Although still unresolved due to Iranian intransigence, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has voted to close the investigation into Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons. The IAEA’s report stated that Iran had a nuclear weapons program until 2003 and that some of the nuclear weapons-related activities continued until 2009. Several UN Security Council resolutions demand that Iran grant the IAEA access to all sites, equipment, persons, and documents the agency requests. However, Iran refused to cooperate on three of the 12 unresolved questions on its past nuclear weapons work, also known as the possible military dimensions (PMDs) of its program. Tehran refused to admit that it had performed any nuclear weapons work and according to the nonproliferation think tank Institute for Science and International Security, Iran’s answers and explanations for many of the IAEA’s concerns were “obfuscating and stonewalling” as it refused to allow the IAEA to interview key scientists and other people of interest, while access to significant sites “was either denied or tightly controlled.”
Due to Iran’s noncompliance and the fact that the IAEA stated that they could not conclude that Iran has actually halted all of its nuclear weapons-related activities, the Institute for Science and International Security states that the IAEA’s investigation should continue and that sanctions relief should be conditioned on Iranian cooperation with the probe. Olli Heinonen, a former weapons inspector and former deputy director general of the IAEA, similarly asserted that “without Iran’s cooperation and transparency, the file simply cannot be closed.”
The administration reportedly believes that Iranian disclosure “is unlikely and unnecessary.” However, lack of knowledge regarding Iran’s past nuclear weapons work will hinder the IAEA’s ability to verify Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal, accurately calculate Iran’s breakout time, and ensure that activities related to the development of nuclear weapons have ceased. Shutting down the probe also undermines the nonproliferation regime and may encourage Iran to continue violating its commitments. Following reports that the administration would vote to close the probe, the nonproliferation think tank tweeted, “PMD, missile tests, illicit procurements. Growing risk is that the Admin is well on the way to tolerating routine Iranian noncompliance.”
“On the basis of its analysis and findings the Panel concludes that Emad launch is a violation by Iran of paragraph 9 of Security Council resolution 1929,” the council’s Panel of Experts on Iran said in its report.
The confidential report, which was dated December 11, has been forwarded to members of the Security Council’s sanctions committee.
Paragraph 9 of Resolutions 1929 states “that Iran shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology, and that States shall take all necessary measures to prevent the transfer of technology or technical assistance to Iran related to such activities.”
When Iran scheduled ballistic missile tests a month after the nuclear deal was announced, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency claimed that such tests would reinforce Iran’s interpretation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, the resolution that formalizes parts of the nuclear deal. That resolution also calls for Iran to refrain from testing ballistic missiles, but Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that his country was unwilling to “abide by any resolution” that would limit its capacity to develop or acquire the weapons it deemed necessary.
Following the October launch, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said that Iran had violated security council resolutions. A group of eleven Democratic senators sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to “consider unilateral and multilateral responses” to confront Iran’s “clear non-compliance with UNSCR 1929 and to deter future violations.”
After a second ballistic test was reported earlier this month, a number of Democrats from both houses of Congress began pressing the administration to take more forceful actions against Iran. In addition, Republican Senators Kelly Ayotte (R – N.H.) and Mark Kirk (R – Ill.) sent a letter to the president expressing their concern over the lack of a strong response to Iran’s violations.
Iran has also routinely violated other UN resolutions, including the operation of a airline that was blacklisted by international sanctions, and the foreign travel of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps General Qassem Soleimani to places like Moscow, despite UN restrictions against allowing him to travel internationally. (via TheTower.org)