ACA’s journal, Arms Control Today, remains the best in the market. Well focused. Solidly researched. Prudent.

– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General

Nuclear Nonproliferation

The State of the Comprehensive Test Ban and Nonproliferation Treaties



Thursday, February 11, 2016
12:30 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Stimson Center
1211 Connecticut Avenue NW, 8th Floor, Washington, D.C.

The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) was indefinitely extended in 1995. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was negotiated in 1996. Two decades later, both treaties are not in good shape. The CTBT remains in limbo, shackled by a provision designed to delay its entry-into-force. The health of the NPT requires strong bonds between states recognized by the treaty as possessing nuclear weapons and non-nuclear-weapon states. The divide between these camps is growing, and future NPT review conferences may well exacerbate these divisions.

Where do we stand? And where do we go from here? The Stimson Center and the Arms Control Association hosted a luncheon meeting to address these questions with presentations from Stimson co-founder Michael Krepon, the former U.S. ambassador to the 2010 NPT Review Conference Susan Burke, Arms Control Association executive director Daryl G. Kimball, and Professor David Koplow from Georgetown University.

Text of Prepared Opening Statement by Daryl G. Kimball

Posted: February 11, 2016

Iran Nuclear Deal Implementation Day is a Historic Milestone That Strengthens the Nonproliferation Regime



Today’s announcement that Iran and six world powers completed requirements for implementing the historic July 14 nuclear deal...


For Immediate Release: January 16, 2016

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 102; Timothy Farnsworth, communications director, 202-463-8270, ext. 110.

(Washington, D.C.)—Today, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Iran and six world powers (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) completed requirements for implementing the historic July 14 nuclear deal, which blocks Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons and strengthens the global nonproliferation regime.

Taken together, the restrictions dramatically roll back Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity, block its route to nuclear weapons using plutonium, and put in place a multi-layered monitoring regime that keeps every element of Iran’s nuclear fuel cycle under surveillance. Additionally, Iran is prohibited from conducting activities or experiments relevant to a nuclear explosive device, even for conventional purposes. Without this deal, the time it would have taken Iran to develop nuclear warheads would have shrunk dramatically, putting Tehran just weeks away from producing enough fissile material for a bomb if it chose that path.

This hard-won nonproliferation victory demonstrates the international community’s commitment to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and significantly diminishes the future prospect of an Iranian nuclear arsenal.

In the months and years ahead, the United States and its negotiating partners must continue to diligently implement every element of this critical agreement and fully support the International Atomic Energy Agency in its work to verify compliance with the deal.—KELSEY DAVENPORT, director for nonproliferation policy, and DARYL G. KIMBALL, executive director. 


The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

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Posted: January 16, 2016

Lowering Nuclear Risks: An Interview With Former Defense Secretary William Perry

The former Pentagon chief says intercontinental ballistic missiles are not essential to the U.S. deterrent, worries about the risk of nuclear terrorism, and advocates a “major push” on the [CTBT].

January/February 2016

Interviewed by Daniel Horner and Kingston Reif

William Perry, shown in this March 2015 photo, was secretary of defense from 1994 to 1997. (Photo credit: Glenn Fawcett/Defense Department)William Perry is the Michael and Barbara Berberian professor emeritus at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the university’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. He was secretary of defense from 1994 to 1997, having previously served as deputy secretary of defense and undersecretary of defense for research and engineering. He is the author of My Journey at the Nuclear Brink (2015).

Perry spoke by telephone with Arms Control Today on December 8, 2015.Much of the conversation focused on the current impasse in U.S.-Russian relations and the nuclear weapons programs in those two countries.

The interview was transcribed by Elizabeth Philipp. It has been edited for clarity.

ACT: In your book, you write that Russia’s ongoing and planned production of new nuclear delivery systems is likely to motivate Moscow to test new warheads for its new missiles and that you expect it to withdraw from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty [CTBT] soon and begin those tests. Can you elaborate on why you believe that to be the case?

Perry: First of all, let me say that I don’t have any inside information from anybody in the Russian government. That’s not what my point was. It’s just that I know they are developing new nuclear weapons. They’ve said so themselves. I’m confident that that will lead the weapons designers to request new tests. That will put [Russian President Vladimir] Putin up to a decision. He will have to decide whether to allow that or not. I don’t know what that political decision will be, but I do believe that the pressure to test will be strong. So it will come down to a political decision on Putin’s part. Will he accept their recommendations, or will he think the political costs are too high? One of the reasons the political costs will not be as high as they should be is because we have not yet ratified the CTBT. That makes a decision to test easier for him.

ACT: Given that, is there any feasible way to prevent the resumption of Russian testing?

Perry: The best thing we could do is to ratify the CTBT. That would make the political costs substantially higher for Putin. That might lead him to decide then not to test.

ACT: Following up on the issue of U.S. ratification, even if the United States were to ratify the CTBT tomorrow, entry into force could still be years away if not longer. What steps should the United States pursue in the near term to strengthen the global moratorium against nuclear testing, especially in light of your belief that Russia may be on a path to the resumption of testing?

Perry: I think it’s very important to get China to ratify. I do believe that our ratification will put very strong political pressure on them to ratify, and I believe that they would. If that happens, then I think we’ve got a pretty good case to go forward, pushing to bring the treaty into force even if, let’s say, North Korea does not ratify.

I think a good argument can be made that we should not let an outlier like that stop the whole treaty from coming into force, but that decision is still ahead of us. The first step is to get the U.S. to ratify, then put the pressure to China, and then I think we should go forward with a program to try to bring the treaty into force even if the outliers do not ratify. 

ACT: Shifting to another treaty, the United States has accused Russia of being in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces [INF] Treaty. Russia has denied the accusation and charged the United States with being in violation of the agreement. How do you evaluate the situation?

Perry: I don’t have enough data to make a judgment on whether or not Russia is in violation. That’s what our government has stated, and that’s all I have to go on. But I do not have an independent judgment of that.

ACT: Do you have any thoughts on how to get out of the impasse that the two countries seem to be in with regard to this violation alleged by the United States?

Perry: On that point, as well as other points of contention we have with Russia, what is badly needed is serious and meaningful dialogue with Russia, which we do not have today, at high levels. So I think it’s imperative for the United States to begin serious dialogue with Russia. It’s imperative for both countries to take the political step of high-level and serious dialogue. Even if there is disagreement, the dialogue is not only desirable, but necessary.

ACT: Okay, is there anything specific with regard to the INF Treaty, or is it all part of the larger picture?

Perry: No, it is a part of the larger picture. I think it is very desirable to keep that treaty in force. But the bigger problem is the bad relations between the United States and Russia, of which this is just a symptom, I think.

ACT: In a recent appearance in Washington, you said that any reasonable definition of deterrence would not require intercontinental ballistic missiles [ICBMs], the land-based leg of the U.S. triad. You argue that ICBMs are unnecessary and destabilizing because they are an attractive target and entail a greater risk of accidental launch than other nuclear weapons. How would you propose to phase out the ICBM leg of the triad?

Perry: I simply would not recapitalize it. If we decide to keep the ICBMs in the force, then in a number of years, not very many years, we have to begin to focus on building the replacements for the first ICBMs. So instead, I would simply let the present force phase out.

ACT: What would you say to the senators and representatives of those states in which U.S. Minuteman III ICBMs are based who say that the missiles and associated bases are an essential part of the U.S. deterrent and vital to the economies of their states?

Perry: I don’t believe it. They’re not an essential part of the deterrent. We have ample deterrence from the submarine force, and certainly if you add the bomber force to that, that’s an overwhelming deterrence force. So I cannot understand the argument that we also need ICBMs for deterrence. We might need ICBMs for other reasons, for geopolitical reasons, but not for deterrence. Any sane nation would be deterred by the incredible striking power of our submarine force.

ACT: You have said that a desire to maintain parity with the Soviet Union and later Russia has been and continues to be a main driver of the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and that this approach doesn’t make sense. Why do you believe that parity should no longer guide U.S. force requirements?

Perry: Because I don’t think it has anything to do with deterrence. I think deterrence has to do with our power and our ability to strike. The fact that we need to have, for example, ICBMs in the force, which is a kind of a parity, just doesn’t hold up. I don’t understand the argument that we need to have an equivalent number of weapons and equivalent type of weapons as Russia as an argument for deterrence. That is a political argument, and I understand the political argument. But that’s not an argument for deterrence.

ACT: Do you have in mind a rough number of [warheads], what a U.S. nuclear force should look like, should be composed of?

Perry: Certainly less than the numbers we have now. But I also understand the political argument that as we bring the numbers down, we ought to see if we can find some way of having the Russians come down at the same time, whether that be by a treaty or by some sort of a mutual understanding.

ACT: I want to go back to the larger point about U.S.-Russian relations that you raised before. As you were saying, the relations now are at a very low point. Is there anything that Russia and the United States and maybe other countries could do to improve the situation?

Perry: We have a number of points in common with Russia. So I would think our diplomacy would emphasize trying to strengthen cooperation in the areas in which we feel the need to cooperate, the desirability of cooperating. For example, we did cooperate on the Iranian agreement, and that was a big plus. We certainly have a need to cooperate in the field of terrorism and especially nuclear terrorism, and there are certainly trade areas where we could find a reason for cooperating as well, as we did in the Cold War. We should look at issues of mutual importance—certainly preventing nuclear catastrophe has to be highest on that list—and find a way of cooperating in those areas without having to agree with the Russians or having even political accords with Russians in other areas.

ACT: What would an agreement on nuclear terrorism look like that goes beyond what’s already currently agreed under the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism? What more would they be able to do?

Perry: One of the principal actions would be protecting fissile material on a global basis. The program that the president has initiated, the nuclear [security] summit [process], I think is an excellent example of what we can do along those lines. I certainly applaud the administration for their initiative on the nuclear summit and their continued pursuit of it. I think that all we can be sure of at this point is that there will be one more nuclear summit, the one in Washington next spring. So I would put the highest priority on getting major agreements at that summit meeting, and that could be facilitated by prior discussions with the Russians on what one can mutually hope to accomplish at that nuclear summit. Certainly it’s as much for the security benefit of Russia as it is for the United States to solve nuclear terrorism. So it should be a very powerful argument for working together to get major steps forward on the nuclear summit upcoming this spring.

It’s one thing just to go to the meeting and talk. It’s another thing to go to the meeting with a plan worked out with the Russians ahead of time on what the two of us might be able to accomplish to help get the fissile material controlled in other countries. So I think I would put that number one on the list of areas of cooperation with the Russians that can greatly reduce the danger to both of us of nuclear terrorism.

ACT: Do you believe that that’s realistically achievable in the here and now?

Perry: I certainly do. We have still a few months where we can be meeting and talking with the Russians. So we could have a solid program of accomplishment that we mutually agree on that we would like to see come out of that possibly last summit meeting.

ACT: Switching gears slightly, we understand that you have recently visited a number of U.S. allies in Europe and East Asia to discuss nuclear and other related security policy issues. In your conversations with officials, did they express any concerns about the credibility of the U.S. nuclear deterrent in light of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and increasing Chinese assertiveness in its near abroad?

Perry: No, nobody raised that question with me. It seems clear to me that any informed and objective observer would see that our nuclear deterrent is quite powerful.

The nuclear deterrent, however, does not prevent the Russians from doing many things that are not directly nuclear related. I always have believed and I think events have demonstrated that nuclear deterrence is pretty well limited to deterring a nuclear attack, not deterring many other objectionable actions. During the Cold War, Russia took many actions that were very highly objectionable to us, and our nuclear deterrent did not stop them from taking those actions. Arguably, all that U.S. nuclear weapons have done is stop the Russians from carrying out a nuclear attack on us.

ACT: In any of your conversations, did any officials from allied nations take a position on whether the United States can further reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons in its national strategy?

Perry: The only such issue I have come across, particularly with Japan, is the extent to which our nuclear deterrence is specific to Japan—that is, whether it involved nuclear weapons specifically designed to protect Japan as opposed to general deterrence. That has to do with maintaining shorter-range nuclear weapons. But there’s never been a question that I’m aware of as to whether our long-range nuclear weapons were capable of deterrence. This was an issue we had, as you may remember, back during the Cold War. Even though we had overwhelming capability in our strategic nuclear forces, the Germans felt it necessary to have nuclear forces based in their country to guarantee our deterrence to them, extended deterrence. That was, I think, a misguided judgment on the part of the Germans. But they certainly felt strongly, and as a consequence, we did keep medium-range nuclear weapons based in Germany to give them the confidence of our deterrence. I don’t see that lack of confidence today, though.

ACT: As you write in your book, progress on nuclear disarmament has slowed since the early days of President [Barack] Obama’s first term. How can multilateral disarmament move forward when the forums for multilateral diplomacy, such as the Conference on Disarmament [CD] and the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty [NPT] review conference, appear to be in a stalemate?

Perry: I think they are in a stalemate. I would not say that arms negotiations has slowed; I would say it has stopped. I don’t see any significant action between the U.S. and Russia today that has any chance of moving towards another treaty. I know that many people in the U.S. government that would like to do that and are trying to move in that direction. But they haven’t gotten any two-sided discussions that seem to have any significance going forward yet. I’d say this is not the fault of the U.S. officials; it’s just that Russia isn’t showing any interest in moving forward in nuclear arms agreements. So that’s one of the main issues ahead of us, and if we can get a stronger positive relation with Russia on other issues, we should also be working with them to try to get forward motion again on a follow-on to New START [the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty].

ACT: I was also asking about multilateral diplomacy, not just the bilateral U.S.-Russian interaction. Is there any way to stimulate movement in the CD, to deal with the issues that have divided the NPT members at their last review conference, issues like that? Who needs to take action to do that? Is there anyone besides the U.S. and Russia who can move that process or help move that process?

Perry: Probably yes, but I don’t have a good answer to your question.

ACT: In your book, you write that the development of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program over the past 15 years “is perhaps the most unsuccessful exercise of diplomacy in our country’s history.” What could the George W. Bush and Obama administrations have done differently to avoid this outcome?

Perry: Well, we had a negotiation going with the North Koreans in 2000, which was very close to an agreement. When the administration changed, the Bush administration simply cut off any discussions with the North Koreans. That was demonstrated to be not an effective way of dealing with the North Koreans, but it didn’t seem to me to be a wise way even before we saw the outcome. We should have kept the dialogue going, and that was a big mistake, I think.

ACT: With regard to the Obama administration’s approach to North Korea, how would you assess its strategy toward reducing the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program?

Perry: It evidently has not been effective. But I would say, somewhat in their defense, that by the time they got into office, North Korea already had nuclear weapons. In 2001, North Korea did not yet have nuclear weapons. There was an opportunity for a much easier negotiation; it was much more feasible to negotiate with them not to develop nuclear weapons and not to produce nuclear weapons. Once they had nuclear weapons, the negotiation got very much harder. Now the administration had to argue with them to give up what they already have, and so I think the opportunity that was lost was between 2001 and 2008. That was when we had the chance to stop the North Korean nuclear program.

ACT: Given where we are now, what realistically in your view can be achieved at this point to stop and perhaps roll back North Korea’s nuclear weapons program?

Perry: I don’t have any better advice on that than Sig Hecker, the former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, has given. He said that, given that they already have the nuclear weapons, making our position in the negotiations that they must give them up is a very hard negotiation. So he argues instead to put that aside for the time being and take a more limited goal in diplomacy. It’s what he calls the three noes, which is no new nuclear weapons, no more nuclear weapons, and no selling of nuclear weapons or technology.1 Those are the three noes that he states, and he offers some positive incentives we might give for that to happen. He said that should be the basis of the negotiation. If we ever succeed in that, then we can take the next step in trying to get them to roll back their arsenal. But as far as I can determine, we have not proceeded along the lines of those three noes. That was a tactical approach that Sig had that I supported at the time and still do. I think it was a reasonable approach to dealing with the North. 

ACT: I want to go back to the issue of nuclear terrorism, which we touched on briefly a few minutes ago. You wrote in your book that the threat of nuclear terrorism is the “gravest threat of our time.” Why do you think that’s the case?

Perry: The threat of nuclear weapons is the greatest threat of our time, and nuclear terrorism is the most likely form of it. If you consider the deterrent we have to somebody attacking us with nuclear weapons, it’s very powerful. But we have no deterrent to nuclear terrorism, and it’s relatively easy to imagine how such an attack could happen. So it’s not that it’s as catastrophic as a nuclear war; it’s just it has a much higher probability.

ACT: You mentioned the nuclear security summit process. How successful do you think that’s been in addressing this problem of nuclear terrorism?

Perry: I think it’s the most effective thing we can do because the most likely way for a terrorist to get a nuclear weapon is to get the fissile material and then build a crude, improvised bomb himself. So the biggest obstacle to a terrorist getting a nuclear weapon is getting the fissile material, and the nuclear summit process is specifically addressed to putting fissile material all over the world under much better control or eliminating it.

ACT: So as a result of the nuclear summit process, do you feel less troubled or less concerned than you did, say, seven years ago before the process started? 

Perry: Yes, I do. I mean, there are just fewer opportunities now for a terrorist group to get ahold of the fissile material. But I don’t feel by any means relaxed about this because there’s still a lot of it out there not under really good control. That’s why I think this final nuclear summit next year is so important. It gives us an opportunity to take even stronger actions than we’ve taken in the previous summits, including the opportunity for setting an international standard for the control and protection of fissile material.

ACT: What should be done to continue to focus high-level attention on the problem after the summit is completed? 

Perry: I’m sorry to say that the thing that would really give high-level attention to the problem is a nuclear terrorist incident. Then what had once seemed to be a theoretical possibility will become real. All I’m hoping and working for is that we can find the actions to stop nuclear terrorism without having that triggering event.

ACT: On the question of the likelihood, periodically people say within so-and-so many years there’s such-and-such a percentage chance of a nuclear terrorist incident taking place. People have been saying that for the last 30 years or so, and there hasn’t been one. So what do you think is the likelihood and over what time period?

Perry: I’ve never been able to put a number on it. But I would say it is quite feasible for it to happen in the next year, and I don’t see the actions we have now to keep that from happening as strong enough to give me any comfort that it’s not going to happen. It could happen next year; it could happen the following year. It’s a matter of the terrorist group putting the priority on doing that and putting the resources and the effort to making it happen. But I just don’t know how to put a number on it, a probability on it. Certainly, the likelihood of that happening is much higher than any of the other nuclear catastrophes.

ACT: As President Obama enters his final year in office, what more can he realistically seek to achieve with regard to the ambitious agenda he articulated in his Prague speech in April 2009?2

Perry: Number one, he could put a major effort into making this last nuclear summit a big success. That would be my number-one priority, I think, particularly since it addresses the threat I’m most concerned about, which is nuclear terrorism. Secondly, if he can get a renewed serious dialogue with the Russians, I would try to get a follow-on to New START under way. Third, a major push on the CTBT, however he could go about doing that, to try to get that ratified before he leaves office. That is a very steep uphill climb, and I don’t want to be optimistic. But as I recommend things to the administration, I do recommend that they make a major effort still to try to push that through, not to give up on the ratification of the CTBT. Many people will say that’s an impossible dream, but I would like a major push to achieve ratification.

ACT: Thank you very much for your time; we really appreciate it.


1.  See, for example, Siegfried S. Hecker, “North Korea Reactor Restart Sets Back Denuclearization,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, October 17, 2013, http://thebulletin.org/north-korea-reactor-restart-sets-back-denuclearization.

2.  Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Remarks by President Barack Obama, Hradcany Square, Prague, Czech Republic,” April 5, 2009.

Posted: January 14, 2016

IAEA Noncompliance Reporting and the Iran Case

To fulfill its role in implementing the Iran nuclear deal, the IAEA will need to draw on its extensive experience with past noncompliance cases, exploit the latest verification technology...

January/February 2016

By Trevor Findlay

Mohamed ElBaradei (left foreground), director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, speaks with Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed Abderrahmane Chalgam (right foreground) in Tripoli on February 24, 2004. (Photo credit: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)On July 14, 2015, after marathon negotiations in Vienna, Iran reached agreement with six world powers—China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—and the European Union on a deal to roll back and constrain Tehran’s nuclear program. The agreement handed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) its greatest noncompliance reporting challenge yet.

As the multilateral organization charged with determining compliance with nuclear safeguards agreements, the IAEA has had experience with eight significant noncompliance cases, including that of Iran prior to this latest agreement. None, however, matches the procedural complexity, technical intricacy, and political sensitivity of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the Vienna agreement is formally known. To fulfill its role, the IAEA Secretariat and the agency’s director-general, Yukiya Amano, will need to draw on the IAEA’s extensive experience with past noncompliance cases, exploit the latest verification technology promised by the agreement, marshal its finest report-crafting expertise, and steer an impartial, balanced, sensitive path through treacherous political waters.

Reporting in Theory

In theory, the way that the IAEA determines noncompliance with nuclear safeguards agreements is clear, straightforward, and automatic. Article XII.C of the agency’s 1957 statute provides that safeguards inspectors “shall report any non-compliance” to the director-general, who “shall” in turn report such noncompliance to the 35-member Board of Governors, the agen­cy’s policymaking body. If the board determines that noncompliance has occurred, it “shall” report it to the agency’s membership at large (most readily through the annual General Conference), the UN General Assembly, and the UN Security Council.1 The word “shall” makes such steps legally binding. Action to bring a state back into compliance may be taken by the board, although its powers are limited, and by the Security Council, which has enforce­ment powers under the UN Charter. Beyond this, the details of the process, as in all multilateral arms control and disarmament regimes, are sparse. IAEA member states have not even sought to agree on a definition of noncompliance.2

Safeguards agreements themselves do not contain much more guidance than the statute and in some respects are inconsistent with it. Comprehensive safeguards agreements address noncompliance in just two para­graphs (18 and 19) and do not use the word “non-compliance.”3 Instead of the apparent automaticity of the statute, they give the agency flexibility in deciding what constitutes noncompliance, what actions should be taken by a state to redress it, and whether it should be reported to the Security Council.

Reporting in Practice

Eight safeguards noncompliance cases, beginning with Iraq in 1991, have resulted in special reports to the Board of Governors, the Security Council, or both. Five are considered by most observers to be serious and three less serious, although the agency itself does not categorize them this way in order to avoid implying that minor transgressions are not to be taken seriously. The agency’s noncompliance reporting has ranged from a single report that resolved the case to the board’s satisfaction (Romania, South Korea, and Egypt), to a limited number of reports (Libya and Syria), to voluminous and complicated series of reports lasting more than a decade on particularly egregious cases (Iraq, North Korea, and Iran).

Because the format, scope, and nature of reports and the process by which they are produced are not set out in the statute or elsewhere, the IAEA Secretariat has had to invent every aspect from scratch. As the first multilateral arms control verification organization and the one that still has the most-intrusive powers, the agency has had no precedents to emulate. At the outset, the only guidance it had was the traditional, generic way that the United Nations and, before it, the League of Nations reported to member states on a range of subjects. The diplomatic niceties, especially the respectful language used in addressing states; document format and numbering; and the formal, impartial tone of IAEA reports derive from these traditions. In all other respects, the IAEA Secretariat has been obliged to be innovative, flexible, and constantly aware of the significance of establishing precedents.

Each of the noncompliance cases that the IAEA has confronted has been unique, dynamic, and nonlinear. None has conformed to the straightforward trajectory envisaged in the statute or safeguards agreements. No longer is it just “inspectors” who discover and report noncompliance, but an entire safeguards department, employing inspectors, analysts, and other experts, that did not exist when the statute was negotiated.

The director-general’s role also has evolved far beyond simply reporting noncompliance to the board. He (all IAEA directors-general have been men) may, for instance, seek to resolve a noncompliance issue with the state concerned before it gets to the board. He may present an oral briefing to board members instead of or in addition to a written report. Directors-general are now intimately involved, for better or worse, in drafting and finalizing noncompliance reports. Technical briefings by IAEA personnel to the board are increasingly common.

The role of the board also has evolved. Contrary to what is envisaged in the statute, the board may or may not act in response to a noncompliance report by adopting a resolution or taking some other action. It may or may not report a case to the Security Council even when noncompliance has clearly occurred. In two cases, those of Romania and Libya, it has even taken to reporting to the council “for information purposes only,” presumably signaling that the council should take no action. The council took the hint and did not act.

When the council does act, the intensity of reporting by the agency usually increases as the council directs it to verify compliance with new undertakings imposed on noncompliant states. The scale of secretariat reporting also has increased markedly through the practice of ad hoc groups of states negotiating agreements that task the director-general with verifying compliance with additional undertakings. Such agreements, notably those imposed on or agreed with North Korea, Libya, and Iran, may involve the agency verifying and reporting on matters considered to be well beyond traditional safeguards, such as weaponization, dismantlement, disarmament, or a freeze in nuclear activity.

The secretariat’s reporting on noncompliance has thus increased in com­plexity, intensity, and technical sophistication over time. Long, drawn-out noncompliance sagas, such as those involving Iraq, North Korea, Iran, and Syria, were not envisaged by the statute, which is charmingly naive in its assumption that noncompliance will be speedily addressed. Certain cases have lasted so long that consolidated reports, summaries, timelines, maps, and diagrams have become commonplace. Complexity has also come from overlapping and linked noncompliance cases, also not envisaged in the statute. In 2004 the agency was dealing with five cases simultaneously (Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, and South Korea). Currently, it has three (Iran, North Korea, and Syria). Revelations during the Libyan episode about the Abdul Qadeer Khan illicit nuclear export network soon linked several cases not just temporally but substantively.

Political controversy has attended the handling of every noncompliance case. This is inevi­table. Gover­nors representing member states, with all of their divergent interests and allegiances, make the ultimate judgment on noncompliance. Unless the evidence is overwhelming. which seldom is the case, the board is unlikely to rush to a decision. Because of the political implications, the board has a natural reluctance to report a fellow member state to the Security Council. Instead, the board is prone to ask for more verification and more reporting. Some governors may be unconvinced by the evidence and be reluctant, whether for political or substantive reasons, to declare a state in noncompliance. Some may wish to give the state a chance to explain itself or return quickly to compliance. Although the statute is silent on the matter, comprehensive safeguards agreements oblige the board to “afford” the state “every reasonable opportunity to furnish the Board of Governors with any necessary reassurance.” The board also may collectively wish to keep the case within its own control rather than hand it over to an unpredictable Security Council, especially one sub­ject to the veto of any of the five permanent members.

At least at the outset, the board’s inclination is to seek consensus in making a noncompliance judgment, invoking the famous “spirit of Vienna.” The board resorts to a vote only when it becomes clear that consensus is unachievable. Voting in favor of finding a state in noncompliance has steadily declined, providing evidence for the thesis that there is increasing politicization of the board due largely to the split between the Western group and the Non-Aligned Movement. Yet, this may not be the only factor. The increasing technical complexity of cases, the ambiguity of verification data, and the unprecedented solidarity among accused states, such as that between Iran and Syria, may also account for a reluctance by board members to vote yes or no and instead find refuge in abstention (fig. 1).

The Iran Precedents

In 2002, allegations that Iran was construct­ing undeclared nuclear facilities at Natanz and Arak plunged the IAEA into a noncompliance saga that has consumed enormous amounts of the secretariat’s energy, time, and resources; generated political controversy about the IAEA’s noncompliance role; and set new precedents.

The Iran noncompliance case has been running for so long that it has resulted in more than 50 reports to the board and the Security Council, as well as innumerable oral reports, technical briefings, and bilateral and multilateral consultations. Although the reports are mostly cumu­lative, largely repeating what has been reported previously with the addition of an update, they are sometimes novel. The Iran case has set several new reporting precedents as a result of the multiple alleged violations involved, the waxing and waning of Iranian cooperation over the years, the involvement of outside parties in the case, and the sheer technical detail necessary for the agency to make its case. Novel areas of investigation, such as the “possible military dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear program—that is, its alleged past weaponization activities—have appeared.

The Iran reports paint a changing picture of the secretariat’s relationship with and attitudes toward Iran. At times, the secretariat demonstrates a willingness to give Iran the benefit of the doubt with respect to rel­atively minor issues that Tehran apparently clarified to the reasonable satisfaction of the agency. At other times, the secretariat draws a much harder line. An extreme example of the latter is its continuing concern about the alleged installation of a chamber for conducting hydrodynamic experiments with high explosives at the Parchin
mili­tary base.

Even more than the other cases, the Iran case has been complicated by diplomatic efforts by other parties to negotiate a resolution. These efforts, not necessarily in consultation with the IAEA, have mainly involved various permutations of the parties involved in the Vienna agreement but also at one time Brazil and Turkey. The Security Council itself, by imposing bans on Iranian activities relating to uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing, obliged the IAEA to report on Iran’s compliance with such measures. Such reporting was pointless because Iran had indicated from the outset it would never accept such constraints. The Iran case also became entangled with other noncompliance cases, most notably those of Libya and Syria, and the A.Q. Khan connection.

One particular precedent that the Iran case has established concerns the use and nonuse of the term “non-compliance” by the secretariat in reporting alleged safeguards breaches to the board. In all previous cases, the director-general had used the term “non-compliance,” and the board had followed his lead in using it (table 1). In 2003, the George W. Bush administration began pressing the secretariat to use the term in order to trigger Iran’s “referral” to the Security Council, relying on the presumed automaticity the statute provides. Other countries, including France, Germany, and the UK, which were seeking to negotiate a settlement with Iran, preferred not to have it found in noncompliance at that time.

Faced with such divisions, Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei sought legal advice. After examining the statute, successive types of safe­guards agreements, and precedents set by the previous cases, the IAEA legal office concluded that he had discretion as to whether and when to report noncompliance to the board and whether to use the term “non-compliance.” Moreover, it was concluded that there was no difference between the terms “non-compliance,” “breach,” and “failure to comply.” In his report of November 10, 2003, ElBaradei thus spoke of Iran’s “breaches of its obligation to comply with the provisions of its Safeguards Agreement” and of “serious concerns.” The board used the same language in its resolution. Only in a subsequent resolution did the board use the word “non-compliance.” The secretariat has never done so with regard to Iran or in any subsequent noncompliance cases—those of Libya, South Korea, Egypt, and Syria.

Although this may sound like terminological hair-splitting, it illustrates the fine line that the IAEA Secretariat has to walk in noncompliance reporting. It has to provide strictly technical, factual reports using standard safeguards formulations, which are often unrevealing except to the cognoscenti, while signaling unambiguously that noncompliance has occurred. Furthermore, it has to perform this feat while taking into account the interests and concerns of interested member states.

The July 2015 Agreements

On July 14, 2015, a new phase of the Iran case began.4 The Vienna accord is a long, complex agreement that imposes new constraints on Iran’s nuclear program while offer­ing sanctions relief in return. This includes Iran’s implementation of the stricter verification requirements of an additional protocol to its comprehensive safeguards agreement. Also on July 14, Amano and Ali Akbar Salehi, vice president of Iran and head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, signed a “Road-map for the Clarification of Past and Present Outstanding Issues Regarding Iran’s Nuclear Programme.”5 On July 20, the UN Security Council, in Resolution 2231, endorsed the agreement and added its own requirements.6 The agency is now involved in even more voluminous and complex reporting on Iran, pursuant to even more legal and quasi-legal undertakings.

The first major test for the IAEA came in December 2015 when Amano was obliged to provide his “final assessment on the resolution of all past and present outstanding issues” to the board, specifically the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program that the agency had been investigating since 2002.7 His report, released on December 2, was like standard IAEA compliance reports in its use of routine formulations.8 It recorded that the agency had found no “evidence” or “indications” that Iran had undertaken proscribed activities after 2009, that it currently had an undeclared nuclear fuel cycle, or that it had diverted nuclear material from its belatedly declared program. The report also spoke of the agency’s inability to undertake the necessary verification with respect to alleged activities, notably at the Parchin military base. As expected, the report abjured the word “non-compliance” and did not mention breaches or even “serious concerns,” the term used in ElBaradei’s November 2003 report, even though it recorded that Iran had not cooperated to the extent necessary to resolve certain concerns. It also deemed implausible some of Iran’s claims about the nonmilitary nature of some of its dual-use technologies.

In other respects, however, the report was extraordinary. It was not geared toward assessing compliance with standard safeguards undertakings in a legally binding safeguards agreement but with a series of steps to be undertaken not just by the state concerned but by the IAEA itself, all of which were reported to have been accomplished on schedule. Most unusually, the report did not indicate that the IAEA would continue to carry out verification activities in pursuit of any of the unresolved issues. Normally, IAEA noncompliance reports signal that the director-general will remain “seized” of the issue and that monitoring and verification will continue.

On December 15, the board adopted a resolution that noted that the activities listed in the road map were indeed implemented on schedule, but it did not declare that all issues had been resolved. Although the resolution explicitly “closes the Board’s consideration” of the issue of the alleged past weaponization activities, a step that Iran had long demanded, it hardly let Iran off the hook as to its past activities. The board indicated that the IAEA will indeed continue to be seized of the Iran issue for the lifetime of the Vienna accord. The director-general was asked to report on a quarterly basis and at any time he has “reasonable grounds to believe there is an issue of concern.” The artful layering of the various elements of the Vienna deal ensures that if Iran wishes to obtain complete sanctions relief in less than eight years, the IAEA must reach the so-called broader conclusion that all of Iran’s nuclear material since the beginning of its nuclear activities decades ago has been declared and is under safeguards. Even for countries such as Australia and Canada, which offered full cooperation to the IAEA, reaching this determination took many years.

In the meantime, a complicated set of verification and reporting tasks awaits the agency with regard to the multiple new constraints imposed by the Vienna accord on Iran’s nuclear and related activities for the coming 10 to 15 years. Amano must submit a report, expected by some as early as January 2016, assessing whether Iran has completed all of the actions specified in the Implementa­tion Plan (Annex V of the Vienna agreement). These include removal and storage of most of its functioning centrifuges, conversion of the Arak reactor so it can no longer produce significant amounts of plutonium, and removal from Iran of most of its stockpile of enriched uranium. Implementation Day will be declared when the IAEA concludes that Iran has complied with the plan. Most sanctions will be terminated, waived, or suspended on that day.

This puts great responsibility on the shoulders of the IAEA Secretariat and director-general. They will be under pressure from Iran, China, Russia, and their supporters to give the green light for sanc­tions to be lifted, while the United States and its allies will be scrutinizing the agency’s verification activities and compliance reporting to ensure they are credible. In accordance with the precedent set earlier in the Iran case, the secretariat does not have to use the word “non-compliance” in order to convey that noncompliance has occurred, but it must do more than simply report data. It should provide analysis and assessment and indicate clearly where there is evidence of breaches and shortcomings.

The secretariat faces several challenges in performing this role. First, even with the best will in the world, Iran’s compliance is unlikely to be perfect. Distinguishing between technical and material breaches and between what is unintentional and deliberate is crucial. A second challenge is the sheer complexity of the Vienna agreement, the Security Council resolution, and associated elements of the deal, as well as the number of stakeholders involved. This is bound to produce interpretive differences. Notwithstanding the exquisite detail of the Vienna agreement, there is no such thing as an unambiguous undertaking in arms control, no matter how hard negotiators try.

A third difficulty arises from the well-known challenge of assessing and reporting on research and development, which Iran is permitted to pursue with respect to uranium enrichment.

A fourth challenge is how to make an overall assessment of Iran’s compliance at any one time. There are so many moving parts, technical subtleties, and potential compliance lacunae that the IAEA Secretariat will be hard pressed to provide the pithy summary assessments necessary to keep the process moving forward politically and to convince all interested parties of the validity of its assessments. These parties include IAEA member states without deep technical knowledge of verification and compliance matters; an often skeptical media; legislators in some countries, especially the United States; and nongovernmental experts. Finally, considerable uncertainty pertains to the precise relationship among the IAEA; the joint commission established by the Vienna agreement, comprising all the parties to that accord; and the Security Council in determining and acting on Iran’s compliance. The IAEA’s mandate and authorities must be respected in order to avoid harming its credibility in implementing nuclear safeguards globally, far beyond the specifics of the Iran case.

To boost the chances of the IAEA successfully carrying out its new responsibilities, the following ingredients are necessary:

  • As past cases have demonstrated, the director-general and the board need to be afforded flexibility in handling the complexities of noncompliance issues, no­tably in navigating the line between inadvertent, technical noncompliance and systematic, willful noncompliance. 
  • The IAEA needs as soon as possible to obtain the state-of-the-art verification technology promised in the Vienna accord, the additional personnel and funding that Amano has requested, and the best analytical and report-crafting skills it can muster. 
  • It is the responsibility of the board and the Security Council, not the secretariat, to declare Iran in noncompliance if necessary. The declaration should be based on evidence and analysis, not just raw data, prepared by the secretariat and presented by the director-general. 
  • Care must be taken to avoid the joint commission usurping the roles of the IAEA director-general and board.

Ultimately, Iran’s compliance will depend on whether it has made a strategic decision to comply. If it provides grudging cooperation, under­takes minimal compliance, constantly tests the boundaries of toleration, and seeks overall to game the system, no amount of finely crafted, technically competent, and politically astute reporting by the IAEA Secretariat and director-general will suffice to avoid a crisis. On the other hand, if Iran offers its full cooperation, there may still be uncertainties, minor disputes, or inadvertent noncompliance, but none of this will be insoluble. To ensure this outcome, Iran would be wise to work proactively with the IAEA Secretariat to facilitate the agency’s reporting and to provide as much transparency and access as possible in order to build confidence in its full compliance.


1.  Despite common usage, including at times by successive directors-general and members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors, nowhere do the legal documents speak of “referring” a case to the board or UN Security Council. The correct term is “report.”

2.  The Safeguards Glossary—which the secretariat, not the board, created—defines “non-compliance” as “a violation by a State of a safeguards agreement with the IAEA.”  It provides several examples but no definitive list. See IAEA Safeguards Glossary (Vienna: IAEA, 2002), p. 13.

3.  IAEA, “The Structure and Content of Agreements Between the Agency and States Required in Connection With the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,” INFCIRC/153 (corrected), June 1972.

4.  UN Security Council, S/RES/2231, July 20, 2015, annex A (“A Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Vienna, 14 July 2015”).

5.   IAEA Board of Governors, “Road-map for the Clarification of Past and Present Outstanding Issues Regarding Iran’s Nuclear Programme,” GOV/INF/2015/14, July 14, 2015.

6.  UN Security Council, S/RES/2231.

7.  IAEA Board of Governors, “Road-map for the Clarification of Past and Present Outstanding Issues Regarding Iran’s Nuclear Programme,” para. 8.

8.  IAEA Board of Governors, “Final Assessment on Past and Present Activities Regarding Iran’s Nuclear Programme,” GOV/2015/68, December 2, 2015.

Trevor Findlay is a principal fellow at the School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne, and an associate with the Project on Managing the Atom at the Belfer Center for Science and International Security at the Harvard Kennedy School. He is the author of “Proliferation Alert! The IAEA and Non-Compliance Reporting,” on which this article is based.

Posted: January 14, 2016

IAEA Finds Iran Did Weapons Work

The [IAEA]’s finding that Iran had a nuclear weapons program until 2003 was endorsed by the agency’s board, which also closed the investigation into past weaponization work. 

January/February 2016

By Kelsey Davenport

Reza Najafi, Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, shown above in a November 2013 photo, welcomed a recent report by the IAEA on Iran’s nuclear program. (Photo credit: Alexander Klein/AFP/Getty Images)Iran pursued a nuclear weapons program prior to 2003, but did not divert nuclear material from its civilian nuclear program as part of its weaponization efforts, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported last month, leading the organization’s governing body to close the investigation into Iran’s past nuclear weapons activities.

The Dec. 2 IAEA report found that although Tehran’s organized nuclear weapons program ended in 2003, some activities continued through 2009. Nevertheless, the agency said, it found “no credible indications” that nuclear material was diverted to the weapons program or that any undeclared activities have taken place since 2009.

In an annex to its November 2011 quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear activities, the IAEA had laid out 12 areas of concern that could be relevant for a nuclear weapons program, but the agency made little progress investigating its concerns until it reached an agreement with Tehran last July 14 to complete the probe. Between July and October, Iran provided the agency with information and with access to individuals and sites as part of the IAEA investigation.

The IAEA’s 35-member Board of Governors met on Dec. 15 to consider the Dec. 2 report. The board passed a resolution by a unanimous vote that closed the investigation into the past weapons work.

In a statement to the board released after the vote, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Reza Najafi, said the agency’s finding that Iran has not diverted nuclear material “clearly shows that Iran’s nuclear programme has always been for peaceful purposes.”

Najafi said that Iran “disagreed” with some of the agency’s findings. The “scientific studies of dual-use technologies have always been for peaceful civilian or conventional military uses” rather than nuclear weapons work, he said.

The report found that some of the activities that Iran claimed were for conventional military or peaceful purposes, such as the testing of certain types of explosive detonators, had “characteristics relevant to a nuclear explosive device,” but noted that the detonators have applications that are not related to nuclear explosives.

In several cases, the agency also said Tehran was not fully forthcoming with information in response to its questions.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Dec. 15 that he welcomed the resolution and that closing the investigation will “in no way preclude the IAEA from investigating if there is reason to believe Iran is pursuing any covert nuclear activities in the future.”

The Dec. 15 resolution said Iran should “cooperate fully and in a timely manner” with the IAEA through implementation of its safeguards, including by providing the agency with access to sites in Iran.

Román Oyarzun Marchesi of Spain, chair of the UN Security Council committee on Iran sanctions, briefs the council on December 15, 2015. (Photo credit: Evan Schneider/UN)The board asked the agency to continue to report quarterly on Iran’s implementation of its commitments under the nuclear deal reached between Tehran and the six-country group known as the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States).

As part of the July nuclear deal, Iran agreed to implement and eventually ratify an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement. The protocol gives IAEA inspectors expanded access to information and sites in Iran.

Iran also agreed to continuous monitoring at some of its nuclear facilities, including its uranium mines and mills and centrifuge production workshops.

The Dec. 15 resolution requested that the IAEA director-general report to the board and the UN Security Council if any concerns about Iran’s compliance with the terms of the agreement arise.

Kerry said that the “focus now appropriately moves toward full implementation” of the nuclear deal and “its enhanced verification and transparency regime.”

Next Steps

In October, more than a month before the IAEA report, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that Iran would not complete some of its obligations under the nuclear deal with the P5+1 until after the IAEA board closed the investigation on Iran’s past work related to nuclear weapons development.

The day after the board resolution terminating the probe, Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told reporters that Iran was ready to ship out its stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU), about nine metric tons, to Russia.

Iranian officials confirmed that the LEU was shipped from the port city of Bushehr on Dec. 28. Kerry said in a Dec. 28 statement that removal of the LEU from Iran is significant and “more than triples” the time it would take for Tehran to enrich enough uranium to weapons grade for one bomb. Prior to the removal, he said the time was about two to three months.

Under the deal with the P5+1, Iran committed to reduce its stockpile of uranium enriched to reactor-grade levels, less than 5 percent uranium-235, to 300 kilograms.

In return for the LEU, Iran will receive natural uranium from Russia. Salehi said Iran would receive 140 metric tons of uranium yellowcake from Russia in return for the LEU. Russia already has shipped 137 metric tons to Iran, Salehi said in his Dec. 16 comments.

Also contingent on the conclusion of the IAEA’s investigation, according to Khamenei, is the removal of the core of the Arak reactor.

Iran committed to remove and disable the core of the reactor under the nuclear deal with the P5+1. The six-country group is to work with Iran to modify the reactor and construct a new core that will produce significantly less weapons-grade plutonium than the original design.

Iran’s Fars News Agency quoted Iranian officials on Jan. 11 as saying that work on removing the core had begun.

He has stated on several occasions that Iran can complete all of its commitments under the nuclear deal, including removal of the reactor core, by mid-January.

Another Missile Test

Despite the progress on the nuclear deal, Iran and the United States are still at odds over Iran’s recent missile activities.

Iran tested a medium-range ballistic missile on Nov. 21, likely violating UN Security Council Resolution 1929 for the second time since October, when Iran tested its Emad missile. (See ACT, November 2015.)

That resolution, adopted in June 2010, prohibits Iran from undertaking “any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology.” Under a widely accepted definition, ballistic missiles are considered nuclear capable if they can carry a 500-kilogram payload over a distance of 300 kilometers.

The UN Security Council panel charged with overseeing sanctions on Iran found on Dec. 15 that the Emad test violated Resolution 1929.

The missile tested in November is reported to be a Ghadr-110, a liquid-fueled missile with a range of about 2,000 kilometers. The Ghadr-110 and the Emad are variants of Iran’s Shahab-3 ballistic missile.

In a Dec. 17 letter to President Barack Obama, 21 Senate Democrats, including a number of senators who support the nuclear deal, called on the president “to take action unilaterally, or in coordination with our European allies” in response to the missile tests. Without action from the United States or the UN Security Council, “Iran’s leaders will certainly also question the willingness of the international community to respond to violations” of the nuclear deal, the letter said.

A separate Dec. 17 letter to Obama from 35 Senate Republicans called on him to keep the sanctions on Iran in place.

Iran is not prohibited from testing ballistic missiles under the nuclear agreement with the P5+1. When the agreement is fully implemented, Resolution 1929 will be replaced by Security Council Resolution 2231.

That resolution, unanimously passed by the Security Council on July 20, endorses the nuclear deal and calls on Iran “not to develop or test ballistic missiles that are designed to be capable” of delivering nuclear warheads. 

What's New Text: 

Posted: January 14, 2016

Experts Available for Comment: Implementation Day of the Iran Nuclear Deal



Iran is expected to complete the steps necessary to trigger implementation day...


For Immediate Release: January 13, 2016

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 102; Greg Thielmann, senior fellow, 202-463-8270, ext. 103.

(Washington, D.C.)—Iran is expected to complete the steps necessary to trigger implementation of the July 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Once the International Atomic Energy Agency has verified that Iran has taken these steps, which were agreed to in the nuclear deal concluded between the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and Iran, nuclear-related sanctions against Iran will be lifted.

Arms Control Association resources and experts are available to explain implementation day and its significance for international peace and security.


The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

Country Resources:

Posted: January 13, 2016

North Korea and Nuclear Testing

January/February 2016

By Daryl G. Kimball

North Korea’s fourth nuclear weapons test explosion is yet another startling reminder of the necessity of fresh thinking, stronger global leadership, and new approaches to prevent further nuclear proliferation and nuclear testing in the 21st century.

The Vienna-based Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) measured the blast as slightly less powerful than North Korea’s 2013 detonation, which had a yield with a TNT equivalent of six to 10 kilotons. Nonetheless, with every successive underground nuclear test, North Korea’s nuclear scientists undoubtedly learn more about how to design smaller warheads that can be delivered by missiles.

Like previous North Korean nuclear tests, this one will prompt UN Security Council action against Pyongyang. This time, however, there must be tougher penalties.

Unfortunately, China, which is North Korea’s only significant trading partner, so far has been unwilling or unable to enforce fully the existing sanctions and has resisted tougher measures. That approach must change.

Washington’s diplomatic posture must shift as well. For too long, U.S. and North Korean diplomats have haggled over the conditions for resuming nuclear talks, with Washington insisting that Pyongyang recommit to its broken 2005 denuclearization pledge.

Meanwhile, Pyongyang has used the time to amass larger amounts of fissile material, test more-sophisticated bombs, and develop longer-range ballistic missiles. Today, it likely has 10 to 16 nuclear weapons. By the end of the decade, it could have more than 50.

The long-term U.S. goal should continue to be North Korea’s verifiable denuclearization and the normalization of relations. But realism demands that talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear program resume soon, with the near-term goal of halting further nuclear testing, missile testing, fissile material production, and the possible transfer of nuclear material.

North Korea’s test is more than a regional proliferation challenge. It has been condemned by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini “as a threat to international peace and security” and by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as “a grave contravention of the international norm against nuclear testing” established by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1996.

North Korea, which is not a party to the treaty, is the only state to have conducted nuclear test explosions since 1998. The world’s other nuclear-armed states have either signed the CTBT or, in the case of India and Pakistan, declared testing moratoriums.

Pyongyang’s Jan. 6 blast is an uncomfortable reminder that 20 years after the conclusion of the CTBT, the door to further nuclear testing remains ajar. Formal entry into force has been delayed by the failure of seven other states—China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States—to ratify the treaty.

Worse still, several states are actively pursuing new or modernized nuclear weapons. If the treaty remains in limbo for many more years, one or more nuclear-capable states may try openly or surreptitiously to conduct a nuclear test. Russia, for example, supports the CTBT, but has shown contempt for compliance with other arms control treaties. President Vladimir Putin has ordered his defense laboratories to rebuild and upgrade Russia’s vast strategic nuclear arsenal. The plan apparently includes a reckless program to develop a new, long-range nuclear-armed torpedo designed to strike harbors and cities.

Weeks before the North Korean test, at a special conference on the CTBT at the United Nations on Sept. 29, Kazakhstan’s foreign minister, Erlan Idrissov, warned that “business as usual” efforts will not suffice. CTBT supporters need a “more aggressive approach,” he said.

The de facto norm against testing cannot be taken for granted. Responsible states can do more to reinforce it pending CTBT entry into force. To do so, they should consider a new, high-level diplomatic effort to encourage key states such as Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, and Pakistan to condemn North Korea’s test, reaffirm their support for the global testing moratorium, and promptly consider the CTBT.

In addition, they could pursue the adoption of a new UN Security Council resolution and a parallel UN General Assembly measure calling on all states to refrain from testing, declaring that nuclear testing would trigger proliferation and undermine international peace and security, and recommending that the treaty’s Provisional Technical Secretariat and Preparatory Commission, including the International Monitoring System, be considered permanent institutions because of their critical role in detecting and deterring nuclear testing.

Such an initiative, like Resolution 1887, which was approved in 2009, while not legally binding, would have tremendous political value in reinforcing the global norm against testing in the years ahead. It would also help guard against the danger of treaty fatigue, including the slow erosion of support for the CTBTO and its global network of 337 sensors, which is now 90 percent complete.

If North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs remain unchecked and if key states do not renew the global push to ban all nuclear testing, the threat posed by North Korean nuclear testing will only grow. So will the potential for nuclear tests by other states. Now is the time for more-energetic action. 

Posted: January 12, 2016

IAEA Closes Iran’s Nuclear Past, Not its Future

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Board of Governors voted unanimously Dec. 15 to close the agency’s investigation into Iran’s past weaponization work. The Board also took the important step of instructing the IAEA to rigorously pursue any concerns about Iran’s nuclear activities that might arise in the future. The Board’s decision to close Iran’s file was hardly a surprise. The Dec. 2 report from IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano determining that Iran pursued a nuclear weapons program prior to 2003, and conducted periodic activities leading up until 2009, largely fit with...

The PMD Report: Reactions and Implications for the Nuclear Deal with Iran



The Arms Control Association hosted a Dec. 10 discussion with experts  on the IAEA’s PMD report, its implications for implementation of the nuclear agreement, and the reactions in Iran to the report’s findings.


Thursday, December 10, 2015
9:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Choate Room
1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 

Transcript available below.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced in October that it had completed its decade-long investigation of Iran’s past activities related to nuclear weapons development, the so-called possible military dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program. The Director-General's report and assessment of the PMDs was released on Dec. 2.

The IAEA Board of Governors will now meet on Dec. 15 to consider the agency’s findings. While separate from the nuclear agreement reached between Iran and six countries that significantly limits Tehran’s nuclear activities, the PMD report could impact implementation of the deal and affect Tehran’s relationship with the IAEA.

Join the Arms Control Association on Dec. 10 for a discussion of the IAEA’s PMD report, its implications for implementation of the nuclear agreement, and the reactions in Iran to the report’s findings.

Speakers include:

  • Mark Fitzpatrick, Director of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Programme, International Institute for Strategic Studies;
  • Ariane Tabatabai, Visiting Assistant Professor, Security Studies Program, Georgetown University;
  • Greg Thielmann, Senior Fellow, Arms Control Association; and
  • Kelsey Davenport, moderator, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, Arms Control Association.


The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. 

Transcript by: CQ Roll Call


      DAVENPORT:  Thank you all so much for coming today.  We're going to get started.  We're thrilled to have such a great panel here to discuss such a timely issue as the International Atomic Energy Agency's report on Iran's past work related to weaponization.

      While this has been separate from the nuclear deal that Iran, the United States, and its E.U. negotiating partners, plus Russia and China, reached in July, it still is very closely tied to the actual implementation of that nuclear deal, with Iran sort of pegging its implementation of some of its nuclear commitments to the conclusion of this report. 

      Now, we've already seen some considerable progress in implementation of the nuclear deal.  The last quarterly report from the International Atomic Energy Agency showed that Iran has dismantled over 4,000 centrifuges.  They're working with the IAEA on the additional monitoring and verification mechanisms that will be part of the final agreement.  And we see from Iran's conversations with Russia that they're preparing to ship out their low-enriched uranium to Russia and that the United States, Iran, and China have come to an agreement on how to remove and replace the core of the Arak reactor.

      So there are some very positive developments.  And hopefully after the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors meets next week to consider the agency's report into the past weaponization work, we'll see even more progress, because as I'm sure Ariane will address, Iran has pegged some of its activities and fulfilling some of its commitments to the conclusion of that report. 

      So I'm going to turn it over to the panel.  I'll introduce our speakers.  We're going to start with Mark and then go to Ariane and Greg.  So Mark is going to speak on the report itself, what it means in terms of Iran's past weaponization work, and what it means and how it will impact the deal going forward.

      Mark is currently the executive director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in the United States.  He's recently returned from London, so welcome back.  We're thrilled to have you in D.C.  He's also the director of the Nonproliferation Disarmament Program at IISS.  He joined IISS in 2005 after a distinguished 26-year career in the U.S. Department of State, where he focused on nonproliferation issues. 

      Then we'll turn to Ariane Tabatabai.  She is a visiting assistant professor of security studies at the Georgetown Edmund A.  Walsh School of Foreign Service.  Tabatabai came to Georgetown University from the Harvard University John F.  Kennedy School of Government and the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, where she was an associate and involved in the project of managing the atom.

      Then we will turn it over to Greg Thielmann.  Greg will discuss the PMD report from the perspective of someone who spent time in the U.S. intelligence community and also delve a little bit into Iran's ballistic missile program, which also has been in the news recently, given that Iran is continuing to test its ballistic missiles.  Greg served more than three decades in the executive and legislative branches of the government, specializing in political and military and intelligence issues.  Before joining the Arms Control Association as a senior fellow in 2009, he worked for four years as a senior professional staffer of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.  He was a U.S. Foreign Service officer for 25 years, as well. 

      So with that, I will turn it over to you, Mark. 

      FITZPATRICK:  OK, thanks very much, Kelsey.  And it's delightful to be speaking here at Carnegie on this ACA panel.  It's my first public appearance since returning to Washington.  I hope it goes well.

      Kelsey asked me -- when she first asked me to speak, she said want you to, you know, talk about what the PMD report says, but I'm assuming that you wouldn't be here if you didn't know what the PMD report says, so I'll talk a bit more about what it means.

      But, you know, basically it confirms the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran.  That's not too surprising, because it draws from the same body of information, although supplemented now with eight years of additional information that the IAEA has accumulated. 

      It says very clearly that Iran worked on nuclear explosives.  So with that clear statement, one can remove the P from PMD.  It's no longer possible military dimension, just military dimensions.  And I have to give credit to Marty Malin for that observation.  It notes that, yes, there was an explosives chamber at Parchin that was removed, because it's not there anymore, along with other traces.

      It doesn't address Iran's intentions.  It focused on the what question, not why.  It says most of the exploratory work stopped in 2003, but some fragmented work continued thereafter.  But we now have a date on how long thereafter, 2009.  So there's no longer any mention of military-related nuclear work continuing possibly to the present, no evidence after 2009, which is relevant.  That's one of the new things in the report.  And it does say that this work after 2003 -- 2009 was incomplete and fragmented. 

      By the way, Iran is not the only country to have done computer modeling on nuclear explosives.  I think several Western European, non-nuclear weapons states have also conducted such work, which can be relevant to nuclear power plant construction.  This is not to exonerate Iran in any way, but not every element of the accusations is condemnatory. 

      The report does note that some of Iran's explanations just aren't convincing, particularly about Parchin.  So it's not an exoneration in any way.  You could read it to say, we know you were lying, you know we know, but these were venial lies and let's leave it at that, let's move on. 

      The report gives the Board of Governors with the IAEA a basis for closing the PMD or MD file.  This was a concession by the West, which could have insisted that the IAEA keep pressing for more answers.  You know, they could have demanded convincing answers to why the building at Parchin had a room with an unusual cross-section and incomplete ventilation system, but it would have meant keeping alive a distraction.  Parchin's a distraction from the real issues of what Iran is currently doing and what they may do in the future.

      Keeping it alive would also have meant calling the bluff on Khamenei's red line on PMD closure.  Not clear whether it was a bluff or not.  Probably it was.  But, anyway, that issue is now being us. 

      Now, some of Khamenei's red lines are unacceptable, and I'm sure Ariane will get into this, I mean, saying that there can't be any new sanctions at all for any activity or Iran will pull out of the deal.  Well, that's just totally acceptable.  If Iran violates international norms and rules and laws, sanctions have to be forthcoming.

      But you might ask, with regard to this PMD file, what overriding consideration would have been served by calling his bluff on the PMD closure?  It's not necessary for future verification of the JCPOA to know exactly what Iran did at every point in the past.  You know, John Kerry overstepped when he said we know exactly what they did.  But the IAEA knows basically what Iran did.  And they can make worst-case assumptions where there are some uncertainty. 

      As Hans Blix said at a conference in Brussels at the E.U. Nonproliferation and Disarmament Conference last month, putting the PMD issue behind allows the focus to shift to properly and promptly implementing the JCPOA.  So the IAEA's key responsibility now is to verify current and future nuclear activity. 

      Iran apparently sees the closing of the PMD file as meaning PMD will not be part of the AP, the additional protocol, broader conclusion exercise.  This misinterpretation by Iran, I think, has to be challenged publicly and firmly corrected so as not to restrict the scope of the Additional Protocol verification. 

      Examining the history of Iran's nuclear program will be important to being able to draw the broader conclusion under the Additional Protocol in eight years' time, if Iran is to be given a so-called, you know, certification of clean activity of no peaceful nuclear activity.  And then if any new information arises about weaponization work, obviously, the IAEA has to be able to continue to investigate that in order to assure the correctness and completeness of Iran's declarations.

      Relatedly, you know, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has an important new prohibition on weaponization activities.  But it doesn't say how that's going to be verified.  So I think that it's important that Iran not be able to use the closure of the PMD file to say that the IAEA cannot use its investigative powers to investigate weaponization activities, which are clearly prohibited under the JCPOA.  That's one of the big points that still has to be clarified.

      With the PMD file closing, I think it is now possible for Iran to take all the steps that would be required for implementation of the agreement to come in a month's time, by mid-January.  I don't think that's probable, but it is possible.  You know, Iran has been -- as Kelsey said -- removing centrifuges at a pretty fast clip, particularly the IR-1 centrifuges.  They obviously don't care about breaking a lot of the centrifuges in the process, the speed at which they're taking them out.  It indicates that these are -- they know these are bad machines and don't care if they break.  But, you know, also, if they break a lot of them, they would have an excuse to build new ones.  And that's a little bit worrisome.

      What Iran hasn't done yet is remove the calandria and ship out the accumulated low-enriched uranium stockpile.  Those are the two things that Khamenei said had to be conditioned on closing the PMD file.  I think both of those things can be carried out relatively quickly.  Removing the calandria can be done quickly and you don't have to worry about damaging it, because it's going to be damaged anyway purposely by pouring concrete into it, and the shipping out of the LEU isn't too tricky, except for the 20 percent enriched uranium that's been partly prepared for fuel elements.  Some of that is Turkey, as we saw in an article in the Wall Street Journal two days ago.

      But I think that's probably all now in train.  There are some of the commercial and contractual legal elements to shipping it to Russia that were being negotiated.  And, you know, Russia and Iran, whenever they get into a nuclear negotiation, could take years.  But that can all be short-circuited by a political decision, and I think that's probably what is happening.

      So, yeah, we could see implementation day as early as January 15th, although I just heard that actually from Iran's political point of view -- Ariane, you'll address this -- maybe mid-February would be better as to get the best bump for the elections in February. 

      Amano's report did not give the West any reason to delay implementation day.  You know, if he had said that Iran's answers were unsatisfactory, inconclusive, if he had been negative about their answers, it would have provided a political basis for delaying implementation, even though there would be no legal or formal basis for tying JCPOA implementation to Iran's answers.  But, anyway, Amano's report was studiously neutral.  He didn't provide any basis for stopping implementation, so I'm pretty sure the parties will all be going ahead.

      This clears the first of the hurdles for the JCPOA.  There will be many hurdles to come.  You know, we can imagine that there will be violations, particularly alleged violations, violations in Iran's procurement of nuclear materials that are not channeled through the official procurement channel.  The LEU stockpile is going to fluctuate over 300 kilograms.  Iran is going to do some work on R&D that's not strictly allowed. 

      In judging all these things, there will have to be a way of looking at this, differentiate what's an important significant violation -- and I would put the R&D excesses in that category with the less important, and I would put the -- if the stockpile goes above 300 kilograms, that's not so important if it's just temporary. 

      And then the responses to violations should also be calibrated.  You know, the sanctions' snap back is not going to be applied for minor violations, but there are other ways that the West has leverage over Iran both within the JCPOA, like the re-design of the Arak reactor, that could be slowed.  The repurposing of the Fordow, any assistance there could be slowed.  And then there are other leverage points that are foreseeable. 

      The JCPOA provision for lifting all sanctions in eight years upon either eight years' expiry or IAEA drawing a broader conclusion, I think that's going to be problematic.  If there's no broader conclusion in eight years, I think it's going to be difficult politically for the West to lift all sanctions.  But that's eight years from now; we can cross that bridge when we come to it.  For now, things are looking pretty good.  The JCPOA will go ahead, and I think the world will be better for it.  Thank you.

      DAVENPORT:  Great.  Thank you so much, Mark.

      All right.  Ariane? 

      TABATABAI:  Thanks, Kelsey, and thanks to the rest of the ACA team for having me.  It's always a pleasure.

      I'm going to build a little bit upon both what Kelsey and Mark said in their remarks and give a little bit of the Iranian perspective on what's happening.  Of course, this was a very vital piece of the puzzle for Iran.  It was a huge step.  And they were very much looking forward to the PMD case closing once and for all.  In fact, the supreme leader, Mark mentioned, in a letter that he wrote President Rouhani, essentially endorsing the deal after the deal passed to the parliament, said that nothing would be done unless the PMD case closed. 

      Now, those who watch Iran know that you have to take everything the supreme leader says with a whole shaker, not just a grain of salt. 


      His red lines are -- some of them are more red.  Some of them are not even lines.  So, you know, it's very complicated, and you have to look very -- you have to look at it with a lot of -- you have to be very careful, essentially, when you examine his red lines. 

      Nevertheless, this was something that really was important to the entire mainstream Iranian political establishment.  And I'll dive a little bit into why that is.  There are economic factors that come into play.  There are domestic factors that come into play.  And there is the issue -- underlying trust issue that Iran and the P5-plus-one and the IAEA, I would say, have.

      So to come back to the supreme leader's speech, though, or letter, he mentioned that everything that Iran would do would essentially be conditioned upon the IAEA closing this file.  Excuse me.  A lot of it is posturing, as he often does.  A lot of it is domestic politics.  He wants to appeal to his conservative base that feels like it's lost on this -- with the JCPOA having been reached.  And other people, especially hard-liners, believe that Iran has made too many concessions.  They think that Iran's concessions are virtually irreversible, whereas the P5-plus-one can essentially take a step back whenever they want and impose more sanctions, if needed to. 

      In fact, a key part of the narrative around the JCPOA has been that the nuclear issue is just an excuse, there will be more sanctions.  And this brings us back to what Mark was mentioning about the supreme leader saying if there's any more sanctions, whether it's human rights- or terrorism-related, Iran would consider that as a violation of the JCPOA.

      Now, we're in a very sensitive period right now.  It's post-JCPOA.  The deal has effectively -- the implementation has effectively started.  But we have also something very important happening in February, and that is two elections, the Majlis elections, the parliamentary elections, that are generally speaking very heated, tend to be more conservative than the presidential elections in Iran are.  You have a lot more -- you have more battles between the two parties -- parties?  The two sides of the aisle.

      And whereas with presidential elections, you normally see a little bit of an opening up of the environment politically speaking and people have a bit more room to come out and express what they feel.  And, you know, we've seen it 2009.  We saw some of it is 2013, though a bit more limited because of the 2009 events. 

      The pre-parliamentary election cycle tends to be a bit more closed off.  So you have -- the hard-liners, who tend to push more, they have more room to do whatever they want to do, whereas the rest of the population is a bit more closed off.  It's also important to note that people don't show up to parliamentary elections as much as they do for presidential elections.  I think that's the case in most countries, but specifically in Iran.

      So all of this means that there are a lot of things that are being said that really are meant to appease a domestic constituency and not necessarily meant for outside consumption.  So let's break this down.  The first thing is the supreme leader has mentioned is that something you hear quite often in the mainstream Iranian establishment, political establishment, but also security establishment with the Revolutionary Guards and other parts of the military and paramilitary forces, is that Iran can't trust the West, but it cannot trust the International Atomic Energy Agency as an agent of the West. 

      What they say and what they provide as evidence to support these claims is the targeted killings of Iranian scientists that Iran believes were facilitated by information that was made available by the IAEA.  And the second main issue and that connects directly to the PMD file is that the nuclear issue is just an excuse, that the West will impose more sanctions.  If it's the nuclear issue, it will be human rights.  If it's not human rights, it will be terrorism.

      So for all these reasons -- and the IAEA essentially presented as a pawn in this game.  I'm not going to dive into the merits or lack thereof these claims, but these are some of the pieces that are put forward. 

      So the supreme leader and I would say the government itself, as well, really wanted the case closed because they didn't want the West to be able to take a step back later on and say, well, this case isn't closed yet, so actually we have decided that now you've removed certain centrifuges, we're going to impose more sanctions.  For them, this is some sort of guarantee that things are going to move forward, that whatever Iran does is going to be reciprocated with sanctions relief.  So this is the element of trust. 

      The second one is that Iranian hard-liners have been saying throughout the negotiations that the PMD file would not be closed, period.  And that is something that the Rouhani government pushed back on quite a lot.  And essentially the discussion here wasn't necessarily about the PMD file itself; it was about negotiations.  Should Iran negotiate or not? 

      If you believe that the PMD file is not going to be closed, you believe that there is no point in negotiating, because that case is not going to be closed and sanctions will continue to be imposed.  If you believe, on the other hand, that the IAEA is reasonable and will close the case if it is provided with enough evidence that Iran's activities were peaceful, then you would be more inclined to negotiate, which was the case of the Rouhani government and the team that engaged in the negotiations.

      So with now the PMD report out, the Rouhani government sees this as a way to undermine the hard-liners' arguments against the negotiations and against the JCPOA moving forward.  Again, because it is election season, it's not quite election season -- you know, election cycles don't last as long as they do here in Iran, but the sort of gearing up to the election cycle, to the campaigns last a very long time.  So the campaign itself will probably be about a month, a month-and-a-half starting in January, ending in February with the elections.  But the arrests that we've seen, the pushback by the hard-liners, all of that is part of this leading up to the campaign, and it has started with the JCPOA and will likely continue until the elections in February.

      The third issue here is economics.  Iran came to the table partly because it wanted sanctions relief, partly because it wanted -- the Rouhani government, anyway, wanted to engage with the rest of the world and wanted to normalize its relations.  If there is no economic recovery being felt, the Rouhani government would have effectively failed what was the most important promise of its campaign, that it will be seen as having made too many concessions and not having managed to do anything.  And what I'm hearing from Iran is that people are already feeling pretty fed up with how things are going.  A lot of people feel like before the JCPOA was reached, you know, the economic situation was actually a lot better, that the dollar was cheaper and they had more access to things than they do now.  So if this continues a few months from now, a year from now, the presidential elections in 2017 in Iran will look very, very different. 

      So from the Iranian side's perspective, the PMD issue was key in making sure that the benefits of the JCPOA will start to kick in.  In other words, there is not going to be -- companies are not going to go to Iran, businesses are not going to be diving into the Iranian market unless there was some sort of resolution of this issue. 

      With this done now, this is going to facilitate the next steps of the process.  It's going to allow for the next steps of the process to happen.  So for the Iranian government, it was key to get this out of the way.  They essentially saw it as a means to an end, to allow them to move forward with the plan of economic recovery and obviously for the Rouhani government, it's incredibly important to do as much as possible before the February elections, if they don't want the hard-liners to take over the Majlis, the parliament. 

      So I hear Mark's views that this is positive, that I think that things will start to move ahead.  Iran has, as both Kelsey and Mark mentioned, has started to take some of the steps, despite the supreme leader saying we're not going to do anything as long as the PMD issue is still on the table.  They have started to move ahead, and I do suspect that because they want to see economic recovery as soon as possible and they want to move on to other issues, the Rouhani government specifically wants to be able to start ticking off items on the list of -- on its agenda, essentially, things that promised to the population, it will start to take steps as fast as possible. 

      Part of it is facilitated by the fact that they don't care if they break centrifuges in the process, but part of it is also that they really do want businesses to start going into the country and start collecting the fruits of all the efforts they've made in the past couple of years.

      So I'll stop here and happy to dive into any of this more in-depth if you have any questions about it.

      DAVENPORT:  Great, thank you, Ariane, and thank you for ensuring that I will think of the supreme leader whenever I use a salt shaker.  We will now turn it over to Greg.

      THIELMANN:  Thank you, Kelsey. 

      Building on the excellent presentations by Mark and Ariane, I'd like to make a few points about the intelligence assessments and how they relate to the IAEA report we were discussing.  The United States had concluded for some time that Iran had a structured program to develop nuclear weapons.  But in 2007, the U.S. intelligence community produced a National Intelligence Estimate, which is sort of like our Oracle of Delphi, and this reported that Iran's nuclear weapons program was halted in the fall of 2003.  And recall that only two years before, a National Intelligence Estimate had concluded that Iran was, quote, "determined to develop nuclear weapons," unquote.  So this was a big deal. 

      At the same time, the 2007 NIE also assessed that Iran still had ongoing R&D projects with commercial and conventional military applications, some of which would also be of limited use for nuclear weapons.  The IAEA issued a report in 2011 which reflected the broad outlines of the 2007 NIE.  But the IAEA report provided more specificity to the public on some of the ongoing R&D activities mentioned in the 2007 NIE that were relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device. 

      These concerns were included in a framework of cooperation drawn up between the IAEA and Iran in 2013, which later led to the IAEA's road map to investigate and resolve areas of concern regarding the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program.  And I accept Mark's deletion of the P here.  I think that was a good suggestion. 

      Throughout the process, which the IAEA has now completed, Iran consistently denied that it ever had a program to develop nuclear weapons or would ever have such a program, given its religious mandate, the public comments of former President Rafsanjani notwithstanding. 

      This month's IAEA report provides an evaluation of the 12 PMD issue areas in the road map.  Some of the agency's PMD suspicions have been relieved; others have not.  All in all, the report is neither an absolution of Iran nor a full-throated condemnation. 

      It relies heavily on information provided by various intelligence services, but it also sometimes reaches different conclusions based on its own investigations and judgments.  For me, and Mark's remarks reflected this, also, the report's most newsworthy aspect was the revelation that the agency has no credible indications of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device after 2009.

      And let me briefly elaborate on this point.  The NIE's conclusion about the 2003 halting of Iran's nuclear weapons program was rendered with high confidence.  But the estimate's conclusion that there had been no resumption of an organized program through mid-2007 was only reached with moderate confidence. 

      Then in 2011, four years after the NIE judgment, the IAEA mentioned specific ongoing activities of concern, leaving me in suspense about whether or not this month's report, adding on four more years of evidence, would bring into question the NIE's conclusion eight years ago about the program being halted.  It did not. 

      We have no specific information on whether the U.S. intelligence community has any specific dissents from the IAEA's conclusions about past Iranian activities.  Even though the Vienna agency has its own independent sources of information, it's difficult for me to believe that any credible information from Western intelligence agencies about ongoing Iranian nuclear weapons development activities would not appear in this report.

      So I assume that the U.S. intelligence community also believes that the program remains dormant.  It just has not deigned to share with the public this important information about what's not going on with Iran's nuclear program in recent years.

      There has certainly been a parallel cone of silence over most likely projections with regard to Iran's long-range ballistic missile program, even though such projections are directly relevant to issues like East Coast basing for strategic missile defenses and the scheduled deployment of missile defenses in Poland under Phase 3 of the European phased, adaptive approach. 

      After predicting for more than a decade that Iran could flight test an ICBM by 2015, the director of national intelligence and other intelligence agency heads started quietly backpedaling.  This was first done by attaching unhelpful qualifiers to the warning of what Iran could do by 2015, like Iran could have an ICBM by 2015 with sufficient foreign assistance.  And my line on that usually is:  So could Burma.

      Then recently, by noting that Iran had announced plans to put a satellite into orbit by the end of 2015, insinuating that substituting a space launch vehicle for an ICBM would be equivalent, since a space launch vehicle could test a lot of the technology needed for a military system. 

      Finally, during the last few months, in the form of an unclassified answer to a written question submitted by a member of Congress, the four-star head of the Northern Command, Admiral William Gortney, explicitly acknowledged that Iran would not likely be able to launch an ICBM until later in the decade at the earliest. 

      Even so, as far as I know, no estimate has been shared with the public of how the Iran nuclear deal reached in July could affect the timetable for Iran deploying a nuclear-armed ICBM that could target the United States.  Surely an update should take into consideration both the political obstacles of the JCPOA, as well as the technical obstacles to which Admiral Gortney referred. 

      We will see how rapidly members of Congress and the press can adjust to the loss of the imminent Iranian threat to Los Angeles that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and U.S. Senator Cruz have been warning them about.  In the meantime, those who believe an informed public and Congress are important for national security can at least be grateful for the information that the IAEA has shared concerning Iran's past and present nuclear activities. 

      Thank you.

      DAVENPORT:  All right, thank you very much, Greg.  So we've had three thought-provoking presentations.  I will now open up the floor for questions.  If you could just raise your hand, identify yourself, and please limit it to a question. 

      We'll start right here with Stephanie.

      QUESTION:  Yeah, I just have... 

      DAVENPORT:  Oh, if you could wait for the mike, please.  Thank you. 

      QUESTION:  Sorry, I didn't -- Stephanie Cooke with Nuclear Intelligence Weekly.  I just wanted to ask Mark if he would elaborate a little on the 20 percent enriched deal, what the problem is with that, and if that is included in the stockpile numbers, would have to be dealt with -- I get a little confused about where the 20 percent stuff fits.  Thank you. 

      FITZPATRICK:  I'll bet there are five people in the room that know the answer better than I do, so maybe they could elaborate.  I don't really know what the problem is, why Russia can't take that, as well.  That is included among the things that have to be removed.

      So it's just that, you know, Iran moved quickly to try to make fuel elements and some of it's stuck -- and it's in waste and there are some technical problem, but I really don't know why it would be possible to send it to Kazakhstan but not Russia, except that the Kazakhstan element seems to be they're going to just store it in Kazakhstan temporarily, whereas what goes to would be, you know, somehow further processed for making fuel for Iran.

The fabricated fuel or the part that was in the waste, that was part of the fabricating of fuel, I don't know the technical details, I don't know for certain that there's actually a contract being negotiated with Kazakhstan, although there seems to be enough news that that is the case. 


      FITZPATRICK:  Does anybody know this? 

      DAVENPORT:  I would just add to that that, you know, they're still in the process of trying to gather up all of this scrap material that was stuck in the conversion process from the 20 percent gas, when they turned it to oxide, and then when they turned the oxide into fuel plates.  They could choose to dilute some of that down, if possible, and then that could be sent to Russia, but what they can't dilute or convert, you know, could be sent to Kazakhstan. 

      I have seen some Russian reports saying that they are hesitant to take the 20 percent material because it does not fit with some of their fuel fabrication sort of facilities and plans.  But I don't know how credible that is.  So I think, you know, we'll have to wait and see how that turns out. 

      DAVENPORT:  Yes.  Ed? 

      QUESTION:  Edward Levine, Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation.  I want to pick on Mark, too.  On the question of the implications of this report and the draft resolution for going ahead, what are you hearing from the IAEA between the lines on the question of what access they got to people or to documents or to places and that precedents that access might set for the future?

      FITZPATRICK:  I didn't get a good reading on the access to people and documents and the access to Parchin we all know about.  The IAEA insists that the access that they got to investigate the PMD does not set any precedent for verification of the JCPOA going forward.  That's the line, but, I mean, let's face it, Iran certainly sees it as a precedent.  And the manner in which inspectors were not present at the environmental sampling at Parchin I think is worrisome, because it removed the possibility for spontaneous decision-making on the spot, where to make -- where to do swipe sampling.

      The IAEA says and justifies this on grounds of technological developments, that verification technology is moving swiftly ahead.  It's largely based on automated systems.  And given the pressure on the IAEA budget to have to make maximum use of such automated systems, to the extent to which they are real-time monitoring, that's for the better.  But the, you know, judgment of inspectors on the ground -- I don't think the automated systems can replace that.

      So I think member states need to insist that that didn't set a precedent for future verification, and I anticipate that the next time there is an issue that arises over allegations of nuclear activity at a military site, this is going to rise very quickly to -- you know, involving the dispute mechanism and a high-level political decision about how to proceed.

      DAVENPORT:  Great, thank you.  Other questions?  Yes?  Oh, if you could wait for the mike, please, sir.  Thank you.

      QUESTION:  I'd like to ask, basically, for speculations on the part of the panel about, you know, certainly Iran and others have always claimed that the IAEA is really acting more political than technical.  So with the report, and the consequence positioning by Secretary Kerry and others, how would you, you know, speculate about this political factor and whether it's going to get more or less in the eyes of the rest of the world?

      DAVENPORT:  Great, thank you.  So the question -- the politics of the IAEA, how political has their decision-making been, what will it be going forward.  Why don't we start at the end of the panel?  Greg, do you have any thoughts on that that you'd like to share?

      THIELMANN:  Well, I do see the IAEA as primarily technical, and it is infused in so much of their language and their judgments.  When they make a judgment, when they do not make a judgment, you can see a reluctance to enter into the political realm. 

      Having said that, the whole exercise on PMD is so incredibly political, and the language they choose has political implications, so, you know, it's really hard to say that there is no political role being played by the IAEA.

      But the IAEA knows that it loses credibility in a lot of quarters when its comments and conclusions are perceived as being political.  And I think they act accordingly.  I mean, I think they try to confine their judgments, their conclusions, their activities to the technical realm.  And I know it's something on which people can differ, and Iran obviously has motivations for putting a spin on the IAEA which is political.

      But I don't accept the arguments that the IAEA is a shell of the Americans or the West or anything like that.  And I think there are a lot of examples one can give where the IAEA says certain things both on this issue and in the past that have made the United States very unhappy.

      DAVENPORT:  Thank you, Greg.  Ariane, Mark, would you like to add anything?

      TABATABAI:  Yeah, I'll say a few things.  I agree with everything Greg said.  What's interesting with Iran is that on the one hand the Islamic Republic has essentially always presented international organizations, including the U.N. and the IAEA, of course, as political tools in the hands of the West, to impose their will on the rest of the planet.

      On the other hand, though, Iran has also tried consistently to say we are upstanding members of the international community and we have been abiding by our international obligations all the time.  So on the one hand, they dispute everything that the international community has been saying about Iran's nuclear program.  On the other hand, they've been saying, but we are abiding by the NPT, which is biased, granted, but we are doing everything we're supposed to under our international obligations. 

      I think what is interesting right now is seeing the shift between hard-liners, more conservative factions, and then the moderates who are involved in the negotiations.  They have a much better understanding of the IAEA's role.  I don't think that anyone in the negotiating team and people close to them have these perceptions of the IAEA as a merely political tool, though they do subscribe to some of the things that the more mainstream establishment says, like, you know, they tried -- they helped the West assassinate our scientists, basically. 

      On the other hand, though, they have taken everything the PMD report very specifically or the past and present issues report, as they like to call it, to remove the possible military dimensions out of the equation, they've taken that to say, look, we have been right all along, this has all been a very unfortunate issue, but, you know, Iran's nuclear activities were merely peaceful.  They have obviously highlighted the parts of the report that they want to highlight for their audience.  And they've essentially taken the IAEA as a seal of approval for everything that they've done in the past decade-and-a-half.

      The hard-liners have been very quiet on the report, interestingly.  They haven't had anything to say, I guess, because on the one hand if they dispute the report, then they look terrible.  And if they don't, well, then they're kind of empowering the government, so they've been pretty quiet on this issue.  But there's a bit of -- I guess there's a polarization of the views on the IAEA within the Iranian establishment, is what I would say. 

      DAVENPORT:  All right.  Mark, would you like to add... 

      FITZPATRICK:  So, in conclusion, to the extent to which the IAEA report is politicized, it's politicized in Iran's favor, because it closes the file.  And what the report says is so carefully worded that one cannot accuse the IAEA of being political in what it says, but one could say what it doesn't say has a political overtone.  You know, they could have said more about what Iran's -- how Iran's answers didn't all address all of the questions the IAEA had posed.  And I think it will probably be grounds for those who are opposed to the JCPOA to claim that the IAEA was pressured to provide a report that would allow the JCPOA to go ahead.

      But all my discussions with senior officials at the IAEA suggest to me that they're convinced that they've done this correctly in accordance with all the procedures and that they know enough to move ahead. 

      DAVENPORT:  Great, thank you.  Other questions?  Yes, Tom? 

      QUESTION:  Tom Collina, Ploughshares Fund. Thank you all very much for very excellent presentations.  Two questions.  One, looking forward at the future implementation of the deal, what are the one or two things that worry you the most that could cause problems, either here in Congress or in Iran?  And then second question, how important is the upcoming Majlis election for the Rouhani presidential election?  Does it matter at all?  Or is it completely definitive or conclusive?  Thank you.

      DAVENPORT:  I will sort of tack on a little bit of an addition to Tom's question about perceived problems.  You know, we've seen in the past few months two Iranian tests of what are likely medium-range ballistic missiles.  You know, those are prohibited in Iran -- Iran is prohibited from conducting those under past U.N. Security Council resolutions.  Iran has never said it's bound by those resolutions.  But there is similar language in the new resolution endorsing the deal that leaves some wiggle room for future tests, but encourages Iran not to conduct tests of these missiles. 

      You know, are we likely to see those?  Do those have a disruptive effect on the deal going forward?  So that may be a little more directed towards Ariane and Greg, but -- yeah, so maybe, Ariane, if you want to start with Tom's second question on the Majlis elections and then anything you'd like to add on implementation challenges.

      TABATABAI:  Sure.  They are fairly important, but I would say that they're not going to be vital to the 2017 elections.  They're important because if the Majlis does swing more toward Rouhani's direction, then that would be a huge victory for him.  And, you know, the JCPOA was a big success for him, and this would be -- this would sort of reinforce that and would give him a lot of political capital that he does need to move ahead on a number of other issues, I would say very specifically domestic issues, which is where he's been really lacking. 

      So come 2017, he would have a deal, economic recovery nowhere in sight right now, even if things start to move ahead.  We know that there's going to be so many challenges associated with sanctions relief and the psychological effect and the inability of different businesses to go into Iran, corruption, mismanagement.  All of that stuff will mean that Iranians won't really start to feel the impact of sanctions relief, in my view, until not before the 2017 elections. 

      So that is going to be problematic for him, which means that he needs to start delivering elsewhere.  And he's not really able to do that right now, because his priorities have been nuclear deal, fighting ISIS, and then perhaps maybe domestic issues, if I have the time to sort of deal with them I guess at some point.  So if he can't deliver anything on the economic front or not enough on the economic front, and he doesn't take any more steps on human rights, on domestic issues, he is not going to be in the best situation in 2017.

      In terms of things that I guess concern me, as your second question, but also tied to the first one, is the escalation domestically that I think is going to -- that has the possibility of affecting the implementation of the JCPOA.  Part of the ICBM tests, the cyber attacks that have been conducted, the increased pressure on dual citizens, the inability of the government, essentially, to have any kind of meetings with E.U. counterparts, for instance, because of the fear that people will get arrested, and so on and so forth, is really going to impact the government's ability to deliver some of these promises. 

      So what concerns me is, again, this escalation, the IRGC intel and other bodies doing their own thing, and by the same token also potentially hurting the implementation of the JCPOA. 

      THIELMANN:  Yeah, I'd just like to agree with Ariane that I think non-nuclear activities by Iran are what worries me more than things related to the limits on Iran's nuclear weapons program.  The missiles I think are going to be a concern and a continuing concern because -- not because -- I mean, the JCPOA is not about the missiles.  It's about the nuclear warheads that would go on them.  But this is one of those distinctions which is lost in a lot of the discussion. 

      And we do have both an existing U.N. Security Council resolution that bans nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, and that really is kind of a reflection of a technical term.  A system that has a range of 300 kilometers that can carry a 500-kilogram warhead is a nuclear-capable missile.  This means Iranian shorter-range ballistic missiles that can make it to the other side of the Persian Gulf, but can't make it to Israel, they're also prohibited from being tested. 

      Well, this is an incredibly onerous limit on a country that basically has no air force and is in a region with a lot of hostile neighbors.  So this is going to be a continuing problem.  Even though the existing U.N. Security Council resolution will soon be replaced by another one which instead of mandating, calls upon Iran.  That's a subtle distinction that many have complained about. 

      So it's slightly less prohibitive, but the main point is that for another eight years, Iran will not be allowed under the U.N. Security Council resolutions or at least it will be called upon not to conduct any ballistic missile testing.  That is not going to happen.  The Iranians are not going to accept that; they've never implied that they accept the legitimacy of the U.N. telling them they can't test ballistic missiles.

      It will get worse, of course, if they do a lot of medium-range ballistic missile testing, because those systems -- like the Ghadar and the Shahab 3 -- would be able to deliver a nuclear warhead to Israel.  If they get into the field of longer-run ballistic missiles, which could threaten northwestern Europe or the North American homeland, then the successful implementation of the agreement will get into even bigger problems, but not because the Iranians are necessarily reneging their obligations not to develop nuclear devices to put on the warheads, but for other reasons.

      FITZPATRICK:  So the missile testing is an issue.  It's a strategic issue.  It's a political issue in the United States, but it's not a political issue in Europe.  I don't think America's European partners would join in any exercise to sanction Iran or the missile tests because they don't want it to impede the implementation of the nuclear accord.

      So the answer is not to impose new sanctions.  To keep the imposition of sanctions as possible leverage, but then to negotiate some moratorium on missile testing, the way that the United States began to engage North Korea four years -- three years after the 1994 Agreed Framework.  They got pretty close under Clinton, before his term of office ran out, to actually negotiate something with the North Koreans.  There's no reason we couldn't bilaterally, but more likely multilaterally engage in negotiations with Iran over the missile issue.

      So Tom's question, what worries me the most, it's actually what happens toward the end of the second term of the next U.S. president.  In October, October 2023, all sanctions come off, right, under the JCPOA, after eight years.  And if at that time the IAEA has not been able to draw the broader conclusion that there's no non-peaceful nuclear activity in Iran, I just think it presents a huge issue.  You know, I think it'll be difficult for the United States and maybe other partners to lift all sanctions if there are still remaining doubts about Iran's nuclear activities. 

      So at that point, at eight years' time, if the broader conclusion can't be reached, I think we may be in for renegotiating the JCPOA.  But that's eight years ahead.  I think for the next couple of years, at least, Iran will have a strong incentive not to violate the nuclear accord in significant ways.  There will be less -- I mean, on the margins, there will be violations, there will be accusations of bigger violations.  That can be dealt with under the dispute resolution process, but the issue of no broader conclusion can't be dealt with under the dispute resolution, I just think it presents too big of a political issue, and right now so.  If there are doubts about what they're doing and significant doubts, I don't think sanctions should all be lifted and all leverage removed. 

      DAVENPORT:  Great, thank you.  Other questions?  Yes, Jessica Mathews.

      QUESTION:  Thank you.  I wanted to ask two questions.  One is, can we say anything more about the date of implementation day at this point, given what they've done and whether there have been any additional comments on the route they're going?

      And, secondly, I wondered if you could speculate as to why the U.S. intelligence community hasn't shared information about its views of what's not going on, this -- or whether there's any indication that they've done so in classified briefings?  Since this would have seemed particularly in the run-up to the vote a critical piece of information.  So if you could tell us a little more about that interesting point. 

      DAVENPORT:  Great, thank you.  Let's start with the first question.  Maybe we'll start with you, Ariane, and you can talk about what the Iranians are saying about implementation day. 

      TABATABAI:  Yeah, so one of the supreme leader's many things -- many comments was that implementation day should not be before -- well, let me rephrase.  Some of the interpretations of what the supreme leader said were that he didn't want implementation day to happen before the Majlis elections, and the reason that you often hear is because he doesn't really want the Majlis to swing toward Rouhani.  He wants a conservative Majlis, because that's generally where he gets his base.

      I think there is some truth to that, perhaps.  But more generally speaking, I do think that as far as the mainstream Iranian establishment is concerned -- that includes the supreme leader -- they would like something sooner, rather than later.  So I think that we're going to see sort of efforts to try to make it happen as soon as possible.

      In terms of whether they have given concrete dates and so on -- not that I am aware of -- I don't think they've said anything specific about weeks, months, or days where they think that this should happen -- I think that once the Board of Governors comes out with its assessment based on the report, and decides to close the case or not, more likely to close the case, the Iranians will be happy to move forward.

      DAVENPORT:  And that board meeting is going to be on December 15th, and the draft resolution being circulated indicates that the board is, indeed, going to close the file.  You know, estimates in the U.S. have been a little bit different.  Mark or Greg, would you like to address that?

      FITZPATRICK:  Yeah, I had been predicting Easter, and I chose Easter because it gives me some wiggle room.  I didn't specify whether it's Orthodox Easter or Western Easter.  It gives me a month leeway. 

      And I had said that because Secretary of Energy Moniz last April or so said it would take six months -- DOE estimates of six months for Iran to complete the technical measures that they would have to undertake.  But Iran has been moving quicker than most people expected, so I think that six-month period can be shortened. 

      And I have it on very good authority, only third hand, that mid-February is what Iran is hoping for.  I'm joking about good authority.


      But I think it could be done by mid-February.  You know, assuming that whatever the technical and contractual glitches about removing the 20 percent enriched uranium involve, and, again, Stephanie, I wish I could give you a better answer.  Maybe you'll dig somewhere and get an answer for us.     

      DAVENPORT:  Yeah, and I think the U.S. officials have also been conceding that their original estimates are shortening.  Some have said that end of January or early February -- Moniz has even hinted at that now, that that could be a possibility.  But I think it certainly will depend on how quickly Iran decides to move after the 15th. 

      But, Greg, if you have thoughts on that, and then also the intelligence question. 

      THIELMANN:  I won't presume to add anything to what Kelsey and Mark have said about the timing of implementation day.  I would offer a few thoughts on the very interesting question Jessica Mathews has raised about the intelligence community's willingness to share with the public its conclusions. 

      I first of all don't know -- in spite of my experience and friends -- I don't know what they are saying right now in classified settings behind closed doors.  I'm quite confident that there is back-and-forth on many of these issues, at least in the intelligence committees of the Congress, with a lot more specificity than the public is seeing with projections and best estimates and so forth.

      But the more general answer is that the default setting in the intelligence community is not to say anything to the public about what it does every day and its conclusions.  There is concern about jeopardizing sources and methods, that even when you just share bottom-line conclusions, you can jeopardize some information streams. 

      There is that kind of legitimate concern.  And that's always been the case with intelligence matters.  So it's always a tradeoff between the public getting the necessary information.  I also saw, though, on the Intelligence Committees of Congress, there is difficulty with people who have all the clearances necessary getting the information that they needed.  Sometimes it's because of an extremely sensitive stream of information that can only be shared allegedly with the chairman, the vice chairman of the committee, and two staffers.  I mean, I found myself as a senior staffer dealing with Iran issues that was closed out of some very important information because it was provided by a foreign country and they didn't want it widely spread, not even among the very few members of Congress and staffers that have top-secret code word clearances.

      So there is always that problem and tension.  What worries me more is that 10 or 15 years ago, the intelligence community would share a lot more with the American public about its conclusions than they do today.  You used to have a lightly sanitized executive summary that was shared with the American people.  That's why we know so much about what the intelligence community said in 1999 about the foreign ballistic missile threat.  That's why we know a lot about this very important 2007 document. 

      They're not doing that anymore.  Largely they're not even sharing the bottom line conclusions of the intelligence community on very important issues.  And I think they've gone too far in that, that the public and particularly members of Congress have a need to know what the $50 billion investment is providing in the way of information. 

      So I certainly have a complaint there.  And I think there is another element that I mentioned very cautiously, an element of concern by various people in the intelligence community that sharing information can only get them into trouble.  I mean, they are still burned by the Iraq WMD episode.  And they are -- I would even say traumatized.  The trauma led to a lot of very important reforms in the intelligence community process.  I saw them.  I'm fully convinced that we have a better intelligence community product today as a result of the 2004 reforms. 

      But unfortunately, one of the conclusions the intelligence community drew was, don't tell the American public anything.  You'll avoid all these problems and criticisms of the intelligence community.

      QUESTION:  Is it wound up, do you think, at all with the Snowden -- the whole set of Snowden issues that's in some ways holding them back?  There's such a powerful -- I mean, we focused on what could go wrong in Tehran.  An awful lot could go wrong here, as was said.  And one of the reasons I asked about the timeline was just thinking about the Republican primary process this spring.  This thing could still blow up here in lots of ways. 

      So the need to share is something that supports or validates or is consistent with an IAEA judgment is pretty -- it's pretty powerful.  So even your suggestions don't fully to me explain why there wouldn't have been maybe an NIE at this point, for example. 

      DAVENPORT:  You know, I'll let you add more Greg, if you want, but I think it could be interesting to see if James Clapper puts anything in the worldwide threat assessment that will likely come out in January, and usually there's a hearing -- and he testifies on that.  Because it was in the January 2014 threat assessment that he acknowledged that implementation of the interim deal with Iran provided -- would provide greater insights into Iran's nuclear program, and as a result likely decrease the threat of Iran's nuclear program. 

      So I think it will be interesting to see if anything comes out in that document, and usually that comes out in January.  I don't know if you had anything else you wanted to add there, Greg.  OK. 

      Yes, Ed? 

      QUESTION:  Meanwhile, up on the Hill, we have a House resolution calling for a cutoff of funds for the IAEA, unless they share their confidential agreements with Iran.  Now, we're used to House resolutions not going anywhere.  But the interesting thing about this one is that it's co-sponsored by a raft of committee chairs.  And I wonder whether this is something you think we ought to take seriously.

      DAVENPORT:  Anyone -- would anyone like to weigh in on that?  I mean, I'm happy to answer that.  I think that ensuring that the International Atomic Energy Agency has the funds to properly monitor and verify that Iran is fulfilling its commitments is crucial.  I mean, regardless of whether or not you support the deal, you should support that it is properly implemented and support the international community's agency that is actually overseeing those steps on the ground.

      So I am concerned that that resolution is gaining momentum.  But I think that, you know, cooler heads will prevail, because ultimately it's in the U.S. national security interest to ensure that the deal is monitored and verified.

      And I think that, you know, ensuring that the IAEA has the funding it needs is just, you know, one part of the puzzle.  I mean, there are, you know, agencies within the Department of Energy that do research and development on technologies that are used by the IAEA.  I think that ensuring their funding is a critical piece, as well, because the deal contains a clause in it that allows the IAEA to introduce new monitoring and verification technology as it becomes available.  So ensuring that there is still research and development into technologies and tools that can allow us to even -- to verify even more strongly the deal and provide more insight I think will be critical in the years ahead.

      THIELMANN:  I would just say one thing, too, Ed.  I mean, I don't need to tell you anything about who to take seriously in Congress and what to take seriously.  I would just say, from the outside, that this reminds me of putting holds on ambassadors that members of Congress admit are completely qualified to accept the position.  But they want to be heard on another unrelated issue or they want some respect from the administration and to be taken seriously.  And I think there are a lot of the same things here. 

      They're really frustrated, and they don't have access to IAEA documents.  What do you mean we in Congress can't see this?  They're furious.  They want to make the point, get the administration's attention.  And I think that they would probably behind closed doors admit that they have a gun to their own heads in doing this, but that's kind of beside the point for them.  That's my speculation from the outside. 

      DAVENPORT:  OK.  Shervin, there's a question here from this woman here in the back.  Right here. 

      QUESTION: My question is back again to the stockpile.  Under the July agreement, Russia expect the deal be implemented in January 2016, which is to swap Iran's stockpile with Russia.  What is the status on that?  Would you please elaborate if there is any changes or delay or any other different base on the July agreement?  Thank you. 

      DAVENPORT:  Sorry, do you want to... 

      FITZPATRICK:  The July agreement doesn't actually specify that the stockpile has to be shipped out.  It just says that it has to be eliminated, so Iran could choose to eliminate it in other ways besides shipping it out.  They could, you know, dilute it back to natural uranium, but that would lose all the value of having enriched it in the first place.

      So they've been negotiating with Russia on a commercial contract to swap it -- to send it to Russia in exchange for fuel elements down the line.  Those negotiations had originally seemed to get off to some usual to-and-fro of both sides trying to strike the best commercial advantage, but it seems to me that those dealings have now reached a point where the shipment can be made relatively quickly.

      I don't know that for a fact, but it seems to be the case, and the issue -- only remaining issue is this 20 percent bits that are caught up in the process of making fuel elements and that were in waste and how to dispose of them.  And that's why the Kazakhstan option came up as a way to just store it in Kazakhstan, not to sell it or in exchange for anything, but to store it there.  But I don't know any details about that. 

      I don't think the shipping out is going to present a difficulty in impeding implementation day.

      DAVENPORT:  I think that would be supported, too, by some rumors in the Russian press that Russia has relaxed some of its export-import laws in relation to uranium enrichment technology and materials in regards to Iran.  That I think is helping open that door for the shipment to take place.

      Shervin, we'll take a question here, and then Mort, and then I think we'll call it a day.

      QUESTION:  My name is Richard Golden.  I'm a member of the association.  I understand that there's been speculation in the foreign press that Iran may attempt to evade the proscriptions of the JCPOA by conducting proscribed activities outside of its own borders.  Is this a reasonable speculation? 

      DAVENPORT:  OK.  And, Shervin, let's take the last question and then we'll answer them both.  Yes?

      QUESTION:  Milton Hoenig.  Things happened in 2009, like discovery of Fordow and Iran's refusal to take 20 percent enriched fuel from abroad for the Tehran reactor.  Why do you think 2009 was a year in which Iran stopped development, any kind of work on nuclear weapons?  What was the significance of that?

      DAVENPORT:  All right, two great questions.  So would Iran conduct some of the activities prohibited under the JCPOA outside of its own borders?  We've certainly heard rumors about Iranian-North Korean connections in the past.  And then the second question, you know, sort of why 2009?  So I suggest we go this time in reverse order to address these questions, so we'll start with Greg and then work the way back to Mark.  And if you'd like to make any closing comments, as well, feel free.  So, Greg? 

      THIELMANN:  I think the first question is a very hard one about what kind of activities outside its borders Iran might accept, participate in, promote.  I'm not very confident in my answer to that question, except my gut tells me that Iran's pride and suspicion of other countries dictates that sensitive stuff be conducted by Iran alone and that it would be very dubious to contract out to North Korea or one of the other countries that might be interested in that kind of cooperation.

      But, again, I don't have high confidence in that judgment.  That's just what my gut tells me.

      I think Milton's question is a very interesting one that I've been pondering a little bit, why 2009?  Why is that -- if we can believe that that's kind of the date after which we don't evidence of continuing sensitive activities applicable to nuclear weapons programs? 

      I don't think it's because Ahmadinejad continued in office.  My best speculation on that is that the Iranians were dismayed and shocked at the extent to which Fordow was known and detected by the international community.  I mean, they invested a lot of money in that facility, and I think that may have had a sobering effect on them.  There may have been other aspects of perceptions about international solidarity to stop an Iranian weapons program.  I don't know.  But I think the Fordow -- the outing on Fordow was a significant event in that year. 

      DAVENPORT:  Ariane?

      TABATABAI:  Yeah, so I think Fordow is definitely a piece of the puzzle.  I also don't have a perfect answer; I don't think anyone does at this stage.  But I think Fordow definitely is an important one. 

      I do think that Ahmadinejad had something to do with it, not because he continued, but because 2009 was a very important year for Iranian domestic politics.  Iran essentially had its greatest crisis of legitimacy, the Islamic Republic, anyway, did, in the 37, 36, 37 years of its existence.  It was a difficult year for them.

      And I think that what happened after 2009 was a lot of re-evaluation of all of Iran's priorities and what it should do and policies, and some of it led to the 2013 election.  Some of it led to some policy changes.  So I think that in addition to, whoops, we have been, you know, Fordow has been discovered, there was also the idea that maybe we should do things differently a little bit, make sure we don't end up in the situation we're in currently.

      So I think that domestic politics had something to do with it, as well.  At that point, we're also how many resolutions in U.N. Security Council resolutions, three, four?

      DAVENPORT:  Four, I think?

      TABATABAI:  Four, I think.  So, you know, I think that that also had something to do with that.

      DAVENPORT:  Great, thank you.  And we'll give the last word to Mark. 

      FITZPATRICK:  I like the way Richard Golden phrased the question when he referred to foreign press speculation.  Because it's only speculation.  And I pay a lot of attention to the potential Iranian-North Korean nuclear cooperation, and I use the word potential, because I haven't seen any solid evidence that it exists.

      There's a lot of speculation.  One can assess that it is possible, probably even likely, some kind of cooperation.  But I think it's unlikely for the reasons that Greg said that Iran would contract out activity to North Korea.  The cultural -- Iran's view of North Korea is not so favorable, let me put it that way.  I just don't think they would do it.  But that doesn't mean there couldn't be some kind of cooperation. 

      What I think is far more likely is that Iran would conduct prohibited activity in Iran.  It's a large country.  The IAEA can't go everywhere, especially activity that is of the nature of two-dimensional, of work on blueprints, and that may well continue somewhere.  And that's very hard to get a handle on.

      But I think that the -- I think Iran probably realizes that it doesn't need to do a lot of physical activity beyond the limits of the JCPOA, because as a country with a 7,000 -- or somebody once said 8,000-year history, they can afford to wait 10 to 15 years to have this option.  They don't need to make a lot of further progress right now.  After the limits come off, they can have a lot of capabilities.

      But one hopes that by then, 15 years of implementation of this deal, of the intrusive verification measures, will provide a better basis of trust.  And maybe we will have negotiations on a missile deal, as well, in the interim.  So I'm not so pessimistic about the future, but I think there are reasons to be certainly on alert to cheating on the margins and not to let it escape undetected and unresponded to.

      DAVENPORT:  OK.  Well, thank you all so much for coming.  If you think that the negotiating teams from the U.S., the E.U., Russia, China, and Iran have done something significant to assist in national security, I would tell you that they've been nominated for the Arms Control Association Persons of the Year.  So if you'd like to vote for them, you can visit our website, armscontrol.org. 

      Thank you for your attention.  Thank you for your questions.  And please join me in thanking the panelists.


Country Resources:

Posted: December 10, 2015

The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, December 4

The IAEA PMD Report Is Out The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its long-awaited report on Iran’s past activities in twelve areas related to nuclear weapons development, the so-called possible military dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program. The Dec. 2 report assessed that Iran conducted a coordinated “range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device” prior to the end of 2003 and some of the activities continued between 2003-2009. According to the assessment the “activities did not advance beyond feasibility and scientific studies, and the...


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