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Impending IAEA Report on Iran

Impending IAEA Report on Iran
The report discussed in my previous post is now expected to be released on Wednesday, but from stories and commentary that have appeared today and yesterday in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The New York Times, and the Financial Times, it already is clear what some of the main points will be. Much of what is known appears to be based on a briefing given to DC intelligence officials last week by David Albright of ISIS, who has a track record of getting advance looks at material coming out of the International Atomic Energy Agency, though there’s no sign of that briefing as yet on ISIS’s Iran site.
Iran is believed to have built a bus-sized steel canister to test the configuration of curved explosives for an implosion device, and to have conducted research on how to design and build a device small enough to put on a missile. Much of this work appears to have occurred after Iran supposedly reversed course and terminated nuclear weapons work in 2003-04, and some of it appears to have benefited directly from the advice of a veteran Soviet nuclear expert, though perhaps without his full knowledge of how his assistance was being applied.
The findings are considered so sensitive by the IAEA itself, its head came to Washington two weeks ago to quietly brief the president’s national security advisers on what the report would say.
Opinions differ and no doubt will continue to differ on how Iran’s activities should be characterized. Albright said, according to The Washington Post, that “the [nuclear weapons] program never really stopped,” and that Iran appears now to have “sufficient information to design and produce a workable implosion nuclear device.” Julian Borger, global security blogger for The Guardian, says the IAEA findings “suggest that while research on weapons did continue after 2004, it was largely restricted to computer modeling rather than building things and blowing them up.”
According to the Financial Times, the IAEA document  will show “Iran was adopting a structured approach towards building a bomb until 2004 but then shifted to a policy of ‘gradual policy creep.’ ” Albright, apparently without being too specific about whether he’s talking pre- or post-2004, or both, says the IAEA intelligence “points to a comprehensive project structure and hierarchy with clear responsibilities, timelines and deliverables.”
Anybody seriously interested in this subject will want to read the full IAEA report on Wednesday rather than rely on second-hand assessments. Whatever one’s conclusions, the notion that military action is the answer is to be regarded with the utmost caution. As Peter Crail of the Arms Control Association told The Post, such talk “risks creating an assumption that we can always end Iran’s nuclear program with a few airstrikes if nothing else works. That’s simply not the case.”



William Sweet

Bill Sweet has been writing about nuclear arms control and peace politics since interning at the IAEA in Vienna during summer 1974, right after India's test of a "peaceful nuclear device." As an editor and writer for Congressional Quarterly, Physics Today and IEEE Spectrum magazine he wrote about the freeze and European peace movements, space weaponry and Star Wars, Iraq, North Korea and Iran. His work has appeared in magazines like the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and The New Republic, as well as in The New York Times, the LA Times, Newsday and the Baltimore Sun. The author of two books--The Nuclear Age: Energy, Proliferation and the Arms Race, and Kicking the Carbon Habit: The Case for Renewable and Nuclear Energy--he recently published "Situating Putin," a group of essays about contemporary Russia, as an e-book. He teaches European history as an adjunct at CUNY's Borough of Manhattan Community College.

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