Flynt Leverett, professor of International Affairs at Pennsylvania State University and Senior Research Fellow at the New America Foundation, and his wife Hillary Mann Leverett, CEO of Strategic Energy and Global Analysis, write of the IAEA report on Iran:
Ever since Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei stepped down as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in late 2009, the United States and some of its allies have pushed Baradei’s successor, Yukiya Amano, to ratify Western arguments that Iran is trying to acquire nuclear weapons. Today, Amano authorized the release of an IAEA report, see here, purporting to do just that.
…But the report—arguably the most anticipated document of its kind since the NPT was first advanced in 1968—does not in any way demonstrate that Iran is “developing a nuclear weapon”. Rather, it once again affirms, as the IAEA has for decades, Iran’s “non-diversion” of nuclear material. In other words, even if the Islamic Republic wanted to build nuclear weapons (and Tehran continues to deny, at the highest levels of authority, that it wishes to do so) it does not have the weapons-grade material essential to the task.
Nevertheless, Amano chose to focus the report on unsubstantiated intelligence reports, provided almost entirely by the United States, Israel, and other Western governments, alleging that the Islamic Republic is working on a nuclear weapons program…
…There are many reasons to question virtually every detail in the IAEA’s accounting of the “possible military dimensions” to Iran’s nuclear program. But, more importantly, the stories do not indicate that Tehran is currently trying to produce nuclear weapons. (And, remember, Iran does not have the weapons-grade fissile material needed to build a nuclear bomb.) In fact, no one has ever produced a shred of evidence that Iran has ever actually tried to build a nuclear weapon or taken a decision to do so. And that is why—notwithstanding the efforts of the Obama Administration, some allied governments, neoconservative and pro-Israel constituencies in Washington, and others to hype IAEA report to the maximum extent possible—the new IAEA report is, substantively, a colossal non-event.
…Even if every single point in the IAEA’s report were absolutely, 100 percent true, it would mean that Iran is working systematically to master the skills it would need to fabricate nuclear weapons at some hypothetical point down the road, should it ever decide to do so. This is how we ourselves have long interpreted the strategic purposes of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program—to create perceptions on the part of potential adversaries that Tehran is capable of building nuclear weapons in a finite period of time, without actually building them. As Baradei himself has pointed out, see here, having a “nuclear weapons capability” is not the same as having nuclear weapons.
Update: Flynt Leverett spoke to Scott Horton on Antiwar Radio on Tuesday just prior to the release of the IAEA. Listen here.