Disinformation flies as US raises Iran bar
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi
A new report on Iran by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is about
to be released and US "pre-emptive" diplomacy, aimed at preventing an IAEA
"clean bill of health" that could derail Washington's effort for a new round of
UN sanctions on Iran, is at full throttle - with the timely help of
Setting the bar unusually high, the US envoy at the IAEA, Gregory Schulte, has
warned that unless Iran "confesses" about its "past work on weapons designs and
weaponization and the role of the Iranian military", international efforts to
resolve the nuclear standoff will be "doomed".
Washington's brand new benchmark comes in the wake of a spate of US media
reports that the US has "shared new
intelligence" with the IAEA that corroborates American allegations of past
Iranian nuclear proliferation activities. According to the New York Times, the
US decided to "turn over intelligence data" and allow the IAEA privileged
access for "divulging confidential information" by reversing "longstanding
refusal to show the data, citing the need to protect intelligence sources". 
A widely published report by Associated Press cites diplomats as saying that
the material forwarded to the IAEA over the past two weeks expands on previous
information from the Americans. 
But, we learn, the new information pertains to data from the same "stolen
laptop" that was the source of the previous information, which was termed
unreliable at the time by, among others, David Albright, the president of the
Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) in Washington. (For
more on the laptop story see the authorís
The IAEA and the new world order, Asia Times Online, February 3, 2006.)
Meanwhile, in response to this authorís request for clarification regarding
this matter, a source close to the IAEA has called the US media reports
"misleading". The source said: "Without going into the intelligence we may or
may not have received, I can say that in my view, these news reports were
misleading. The [IAEA] report [on Iran] is due to come out Friday or Monday and
then things will become clearer for everyone."
The IAEA must insulate itself from the disinformation campaign against Iran
that has by all indications gone into a higher gear as we draw closer to the
upcoming meeting of the IAEAís board of governors, and it must ignore the
intensifying American lobbying efforts and those of its junior partners such as
France (at a recent meeting of Franceís President Nicolas Sarkozy and the IAEA
chief, Mohammad ElBaradei, the IAEA was urged to "stay firm" on Iran).
More important, the IAEA must stay firm on the rules of game and consider the
fact that any overstepping of its bounds - eg, by pressuring Iran to suspend
its uranium enrichment program in spite of Iranís legal rights and its nuclear
transparency - will definitely backfire against the agency and, indeed, the
entire non-proliferation regime.
After all, Iran has the solid backing of a bulk of international community,
namely the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which covers some 118 member states.
Recently, Iranís ambassador to the UN, Mohammad Khazaee, met NAM
representatives and urged them to continue with their crucial support for
Iranís right to nuclear technology. Ambassador Khazaee has also written a
letter to the UN Secretary General about the recent US National Intelligence
Estimate (NIE) on Iran, reiterating Iranís peaceful nuclear intentions and
urging the UN not to yield to US pressure that could harm the UNís legitimacy.
South Africa, a key NAM member, has already played a pivotal role in making
sure that the UN Security Council does not take any action against Iran before
the new IAEA report on Iran.
From Iranís vantage point, the resolution of so-called "outstanding questions"
as a result of a "work plan" with the IAEA, which has full scope to monitor
Iranís nuclear facilities and which has stressed on numerous occasions the
absence of any evidence of military diversion, means that there is no
justification for any UN sanctions or continued UN Security Council involvement
with Iranís nuclear dossier.
This week, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the head of Iranís nuclear energy
organization, traveled to Vienna to provide further explanation about Iranís
nuclear activities and to dispel the new suspicions about past activities
raised by the US.
Undoubtedly, Washington's new intransigent strategy has its own limitations.
There is only so much emphasis that can be placed on alleged past activities,
when the real concern is and should be Iranís present and future nuclear
By placing the bar artificially high, on the other hand, the US may spoil the
steady progress in Iran-IAEA cooperation and, indeed, set the process back if
the IAEA heeds the present US pressure tactics and refuses to issue a clean
bill of health (or something approximating it) for Iran.
The existence of merely minor or technical questions cannot possibly be the
basis for declaring Iran in breach of its Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations,
which is what the UN Security Council has done, going well beyond the IAEAís
What lies ahead then? Iran has categorically stated that it will reject any UN
pressure to stop the enrichment program and given Iranís rapid technological
progress with its P-1 and P-2 centrifuges, a fait accompli according to the
IAEA chief, the USís rigid insistence on "zero centrifuges" is unrealistic and
in dire need of a revised, new approach that would conceivably place the focus
on nuclear transparency and the full implementation of the IAEA safeguard
But with Schulte sending the wrong signal, the Iran nuclear crisis will likely
become more aggravated in the coming months if (1) the US and its allies
succeed in forcing a more circumspect IAEA report that does injustice to Iran,
and (2) Iran fulfills its threat to scale back its work with the IAEA if the
agency permits the powers that be to manipulate its findings on Iran. Such a
negative leap backward is not in anyoneís interest.
Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New
Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview Press) and co-author of
"Negotiating Iran's Nuclear Populism", Brown Journal of World Affairs, Volume
XII, Issue 2, Summer 2005, with Mustafa Kibaroglu. He also wrote "Keeping
Iran's nuclear potential latent", Harvard International Review, and is author
Iran's Nuclear Program: Debating Facts Versus Fiction.