Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What’s going on at the IAEA?

On Friday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued its latest report on Iran. While it said it could not provide ‘credible assurances’ that Iran is not building a bomb, and said Iran remained evasive on key issues, Director General Mohamed ElBaradei managed to put a positive gloss on the report:

In the last four months, in particular, we have made quite good progress in clarifying the outstanding issues that had to do with Iran´s past nuclear activities, with the exception of one issue, and that is the alleged weaponization studies that supposedly Iran has conducted in the past. We have managed to clarify all the remaining outstanding issues, including the most important issue, which is the scope and nature of Iran´s enrichment programme.

As Danielle Pletka and Michael Rubin wrote in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, ElBaradei has in the past been even more effusive in his positive assessment of Tehran’s intentions, and has consistently undermined and second-guessed attempts by the US and Europe to call the regime to account.

And he was assisted by last December’s U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, which concluded that Tehran had been attempting to build a bomb, but had frozen its weapons program in 2003.

But today, out of the blue, IAEA delegates revealed that they had been shown evidence that suggested that Iran had in fact continued work on its weapons beyond 2003. And some of the evidence appears to leave very little room for doubt, or for Iranian wiggling:

A senior diplomat who attended the IAEA meeting said that among the material shown was an Iranian video depicting mock-ups of a missile re-entry vehicle. He said IAEA Director General Oli Heinonen suggested the component — which brings missiles back from the stratosphere — was configured in a way that strongly suggests it was meant to carry a nuclear warhead.

Other documentation showed the Iranians experimenting with warheads and missile trajectories where "the height of the burst ... didn't make sense for conventional warheads," he said.

The fact that ElBaradei’s name doesn’t appear in today’s stories, and that some IAEA members asked to be quoted anonymously, suggests that not everyone at the authority is singing from the same hymn sheet. Did ElBaradei know about these new revelations when he spoke on Friday? If so, why didn’t make any reference to them? Or was he not even aware that significant new information was about to be made public? And did he approve of the comments by IAEA delegates that are being reported today?

Evidence of continued Iranian duplicity will be an embarrassment to ElBaradei, and will further call into question his fitness to lead the IAEA. It will also be another blow to the credibility of the CIA, which has developed an uncanny knack of producing intelligence that proves to be the exact opposite of what's going on in a given country at any given time.

Equally, it’s bad news for Barack Obama, assuming he gets the Democratic nomination, as it further exposes the foolishness and utter naivety of his assertion than Iran and other terror states can somehow be forced to change their ways by ‘engagement’.

And by the same measure it has to be good news for John McCain, who made his position on Iran clear in his speech at CPAC earlier this month:

I intend to make unmistakably clear to Iran we will not permit a government that espouses the destruction of the State of Israel as its fondest wish and pledges undying enmity to the United States to possess the weapons to advance their malevolent ambitions.

The implications of today's news could turn out to be seismic – both metaphorically, in terms of the effect on efforts to achieve a consensus on how to deal with Iran; and literally, if they lead the US to conclude that bunker busters, and not interminable negotiations, are indeed the best way of dissuading the mullahs from their nuclear ambitions.

Thanks to Kate for linking.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My favorite part is how several outside sources have ascertained that Iran shut down a bomb operation, tore it apart to prove they had stopped trying to build a bomb, and rebuilt it in a new location that IAEA is blocked from inspecting. Sweet!

Oh, and I linked over from sayanythingblog.com. I am the unofficial lrrp, checkout links and what not for Rob. Glad to have ya in!