beyond those activities declared retrospectively by Iran. The Agency has found no indications of Iran having conducted activities which can be directly traced to the ‘uranium metal document’ or to design information for a nuclear explosive device from the clandestine nuclear supply network.”

However, it also said: “The Agency assesses that explosive bridgewire (EBW) detonators developed by Iran have characteristics relevant to a nuclear explosive device.”

PMD table

With regard to the Parchin facility, Amano’s PMD report stated that “[t]he information available to the Agency… does not support Iran’s statements on the purpose of the building.” Furthermore, the report stated that “the Agency assesses that the extensive activities undertaken by Iran since February 2012 at the particular location of interest to the Agency seriously undermined the Agency’s ability to conduct effective verification.” It continued:

“The Agency assesses that Iran conducted computer modelling of a nuclear explosive device prior to 2004 and between 2005 and 2009. The Agency notes, however, the incomplete and fragmented nature of those calculations… The Agency assesses that, before the end of 2003, an organisational structure was in place in Iran suitable for the coordination of a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device. Although some activities took place after 2003, they were not part of a coordinated effort. The Agency’s overall assessment is that a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003 as a coordinated effort, and some activities took place after 2003. The Agency also assesses that these activities did not advance beyond feasibility and scientific studies, and the acquisition of certain relevant technical competences and capabilities.”

Iran’s Future Moves Vis-à-vis The PMD Dossier

Assuming that the IAEA Board of Governors follows the Iran-US dictates and closes Iran’s PMD dossier in spite of the findings mentioned above, it is not clear that a formal closure of the dossier by the Board of Governors would satisfy Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, or whether he would block Iran’s implementation of the JCPOA because the Amano report’s findings do not exonerate Iran.

The Iranian reactions to the report have been mixed, in accordance with the speakers’ affiliation with either the pragmatic camp of President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif, or the ideological camp. While the former is willing to settle for a formal closure of the PMD dossier without Iran’s complete exoneration, the latter stresses that the reports’ findings determine that Iran conducted military nuclear development prior to 2009, and see this as a reason to stop the entire JCPOA process.

It cannot be known whether Khamenei and ideological camp spokesmen will accept the Board of Governors’ resolution as sufficient. Furthermore, even if Khamenei decides to accept a closure of the PMD dossier by the Board of Governors as sufficient, his nine new conditions for Iran’s implementation of the JCPOA, as set out on October 21, 2015, remain an obstacle to Iran’s implementation of the JCPOA.

A. Savyon is Director of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) Iran Media Project; Y. Carmon is President of MEMRI; U. Kafash is a Research Fellow at MEMRI. ©MEMRI ( reprinted by permission, all rights reserved.



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