The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has to be one of the most ineffective international organizations in history. They have yet to prevent any nation anywhere who wished to develop nuclear weapons from doing so. In fact, one could successfully argue that many of their actions have contributed in no small way to the development of nuclear weapons in these countries despite the fact that the Agency is in charge of verifying that signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty abide by their commitments.
Part of the problem is the dual nature of their mission. Not only are they charged with verification of compliance with the NPT, they are also required to promote the “peaceful” use of nuclear energy. By definition, this means helping countries build reactors and nuclear infrastructure that, with some modifications, could be used to construct a bomb.
Of course, there are many steps between fueling a reactor and building a nuke and some of those steps would require forays into the international nuclear markets - markets that are closely watched for just such activity. The sale of fissile material for instance is one of the most regulated activities in the world. Despite this, Israel and South Africa (whose nuclear program while presently dismantled could probably be reactivated with little trouble) were able to gather enough nuclear technology and fuel to build nuclear weapons.
This points up the need for a real international nuclear watchdog. Not a poodle but rather a Rottweiler - preferably one with great big teeth and a nasty bite. Instead, under Nobel Peace Prize winner and Chief Nuclear Enabler Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA has proven that rather than confronting rogue states who wish to build the ultimate weapon, the Agency does everything in its power not to offend the thugs and potential mass murdering crazies who seek the means to make their nuclear fantasies come true.
Case in point is the reaction by the IAEA to the report issued last month by House Republicans on the Intelligence Committee who have had it up to here with ElBaradei’s wishy washiness toward the radioactive mullahs in Iran. In a letter to Chairman Hoekstra, the IAEA angrily pointed to 5 major inaccuracies in the report:
The agency noted five major errors in the committee’s 29-page report, which said Iran’s nuclear capabilities are more advanced than either the IAEA or U.S. intelligence has shown.
Among the committee’s assertions is that Iran is producing weapons-grade uranium at its facility in the town of Natanz. The IAEA called that “incorrect,” noting that weapons-grade uranium is enriched to a level of 90 percent or more. Iran has enriched uranium to 3.5 percent under IAEA monitoring
Among the allegations in Fleitz’s Iran report is that ElBaradei removed a senior inspector from the Iran investigation because he raised “concerns about Iranian deception regarding its nuclear program.” The agency said the inspector has not been removed.
A suggestion that ElBaradei had an “unstated” policy that prevented inspectors from telling the truth about Iran’s program was particularly “outrageous and dishonest,” according to the IAEA letter, which was signed by Vilmos Cserveny, the IAEA’s director for external affairs and a former Hungarian ambassador.
It should be pointed out that no Democrats on the Intelligence Committee signed off on this report and that it was written by an ex-CIA Committee staffer who may or may not have an ax to grind with ElBaradei. The CIA also came in for some scathing criticism in the report for its National Intelligence Estimate written last summer that stated the Iranians were a decade or more away from building a nuke. The Israelis believe that they mullahs could go nuclear in 5 years or less.
And someone else agrees with the Israelis; ElBaradei himself:
IAEA chairman Muhammad ElBaradei on Monday confirmed Israelâ€™s assessment that Iran is only a few months away from creating an atomic bomb.
If Tehran indeed resumed its uranium enrichment in other plants, as threatened, it will take it only â€œa few monthsâ€ to produce a nuclear bomb, El-Baradei told The Independent.
And the allegation that ElBaradei removed a senior inspector is true. But the reason he did it is even more craven than indicated by the House report: the Iranians demanded it. The reason? The inspector believed that the Iranians were building nuclear weapons:
Iran has asked the International Atomic Energy Agency to remove the head of the inspection team probing Tehran’s nuclear program, U.N. officials said Sunday.
The inspector, Chris Charlier, has not been back to Iran since April because of Iranian displeasure with his work, the officials said.
However, Charlier remains the head of the team, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the issue was confidential.
The German newspaper Welt am Sonntag reported Sunday that Charlier had been removed from his post and assigned to other duties. It quoted him as saying he believes Iran is operating a clandestine nuclear program and suggested it was linked to weapons.
IAEA spokespeople in Vienna, Austria, declined comment Sunday.
Charlier, 61, has previously complained publicly that Iranian constraints made inspection work there difficult.
In other words, in order to avoid a confrontation, ElBaradei acceded to Iranian demands that the inspector be cashiered. The IAEA chief can spin it anyway he would like but the fact is his chief inspector isn’t even allowed into Iran to do his job and the Iranians appear to have a veto over IAEA personnel matters.
As far as ElBaradei having an “unstated” policy that inspectors not tell the truth about the Iranian program, just what the hell are we supposed to think when the Iranians can order him around like a poodle and pick and choose which inspectors will be allowed into their country? In fact, it would make sense for ElBaradei to have such a policy if only to prevent further erosion of his authority - if that’s possible.
As for the belief that there is Highly Enriched (HE) uranium at the Natanz nuclear site, I guess we can chalk this up to “naturally occurring” uranium enriched to weapons grade levels:
The U.N. atomic agency has found traces of highly enriched uranium at an Iranian site linked to the country’s defense ministry, diplomats said Friday. The finding added to concerns that Tehran was hiding activities that could be used to make nuclear arms.
The diplomats, who demanded anonymity in exchange for revealing the confidential information, said the findings were preliminary and still had to be confirmed through other lab tests. But they said the density of enrichment appeared close to or beyond weapons grade _ the level used to make nuclear warheads.
The IAEA has only recently revealed this fact and are casting about desperately to find an explanation for it - anything except the possibility that the Iranians are already able to enrich uranium not to the measly 3.5% they have demonstrated so far but rather to the 80% or 90% necessary to build a bomb.
While there is a possibility that the HE uranium is there as a result of the contamination of the equipment when it was being used in another country - Pakistan comes to mind - we haven’t heard a peep from the IAEA that what is going on at Natanz is anything other than what the House Committee speculates that it is; bomb making.
While there is little doubt that the House Committee exaggerated the shortcomings of both the IAEA and the CIA in the monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program, there is equally little doubt that both organizations are doing their best at bureaucratic CYA rather than aggressively confronting the mullahs over their nuclear program.
The fact is, I don’t trust either the CIA or the IAEA to do the job of monitoring Iran’s nuclear program and giving American policymakers enough warning to prevent the catastrophe of the fanatics in Tehran from getting their hands on nuclear weapons. But for the moment they’re all we have. And since they’re the only game in town, we are going to have to swallow our doubts about their shortcomings and hope that they can do their jobs in preventing the mullahs from acquiring the ultimate defense against cartoon blasphemy.
I find it a little amusing and very revealing that the left has swallowed the IAEA letter to Hoekstra hook, line, and sinker, without even batting an eyelash.
In fact, Kevin Drum is pouting because the House report made it to page A1 last month while the IAEA letter appears on A17:
Today, the IAEA â€” which, you may recall, turned out to be right about Iraq â€” wrote Hoekstra a letter complaining that the report contained “erroneous, misleading and unsubstantiated statements.”
I’ve reproduced the Washington Post’s coverage of these two events below. Do you notice any differences? I’ve provided some subtle clues in case you’re having trouble figuring it out.
And, just for the record, the IAEA report was so full of qualifiers and spin that if it turned out Saddam had an underground nuclear arsenal they could have pointed to the report and still said ” See? I told you so.”
Would it have been too much trouble for Drum and others to point out the laughable discrepancies between the charges made in the IAEA letter and the truth?