Iranian Nuke Progress Mounts

IAEA report reveals Iran nuclear progress unhindered by sanctions or international pressure

Iranian military exhibition / AP
September 5, 2012

A new United Nations nuclear watchdog report on Iran's nuclear program reveals Tehran is moving ahead with illicit uranium enrichment work, undermining Obama administration claims that sanctions will slow the program.

Iran continues to build up stockpiles of enriched uranium and has failed to explain what the report described as possible "ongoing" nuclear warhead and explosives work, according to the internal report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"Despite the intensified dialogue between the agency and Iran since January 2012, no concrete results have been achieved in resolving the outstanding issues," the report states.

Iran’s failure to cooperate with international inspections led the IAEA to conclude, "The agency is unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities."

The Aug. 30 IAEA report states that during the past six months, Iran produced an additional 679 kilograms of low-enriched uranium and about 44 kilograms more of 20 percent-enriched uranium—material experts say could be used to produce a crude nuclear bomb, or enriched to high levels for missile warheads.

The Iranians now have a stockpile of 6,876 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, and 189.4 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium.

The recent IAEA estimate of Iran’s nuclear stocks also shows a significant increase from a U.S. estimate made public in April that said the Iranians had 4,150 kilograms of low-enriched uranium hexafluoride and about 80 kilograms of 20-percent enriched uranium as of November 2011.

By comparison, the U.S. bomb on Hiroshima in 1945 used about 64 kilograms of 80 percent enriched uranium.

The new IAEA report comes amid heightened tensions between Israel and Iran, as well as concerns Israel could launch a preemptive attack on Iran prior to the November U.S. elections that could trigger a regional conflict.

It also comes as the Democratic National Committee platform, made public Tuesday, praised President Obama for using diplomacy in a bid to curb the Iranian nuclear program. Obama has said he will not permit Iran to develop nuclear weapons but has stopped short of threatening a military response.

Two U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups are currently deployed in the region.

The IAEA report makes clear that Iran has not altered its defiant posture of refusing to halt uranium enrichment or explain past weapons work, as required by the IAEA.

Regarding Iran’s nuclear arms work, the latest report states: "Information indicates that, prior to the end of 2003, the activities took place under a structured program; that some continued after 2003, and that some may still be ongoing."

That IAEA statement contradicts a controversial U.S. intelligence assessment from 2007 that said Iran halted all work on nuclear arms in 2003. The Obama administration continues to assert that Iran has not made a decision to build nuclear weapons despite the IAEA’s unanswered questions about weapon work.

The IAEA report also reveals for the first time that a suspected nuclear weapons plant at Parchin recently was covered in a shroud in an apparent effort to hide it from international satellite monitoring. The Parchin facility, a military complex located about 19 miles southeast of Tehran, has been linked to explosives experiments related to nuclear arms work.

Iran built a "large explosives containment vessel" at Parchin in 2000 and details of the site were first disclosed to the IAEA in March 2011, the report said.

Spy satellite photos showed little activity at Parchin between February 2005 and January 2012. "However, since the agency’s first request for access to this location, satellite imagery shows that extensive activities and resultant changes have taken place at this location," the report said.

Specifically, spy satellite photos showed liquid run-off from inside the building where the explosives vessel is housed, and the removal of five structures at the site that analysts say appears to be effort to hide earlier activities.

"Satellite images from August 2012 show the containment vessel building shrouded," the report said, noting that should IAEA inspectors eventually reach the site, inspections of past work will have been "significantly hampered."

Iran stated in a letter to the IAEA on Aug. 29 that allegations of nuclear activities at Parchin are "baseless," the report said.

The recent letter echoes repeated Iranian government statements that its nuclear program is limited to producing electrical power-generating reactors, and not for producing weapons, claims that are widely disputed internationally.

The report said that Iran in the past six months continued to ignore IAEA demands to halt work on uranium enrichment, as required under 11 IAEA resolutions between 2003 and 2011.

Iran also failed to provide any information to the IAEA on announced plans to build 10 new uranium enrichment plants. Tehran also refused to stop work on heavy water production, the report said.

The 14-page report was produced by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano for the agency’s board of governors. The Free Beacon obtained a copy of the document, which was labeled "restricted."

Regarding the DNC platform, the Party document states that "President Obama, working closely with our international partners and Congress, has put in place unprecedented sanctions against Iran."

It notes Iran has yet to build a nuclear bomb but has defied U.N. resolutions and "cannot demonstrate with any credibility that its program is peaceful."

"President Obama believes that a diplomatic outcome remains the best and most enduring solution," the platform said.

It also said Obama "has also made clear that the window for diplomacy will not remain open indefinitely and that all options—including military force—remain on the table."

Henry Sokolski, head of the private Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, said the use of sanctions to stop Iran’s nuclear program is "a stretch."

"Have international sanctions killed Iran's nuclear weapons-related activities? No," Sokolski said. "Are they needed to deprive the Iranian government of legitimacy? Yes. Can sanctions or bombing end Iran's nuclear activities without a change of government? No."

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Aug. 10 that sanctions on Iran are meant to alter the regime’s behavior and prod it into abiding by international controls on its nuclear program.

Carney said Iran has failed "thus far, to live up to its international obligations—which is why we have taken the lead in a broad international effort to impose upon Iran the stiffest, most severe sanctions ever imposed upon a country."

The goal is to "pressure the regime into, hopefully, changing course, changing behavior, rejoining the community of nations, and abiding by its obligations under a variety of U.N. Security Council resolutions."

Diplomacy and sanctions are "the best course of action to ensure that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon," he said, noting that any "breakout" to build nuclear weapons could be detected.

The latest IAEA report also comes after a Pentagon report to Congress in July stated that Iran is continuing to develop its missile forces, including an intercontinental ballistic missile that could be flight-tested by 2015. Analysts say the ICBM would be Iran’s main long-range nuclear delivery vehicle.

An earlier IAEA report said Iran conducted experiments in 2008 and 2009 that involved computer modeling of nuclear blasts. The earlier report also said Iran worked on building small capsules called neutron initiators used in triggering nuclear explosions.

Iran also was engaged in preparation in the past for an underground nuclear explosion, the November 2011 IAEA report said.