Questions Remain in “Final” Report on Iran’s Alleged Weapons Work
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its long-awaited final report on Iran’s alleged past nuclear weapons work on December 2. This report is likely to be the Agency’s last word on its investigation into what it calls “the possible military dimensions [PMD] to Iran’s nuclear program.” The Agency found that Iran had a “coordinated” program to develop a nuclear weapon through the end of 2003 and that some of the work on nuclear weapons continued into 2009. Specifically, the IAEA found that Iran developed several components of a nuclear weapon and undertook related research and testing.
This report is part of a side agreement between the IAEA and Iran. The IAEA’s conclusions are not directly linked to the implementation of the larger nuclear deal with Iran, which may explain the limited nature of Iran’s cooperation. To many of the Agency’s questions, Iran offered no new information, or made denials without explanation, or gave explanations contradicted by other information available to the Agency. The report sheds little new light on the allegations originally compiled by the Agency in 2011 and leaves unanswered many questions about the extent of both Iran’s nuclear capability and its intentions.
Nevertheless, the countries of the P5+1 appear willing to accept the IAEA’s incomplete report and close the book on the PMD issue. According to U.S. State Department spokesperson Mark Toner, the P5+1 will introduce a resolution at the next IAEA Board of Governors meeting on December 15 to bring the PMD investigation to an end. Iran, for its part, has stated that it will not implement the nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), until the IAEA investigation is concluded. In a November 29 interview, Iran’s former defense minister and current secretary of the Supreme National Security Council warned that “without the closure of the file regarding past issues, there is no possibility of implementing the JCPOA.”
The allegations about a nuclear weapons program in Iran began surfacing in 2002, and the IAEA consolidated the “outstanding issues related to possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program” in a report issued in November 2011. The analysis in the report was based on information that the Agency received from IAEA member states, from the Agency’s own investigative efforts, and from information provided by Iran. The IAEA judged the allegations of work on nuclear weapons “to be, overall, credible” and “consistent in terms of technical content, individuals and organizations involved, and time frames.” In a 2012 resolution, the IAEA Board of Governors decided that “the resolution of all outstanding issues was essential and urgent in order to restore international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.”