Nuclear Experts on New UN Report

December 3, 2015
The following are reactions by nonproliferation experts to the new U.N. report on possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. The long-awaited assessment concluded that Tehran had worked on a “range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device,” despite its denial of any work on a nuclear weapons program.
 
Arms Control Association
 
Kelsey Davenport: Director of Nonproliferation Policy
 
“The IAEA’s assessment that Iran was engaged in activities relevant to the development of a nuclear weapon prior to 2004 is not surprising. That finding is consistent with what U.S. intelligence agencies, and nonproliferation watchdogs—including the Arms Control Association—have long-assumed.”
 
“The agency’s finding that there are ‘no credible indications’ that Tehran continued weaponization activities after 2009, or diverted nuclear material in connection with its past activities, is a strong indication that Iran has abandoned a coordinated nuclear weapons effort.”
 
"While the director-general’s report is a critical step, it does not, however, ‘normalize’ Iran’s nuclear program in the eyes of the International Atomic Energy Agency or the international community. Iran’s nuclear activities will remain under a microscope and subject to a multi-layered monitoring and verification regime. The IAEA also will continue to work to reach a ‘broader conclusion’ on Iran’s nuclear program – meaning that there has been no diversion of declared nuclear materials and no indication of undeclared nuclear materials and activities over a period of time. That will provide greater assurance that Iran’s nuclear program is entirely peaceful.”
—Dec. 2, 2015, in a press statement
 
The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS)
 
David Albright: President and founder of ISIS, a physicist and former U.N. weapons inspector
Andrea Stricker: Senior policy analyst
Serena Kelleher-Vergantini: Research analyst
 
  • Despite obfuscation and stonewalling by Iran, the IAEA confirmed that Iran had a coordinated nuclear weapons development program until the end of 2003 and conducted some weapons development activities after 2003.  
  • Overall, Iran provided little real cooperation.  Denials and lack of truthfulness should not be confused with cooperation in the context of the JCPOA, any more than such "cooperation" by a defendant in a criminal investigation would be construed as real cooperation. 
  • Faced with such outright Iranian efforts to deceive the inspectors, the IAEA broke relatively little new ground.
  • The truth of Iran's work on nuclear weapons is probably far more extensive than outlined by the IAEA in this report.
  • The IAEA drew conclusions where it was able to.  The bottom line is that the IAEA's investigation into the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear programs cannot be understood to be concluded, certainly it cannot be closed. 
—Dec. 2, 2015, in an initial analysis
 
The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
 
The assessment corroborates previous intelligence assessments: Iran likely had a nuclear program in 2003, scrapped it and has tried to conceal the evidence and deny its existence ever since. The fact that there is still ambiguity about Iran’s nuclear programs is not a surprise, but also does not bar effective implementation of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1.
 
The JCPOA includes intrusive verification and monitoring systems to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is effectively constrained and in compliance with the agreement. The monitoring regime is based on conservative estimates of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, assumes Iran is already a nuclear threshold state, and is designed to be effective regardless of whether or not Iran admits to its past nuclear activity.
 
The JCPOA limits Iran’s possession of centrifuges and nuclear material, prohibits specific nuclear weapon development activities, restricts procurement of nuclear weapons-related technology, and monitors Iran’s facilities involved in the mining and enriching of nuclear material.
 
Enforcement of these restrictions, unprecedented inspections by the IAEA, and the collective intelligence efforts of the United States and its negotiating partners will ensure that the international community is in the best possible position to detect, deter, and address a potential violation of the JCPOA by Iran.
—Dec. 3, 2015, in a press release
 
Center for a New American Security
 

Ilan Goldenberg: Middle East Security Director  

Click here for more information on the report.