The International Atomic Energy Agency Must Tell the Truth about Iran’s Nuclear Violations

May 28, 2020 | Jacob Nagel and Andrea Stricker
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Next month, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will present a formal report on the Islamic Republic’s adherence to its obligations under the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which it signed in 1970, and reaffirmed in the 2015 nuclear agreement. Thus far, the organization has been slow in admitting that Tehran has both denied it full access to the relevant sites and failed to provide necessary information. Jacob Nagel and Andrea Stricker explain why this might finally change:

Iran has, since April, refused to cooperate with the nuclear watchdog’s inquiry, preferring to stall for time and to enter into lengthy and futile discussions. Iran has rejected cooperation in recent weeks, even after multiple high-level IAEA visits. . . . To ratchet up the pressure on Tehran and better to address the nuclear threat it poses, the agency should issue a detailed account of what it knows about the regime’s past and possibly ongoing nuclear-weapons efforts.

The IAEA recently gained new information about this, thanks to a daring 2018 Israeli raid on a nuclear warehouse just outside of Tehran. . . . Until recently, the IAEA’s investigation into the archive materials languished. The watchdog did not issue a broader, written report on issues relating to Iran’s nuclear compliance until March. It only did so after a change in leadership and persistent pressure from key member states, such as the United States.

Following a separate tip from Israel, the agency learned about a site known as Turquz-Abad—another warehouse with containers allegedly holding nuclear material and equipment for conducting tests relevant to nuclear weapons. Yet it did not act in time. Under the eyes of commercial satellites, Iran spirited away the contents and, in a massive sanitization campaign, tried to wipe the site clean.

The [IAEA] should continue to demand immediate and unrestricted access to sites, people, and information it deems relevant from the nuclear archive and other sources, re-asserting its authority over the Iran investigation. If the Islamic Republic refuses to cooperate, the Board of Governors should vote to send the matter to the United Nations Security Council for countermeasures, including the re-imposition of sanctions lifted by the flawed 2015 nuclear deal. A renewed coalition to pressure on Tehran is needed to address the regime’s nuclear program from its roots.

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