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August 16, 2005

More Media Lies About Iran


by Gordon Prather

According to Reuters' Louis Charbonneau – a neo-crazy media sycophant if ever there was one – those despicable Iranians "broke UN seals at a uranium processing plant" last week.

According to Charbonneau, the International Atomic Energy Agency "put on the seals after Tehran agreed with the European Union's biggest powers to halt all nuclear fuel work last November to ease tensions after the IAEA found Iran had hidden weapons-grade highly enriched uranium."

"Tehran defied EU warnings [that] it could now be referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions for having kept its uranium enrichment work secret for years – until it was found out in 2002 – breaking the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty."

Now, all of that "reporting" is – at best – misleading.

And deliberately so.

Charbonneau is deliberately misleading you about (a) what the IAEA "found" back in 2002, (b) why the IAEA seals were in place, (c) what the Iranians did last week, and last – but most important – (d) what constitutes a "breaking" of the NPT.

Bush-Cheney officials have repeatedly charged that the Iranians have broken the NPT and that they are seeking to manufacture or "otherwise acquire" nuclear weapons.

But if the Iranians were breaking the NPT, who would be in the best position to know? The Bush-Cheney officials who made similar charges about Iraq?

Neo-crazy media sycophants like Charbonneau?

No. It does you no good to have a nuclear weapons program if you can't beg, borrow, or steal the tens of kilograms of fissile material that are absolutely required to make a nuke. So the NPT requires no-nuke states like Iran to subject all "source or special fissionable materials" and all activities involving such materials to an IAEA safeguards agreement.

The IAEA Statute – not the NPT – provides a mechanism for ensuring "compliance with the undertaking against use [of safeguarded materials and activities] in furtherance of any military purpose."

The IAEA Statute – not the NPT – requires the IAEA Board of Governors to report any use "in furtherance of any military purpose" to all IAEA members, to the UN General Assembly, and to the Security Council.

If, as Charbonneau charges, IAEA inspectors had found "hidden weapons-grade highly enriched uranium" in Iran, they would have been required to report that to the Board, and the Board would have been required to report that to the Security Council.

But they didn't. In fact, Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei has reported to the Board on numerous occasions that IAEA inspectors have found no "indication" that Iran now has, ever had, or intends to have a nuclear weapons program.

So what did the IAEA "find" back in 2002?

In the process of negotiating an additional protocol to the existing Iranian safeguards agreement, Iran voluntarily told the IAEA back in 2002 that, as a result of the United States forcing Russia to cancel the sale of a turnkey gas-centrifuge plant – which the Iranians had an "inalienable right" to acquire and operate under the NPT – the Iranians had been attempting to construct gas centrifuges of similar design. Furthermore, once they had constructed several thousand and got them to work, they planned to construct a uranium-enrichment pilot plant and, eventually, construct a commercial scale uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz.

But contrary to Charbonneau and the neo-crazies, under the Iranian safeguards agreement as it then existed, the Iranians were not obligated to tell the IAEA about any of that activity until they began processing "source or special nuclear materials" for introduction into those gas centrifuges.

So why were there IAEA "seals" on those uranium-conversion facilities? Well, the Iranians had volunteered to suspend all such activities for the duration of the EU-Iranian negotiations. Since the facilities were all already safeguarded, the IAEA was "invited" to verify the suspension.

But the IAEA is not a party to the EU-Iranian talks.

So what could the Board possibly report to the Security Council? That the EU and Iran hoped to conclude an agreement that "will provide objective guarantees" that "Iran's nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes" and that it "will equally provide firm guarantees" to Iran "on nuclear, technological, and economic cooperation and firm commitments on security issues"?

That on March 23, Iran offered a package of "objective guarantees" to the EU that included a voluntary "confinement" of Iran's nuclear programs? That the EU never responded to the Iranian offer? That the EU never offered Iran "firm commitments on security issues"?

That the Iranians decided to end their voluntary suspension of safeguarded activities and had so informed the IAEA?

None of that is any of the IAEA's business. So why report it?


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Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.

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