- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 15, 2003

By any measure, the new report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Iran’s nuclear weapons program should be a wake-up call for anyone concerned about the acquisition of such armaments by rogue states. An IAEA report released last week to 20 governments shows that Tehran has had a nuclear program in existence for at least 18 years — one that involved using a number of technologies, including lasers, to enrich uranium.

Although written in highly technical language, the IAEA report is a broad indictment of Iran’s behavior — in particular its refusal to come clean with the agency. “Iran’s policy of concealment continued until last month, with cooperation being limited and reactive and slow in coming, changing and contradictory,” the IAEA said. The agency added that Iran “has admitted that it produced small amounts of low-enriched uranium using both centrifuges and laser-enrichment processes … and that it had failed to report a large number of conversion, fabrication and irradiation activities involving nuclear material, including the separation of a small amount of plutonium.” In short, the IAEA report shows that Iran has violated safeguards obligations it has agreed to under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

But, after documenting in detail Iran’s efforts to conceal its nuclear program from international inspectors, the IAEA bizarrely concluded that “no evidence” of an Iranian nuclear weapons program had been found. This last line drew a sharp rejoinder from Undersecretary of State John Bolton, who said Wednesday that this assertion “is simply impossible to believe.” He noted that “Iran is trying to legitimize as ‘peaceful and transparent’ its pursuit of nuclear fuel cycle capabilities that would give it the ability to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.” The IAEA report confirms that Iran attempted to cover its tracks over the years by failing to report its activities “and in many cases, providing false declarations to the IAEA,” Mr. Bolton said.

Nor is this solely the conclusion of the Bush administration. On Wednesday, the New York Times ran a major story reporting that Iran’s nuclear program “turns out to have been broader than expected.” The IAEA report “is full of examples showing that Iran fooled the global nuclear watchdog for years,” the Times noted, adding that the IAEA’s assertion that there is no evidence of a current weapons project in Iran “left many experts agape.” That same day, the paper editorialized that Iran’s belated agreement to more intrusive international inspections “is not good enough,” and warned of the danger that terrorist groups and “rogue nations” like North Korea could produce a nuclear bomb.

That reaction to the IAEA report suggests that a new consensus may be emerging regarding Iran’s cheating and concealment of its nuclear program.

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