by Peter Jenkins

A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has time to get its pants on. –Winston Churchill

Opponents of a nuclear agreement with Iran are mobilising once more. A recent letter to colleagues from the chairman and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee sponsored by Ed Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY) contains almost as many distortions of the truth as the annual address to the UN General Assembly of the current Prime Minister of Israel.

Here are some of those distortions.

Iran’s nuclear program poses a severe threat to the national security of the United States and our allies. How can the nuclear program of a state that is not known to possess nuclear weapons and is assessed by US intelligence not to have taken a decision to acquire nuclear weapons pose a severe threat? Do the comparable nuclear programs of Brazil and Japan pose a severe threat to their neighbours? Does Israel’s nuclear program pose a severe threat to its neighbours?

For several years, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has sought Iran’s cooperation regarding evidence that Tehran has conducted extensive research and development on a nuclear weapon. What the IAEA has reported is evidence of research, not of development. And some of that evidence is open to non-nuclear interpretations. The possibility that some of it has been fabricated cannot be excluded.

Last November, Iran agreed to disclose information on such “potential military dimensions” to the IAEA. Last November Iran agreed to “resolve all outstanding issues that have not already been resolved by the IAEA”. In the Nov. 11, 2013 agreement there is no reference to a “possible military dimension”. The relevant part of subsequent IAEA reports is headed “Clarification of Unresolved Issues.”

Iran has failed to fully cooperate with the IAEA and has failed to meet its latest deadline. Iran has failed, partially, to meet a recent deadline but the Director General of the IAEA has not reported any failure to cooperate.

We remain deeply concerned with Iran’s refusal to fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Director General of the IAEA has not reported any failure to cooperate. In all manner of processes the missing of deadlines is liable to occur.

For several years, the IAEA has attempted to work with Iran to resolve this central issue, but Tehran has refused. In February 2012 Iran agreed with the IAEA a plan of work for resolving outstanding issues. After a change of government in Iran, in November 2013, Iran and the IAEA agreed to a Framework for Cooperation. Since November 2013 Iran has provided the access and information requested by the IAEA on 16 out of 18 occasions.

In its September 5, 2014 report, the IAEA stated that Iran had failed to meet its latest deadline, even as it continued to demolish structures and construct others at the Parchin military base, where clandestine nuclear-related activities have reportedly taken place. The latest IAEA report is devoid of any linkage between the recent missing of a deadline and construction work at the Parchin military site.

If Iran’s nuclear program is truly peaceful, “it’s not a hard proposition to prove.” Actually it’s a very hard proposition to prove. How can a state “prove” that it does not have some small secret fissile material production facility somewhere on its territory? That is why the IAEA is never ready to offer more than “credible assurances” that a given nuclear program is truly peaceful.

The only reasonable conclusion for its stonewalling of international investigators is that Tehran does indeed have much to hide. That Iran may have something to hide is a reasonable conclusion. But it is not the only reasonable conclusion.

We are concerned that an agreement that accepts Iran’s lack of transparency on this key issue would set the dangerous precedent that certain facilities and aspects of Iran’s nuclear program can be declared off limits by Tehran. Iran is under an international legal obligation to submit all nuclear facilities where nuclear material is present to IAEA inspection. There is not the remotest possibility that the current negotiation with the US and others will result in their trying to persuade the IAEA Board of Governors that certain Iranian facilities should be excluded from the scope of Iran’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA.

Both the IAEA Board of Governors and the IAEA secretariat are determined to resolve questions that have arisen in relation to what the IAEA terms “nuclear-related” research in Iran, most of which is thought to have taken place, if at all, more than ten years ago. The IAEA secretariat is highly competent and knows its job. Its task will not be facilitated by the circulation of misleading information about the nature of Iran’s participation in that resolution process.

Photo: The Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu with US Rep. Ed Royce (left) and US Rep. Eliot L. Engel in Jerusalem

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