Robert Kelley: Iran could be more transparent but it has already been quite upfront. IAEA should be more transparent about the sources of its information especially when they present it as fact.
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.
Talks between Iran and six global powers over its nuclear program fizzled out over the weekend. But plans are still in place for another meeting on November 20 in Geneva.
Now joining us to discuss this imminent meeting is Robert Kelley. He’s a nuclear engineer who has worked in the U.S. nuclear complex for more than 30 years. He assisted the IAEA as the director in the Iraq Action Team.
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Thank you so much for joining us, Robert.
ROBERT KELLEY, FORMER NUCLEAR WEAPONS ANALYST, LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LABORATORY: [incompr.] Jessica.
DESVARIEUX: So if there needs to be absolute transparency–we’re talking on the Iranian side–do you feel like Iran has been transparent? And could they be more transparent?
KELLEY: Iran has behaved in two different ways. With respect to their legal obligation to allow IAEA access to nuclear materials handling facilities–that’s places like inversion plants, reactors, enrichment plants–they’ve been extremely transparent. They’ve been very cooperative. Something like 12 percent of the IAEA’s total budget goes to inspecting one country, namely, Iran. And they get to go to every place they want to go in the nuclear business. But IAEA asks to go to places that are military facilities, factories for the military programs. And Iran has offered some opportunities for that in the past. They didn’t feel that they were rewarded for it, and so they said no.
Personally, I’d like to see them go a little further and allow some access to some contentious military facilities that are not nuclear facilities, because it would tend to clear the books. But so far they haven’t been willing to do that, because, as I say, they did it before.
DESVARIEUX: And, Robert, you often hear from the right and Israel and other factions here in the United States that at the end of the day, Iran does want a weapon. But if Iran were to weaponize, would they have to get the inspectors out of the country?
KELLEY: No, they wouldn’t need to get the inspectors out. The inspectors are going to nuclear facilities, as I said earlier, and they don’t have access to places where weaponization would go on.
Weaponization is largely conducted in laboratories, in computers, and is kind of lacking in signatures. It’s very hard for intelligence people to see weaponization. The one place where it really shows up in something like satellite imagery is the high-explosive testing that goes along with it. So that’s one place where people would look.
But all you have to do is go back and look at Iraq in 1980s. They were heavily involved in weaponization, in many cases in building next door to places where inspectors were, and the inspectors didn’t know it.
The inspectors [inaud.] anyway. It’s not in their job description. They are there to monitor nuclear materials. And most inspectors, frankly, just wouldn’t recognize the indications of weapons, weaponization if they saw them.
DESVARIEUX: So do you feel like that adds to the legitimacy, you know, of–it’s debatable, but legitimacy of the argument that if Iran would want to weaponize? And I only ask that because the negotiations are recommencing next week, and they’re appening on November , 20 as I mentioned in the introduction. If you were in the negotiation room, what deal with you like to see come out of these talks?
KELLEY: Well, the weaponization issues are not going to be in the talks on the 20th. That’s the really important thing that came out of the last few days. IAEA has retreated from that issue [inaud.] will be primarily devoted to the reactor at Arak and to the uranium enrichment. So that’s very good news.
What would I like to see? I would like to see Iran come to where a lot of other countries are that have investigated weapons in the past. I think it’s pretty clear to everybody that when the Iran-Iraq War was going on in the late ’80s, that both countries were looking at nuclear weapons. And I suspect that some activities continued after that in Iran.
But if you go back and look up–I don’t want to name all the countries that have done this, but take for example the Swiss, who published a document about their nuclear weapons program and what they did, and several other European countries that investigated the possibility and then backed off. Iran should really consider the possibility of doing the same. And that is saying, look, here’s what we did do some years ago, here’s where it led, and here are some of the political decisions that were made. The U.S. intelligence community believes that this program probably stopped in around 1973. And it today Iran is trying to remain a threshold state, if you will, a state that could make that decision today. But there are lots of other countries in that position.
You’ve also asked about transparency. I would like to add that Iran has just opened a new website. Their website is slick. It’s Madison Avenue. It addresses all the issues we’re talking about in plain, modern, colloquial English. And so they are trying very hard to come out now to the table and say, here we are, look it, here’s what we have today, and here are the issues that we have today with the IAEA and the P5+1. So I think Iran is turning a corner in that regard in terms of trying to speak to the Western world language that the Western world understands and uses.
KELLEY: But, Robert, what about the IAEA? Could they be more transparent?
KELLEY: Oh, I definitely think they could. IAEA is accusing Iran of all kinds of things in the weaponization area. But they are not presenting their evidence. And so the material they’re putting on the table is of questionable sourcing. And, frankly, the analysis of it is extremely poor. So when IAEA says to Iran, you’re doing such and such at this building, the Iranians can see how bad the analysis is, and they want to know where the information is coming from. I think everyone knows who’s feeding the IAEA the information, but IAEA really needs to be just more open with Iran and say, this is what we know, and this is why we’re confronting you, and this is what we need to do to finish it.
DESVARIEUX: When you say everyone knows where the information’s coming from, who are you talking about specifically?
KELLEY: Oh, I think it’s very clear, if you’ve read Mohamed ElBaradeis book, that this laptop information on which the military dimensions are based came from the U.S. and Israel. He names Israel as being willing to say, we provided information that we want you to follow up on [incompr.] So you certainly know those two countries at least are providing information. And there’s at least a supposition that the information the U.S. is confronting with came through a third party.
DESVARIEUX: And if you want to keep following this story and get the latest information, please continue to watch The Real News and follow us on Twitter. And you can follow me on Twitter as well @Jessica_reports.
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