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Iran: IAEA report sparks controversy

Aijaz Ahmad: New IAEA report says Iran has not lied; U.S. demands new sanctions, China says no


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Story Transcript

Iran nuke report

ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER/PRODUCER: A new report on Iran’s nuclear capabilities from the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, was leaked this week. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has said the report justifies immediate new sanctions.


ZALMAY KHALILZAD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: We believe that we need to move forward with another resolution in the Security Council under Chapter 7 to impose additional sanctions on Iran.


NKWETA: But Iran’s nuclear negotiator said the report proves his country is in compliance with the agency.


SAEED JALILI, CHIEF IRANIAN NUCLEAR NEGOTIATOR (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): With this report from the IAEA, what is the justification for another resolution against us? When the IAEA clearly announces that we were cooperating and the main reason to send Iran’s case to the UN Security Council no longer exists, then why should there be another resolution against us?


NKWETA: To better understand the situation, we go to Real News Network’s Senior News Analyst Aijaz Ahmad. Aijaz, the report from the International Atomic Energy Agency is now being widely circulated in the media. What do you make of it?

AIJAZ AHMAD, SENIOR NEWS ANALYST: Officially, of course, the IAEA has not released its report. But it has been leaked. We don’t know who leaked it, but let’s assume that the document that we have seen is in fact the report. As eye reads eye it’s a very even-handed, objective, factual report of about nine or ten pages. And each side is claiming that it is confirming their only point. As a matter of fact, the interesting aspect of it is that, first, the report is saying that everything Iran had said about its past activities has been confirmed to be true, except a couple of things which they are still pursuing, by which they mean that they need to interview people—not inside Iran, not that Iran is giving them wrong information, but that they haven’t interviewed enough people. Secondly, what they are saying is that Iran has, yes, put up three thousand centrifuges, which is what it needs to start its real enrichment program up to the level at which it needs for its civilian nuclear energy. But, in the process, the fuel that it has refined is firmly under the control and supervision of the IAEA, and therefore there’s no question of any risk of misuse of that fuel. It does say couple of other things. One, Iran has made no secret that it does not wish to accept the U.N. Security Council resolution which calls upon Iran to stop its enrichment program, even though Iran has sovereign rights to go on doing enough enrichment for its civilian purposes.

NKWETA: Aijaz, we’ve also heard that Russia is intending to send a shipment of nuclear fuel to Iran. Does this have any bearing on what’s going on here?

AHMAD: This is a very interesting question, actually. Russia was building the Bushehr nuclear plant in Iran, which first Germany was going to do, then Germany didn’t—Russia was doing that. Then, because there was some payments delay on the part of Iran, Russia has not delivered that fuel now for a year and a half. That has been sorted out. So Russia has been saying that it is going to resume those shipments. Much is being made of it in the American media. The interesting part is that in the IAEA report, the secretary-general of the IAEA says that Russia is working with the IAEA for IAEA to inspect and seal the fuel which is to be sent to Iran. In other words, according to the director general of the IAEA, this is perfectly normal activity which it has taken charge of.

NKWETA: On top of that, the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany were scheduled to have a meeting in connection with this issue of Iran’s disputed nuclear program. That meeting has now been postponed. What do you make of that?

AHMAD: Well, you see, the director general of the IAEA submits the report to members of the board of the IAEA. That is what this report is. And the board is meeting on the 25th of November in Vienna, I think. These five permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany, were going to meet to discuss the implications of this report in view of the resolutions of the Security Council which are already in place. China has indicated its unwillingness to come. It has not given any reasons for it. But the reasonable way of interpreting that is that China is saying that the report is on the whole so positive in relation to Iran’s conduct that there is really no reason to meet at this time and discuss things like further sanctions and things of that kind; they’ll just come to the board meeting itself; which, combined with the Russian decision to carry on providing enriched nuclear fuel to Iran, seems to suggest that a kind of a lineup is developing in which the main western powers, such as the U.S., U.K., France, and Germany, are on one side, and China and Russia seem to be inclined much more to support the Iranian interpretation of this report.

NKWETA: The report has created a situation in which depending on what country you’re from, depending on what political stripes you wear, the interpretation of the report differs.

AHMAD: In a certain sense you’re right. My sense is that any report of ten pages, different people can pick out one sentence or the other and say, "This is right." The main issue here, I think, is that the Americans—or some Americans, not all Americans—pretend that 3000 centrifuges in place in Iran for nuclear enrichment constitutes a threat of the weaponization program. The report does not say a single word about any such thing. This is the way Americans are reading it. That is one point of contention. Iran is saying that we need this, we have a right to do this, we need it for our civilian program. The other point is that the United Nations Security Council has passed a resolution demanding from Iran that it stop its enrichment program. The report says that it has not stopped the enrichment program. But Iranians have been saying that we shall not stop the enrichment program. So, yes, the West is claiming that the report is favouring them. But the two things that the report confirms for the West are things that Iran has been saying itself. What to my mind is the most important part of the report, which permeates the entire report, is to say that Iran has not lied on any issue whatsoever; its behaviour has been transparent.