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  August 20, 2015

Former IAEA Inspector: Iranian "Self-Inspection" Won't Undermine Deal

Robert Kelley says the entire process will remain under IAEA supervision
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Robert Kelley is a licensed nuclear engineer who has worked on many aspects of nuclear weapons and later on nuclear nonproliferation. His personal experiences include weapons simulation testing, plutonium metallurgy, isotope separation and emergency response. These experiences were extremely useful in carrying out intelligence analyses of foreign countries and lead to field experience as a chief inspector in Iraq nuclear weapons inspections and elsewhere. He is currently affiliated with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in Sweden and several other nonproliferation organizations.


JAISAL NOOR, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News. I'm Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.

In the latest news on the Iran nuclear deal, the international regulatory agency is rejecting a report that threatens to throw a wrench in the securing of a survival of the P5+ deal in Congress. On Wednesday the Associated Press cited a secret draft deal between the IAEA and Iranian negotiators that would allow Iran to carry out its own inspection of the Parchin military site. This claim has not been independently verified.

Before the publication of the report, Republicans had acknowledged the Iran nuclear deal had been necessary to support to prevent Congress from blocking it. But speaking to the AP after the publication of the report, Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner asked, why haven't these secret site agreements been provided to Congress and the American people for review? Why should Iran be trusted to carry out its own nuclear inspections at a military site it tried to hide from the world? According to Reuters, the IAEA has called the report a, quote, misrepresentation.

Now joining us to discuss this is Robert Kelley. He's joining us from Europe. He's a former nuclear weapons analyst at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and a former director at the IAEA. He's also an associate research fellow at the Stockholm International Peace and Research Institute. Thanks so much for joining us again, Robert.


NOOR: So let's remind our viewers, there's no evidence that there's a nuclear weapons program in Iran. And we'll get to that point in a moment. But we want to get your response to this report. Do you think this AP report is accurate?

KELLEY: It's very hard to say. None of us have seen it. You haven't seen it. Congress hasn't seen it. We've got one reporter who says he saw it. Someone leaked it to him. We don't know if he got to look at it for 5 seconds or 50 seconds. Maybe he even has a copy. But no one else has seen it. So we're depending on his spin and his interpretation of what he saw. I'm not impressed by him.

NOOR: The author, George John, his impartiality has been questioned in the past regarding his reporting on Iran.

KELLEY: Well it's definitely true. George has swallowed every story that's been fed to him, and he puts them out on a regular basis. You see this large chamber, for example, that he says was built at Parchin. This is the subject of this latest issue. And the cartoon that he's published there is laughable, and yet it's somehow being put forward as intelligence. I just don't see that I really care very much for his stories when you dissect them. There's a lot better intelligence out there.

NOOR: And let's say this report is true. If so, would--and so the report is saying that the Iranians would be carrying out their own inspections on Parchin. Would this impact the agreement's ability to end Iranian breakout capacity, the ability to quickly create the necessary equipment to create a nuclear weapon?

KELLEY: Absolutely not. Not in any way that's not a reasonable surmise. This inspection that IAEA wants to do is about verifying something that happened in the past. It's entirely about something that happened in the past, that could have stopped as much as ten years ago. So this is trying to get Iran to admit something. This facility that IAEA wants to inspect has no future. It's not useful to a nuclear weapons program, it probably never was. But it has no future. And so this is about just going back and checking something in the past. It has no effect on breakout.

NOOR: The other question on people's minds is that if this report in the Associated Press is true, would it undermine the IAEA's ability to know what's going on in Parchin?

KELLEY: Well, if it were possible that the Iranians would do an inspection without the IAEA present, entirely on their own and then mail the samples and the photographs, I'd be among the first to say that's unacceptable in any way. But what I think based upon the director general's statement today and common sense is that IAEA inspectors will stand over the Iranians while the Iranians take the samples themselves, and then give them to the IAEA in sterile, sealed bags. This is because the IAEA and Iran have lost trust with each other on this issue, and so the IAEA is going to have to let Iran do it so Iran can feel confident that the samples were taken in an unbiased kind of way.

But if IAEA could stand over the Iranians while they do it, I think that's an acceptable compromise after four years of arguing about this.

NOOR: And this AP report isn't the only controversial leak that's come out that could be interpreted as trying to undermine this deal before Congress votes on it in a few weeks. Talk about what else has been in the news recently and your analysis of those leaks.

KELLEY: I think the leak from two weeks ago was much more significant. It was reported in the press that the intelligence community, the person of the office of the director of national intelligence, briefed Congress that the Iranians were trying to re-sanitize this Parchin site using heavy equipment and earth movers in broad daylight. Those were the words that were reported.

There's no reason whatsoever for them to do that, because they've already repaved a good part of the area two years ago. So it's a crazy story. But when satellite imagery was published by an NGO in Washington, the satellite imagery shows absolutely nothing is happening. So either the IC briefed the Congress wrong, or the Congress, congressional staff maybe who were listening, decided to embellish the story. But all of a sudden you realize a very important story that impacts on whether we think Iran is telling the truth and is cooperating turns out to be completely false. That was a very specifically programmed lie of a leak.

NOOR: Robert Kelley, thank you so much for joining us again.

KELLEY: Nice to see you.

NOOR: Thank you for joining us at the Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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