by Peter Jenkins

As a postscript to my previous post, I want to draw attention to two bits of news that I came across later that day, and to offer brief comments.

Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad-Javad Zarif, addresses the Nuclear Diplomacy Seminar at Allameh University: “We have not had any roll-back, and the structure of the nuclear program has been preserved. The movement forward of the nuclear program towards industrialized [scale] is continuing, and Iran’s activities in Arak and Natanz will continue…We have gained respect for the state. They respect Iran’s behavior, and the calculations of the ill-wishers of the country are in disarray.” FDD Iran Press Review, 2 December 2014

Note the emphasis on avoiding roll-back, which suggests roll-back is an Iranian “red line,” and Zarif’s insistence that halving the number of operating centrifuges at Iran’s disposal would condemn the nuclear negotiation to failure. That may sound worrisome. But it need not be if, as is reportedly the case, Iran is ready to send its low enriched uranium stocks to Russia for use in making fuel for the Bushehr reactor. In those circumstances, avoiding roll-back can be reconciled with US break-out avoidance ambitions, provided these are moderated.

Note too the references to respect. This is a clue to why avoiding roll-back is a “red line.” The leaders of Iran see its nuclear achievements as a symbol of national dignity. For them, nuclear cut-backs would entail humiliation.

This talk of dignity and humiliation may strike some readers as over-sensitive. Britain and the US tend to take their dignity for granted. But remember General Charles de Gaulle, France’s president from 1944-46 and from 1958-69.

For him, the French defeat in 1940 was such a national humiliation that the restoration of French dignity was as much of an objective for him as helping Britain (and later the US) to win the war. Time and again, he tested the patience of his British war-time hosts and allies by making demands or refusing concessions in the interest of upholding French dignity and self-respect.

Now on to a Dec. 2 Reuters report, an excerpt of which I have provided below:

Iran said it has provided evidence to the United Nations atomic agency showing that documents on suspected nuclear bomb research by the country were forged and riddled with errors….

Iran has offered detailed explanations to the IAEA and there has never been “any authenticated documents for PMD claims”, said the Iranian note posted on the agency’s website…..

They “are full of mistakes and contain fake names with specific pronunciations, which only point toward a certain member of the IAEA as their forger”, it said.

Since Nov. 11, 2013, Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have been cooperating better on the so-called “possible military dimension” (PMD) of the Iranian case. Will this incline the IAEA secretariat to react more forensically than in the past to this latest Iranian dismissal of material allegedly found on a laptop a decade ago? Will they produce and circulate to members of the Board of Governors a reasoned critique of the Iranian “explanations” if, after studying Iran’s grounds for doubt, they continue to believe in the authenticity of the laptop material?

This material has been an obstacle to a peaceful resolution of the Iranian case ever since the IAEA elevated it to a primary concern in early 2008, when all other concerns had been resolved. From the outset people I respect, such as the former Director General of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, had doubts about its authenticity.

It would be as wrong to find Iran guilty of clandestine nuclear weapon research on the basis of dubious evidence as it would be to condemn a criminal suspect on the basis of dodgy state evidence submitted to secure a conviction.

The IAEA maintains that it has reasons other than the laptop material for suspecting a military dimension to the Iranian case. I am not suggesting that consigning the laptop material to the “too dubious to be useable” file would eliminate that dimension. But I am confident that putting it to one side would simplify the IAEA’s task of bringing this investigation to some kind of resolution.

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