A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The IAEA Report is Out: Now What?

The much-hyped IAEA report is out (PDF); . my first impression is that while its overall conclusion (already much leaked in advance) that Iran has been working on a nuclear weapons program is more clrearly outlijed ane documented than ever before, I'm not sure there is a smoking gun to provide those urging an immediate military action with an unassailable excuse to act. That won't stop Israel if it is determined to act, but it also doesn.'t seem to provide a carte blanche.

Unless you're a nuclear physicist or weapons planner, the report isn't light reading; the key part is the "Annex:  Possible Military Dimensions to Iran's Nucl4ear Programme,"; which provides the reasoning behind the conclusion that Iran is likely working on a deliverable weapon.

A key source of data for this conclusion is what the report refers to as the "alleged studies documentation," a large collection of intelligence provided tot he IAEA in 2005 by an unidentified Member State. This material, which Iran has claimed is partially forged or fabricated, along with information from 10 Member States and from the IAEA's own investigations, seems to be the primary evidence relied upon. But this information has been in the IAEA's hands for six years; it'z not a last-minute discovery.

As I've already noted, if Israel, or for that matter the US, is determined to resort to military action, defiitive proof may not be necessary: though Colin Powell famously tried to spell out the evidence of Iraqi WMD on the eve of the Iraq war, the WMD never turned up.

I doubt if there are that many non-Iranians who are really convinced that the Iranian nuclear program as wholly peaceful, as Iran claims. But whether this report will tilt public opinion in the direction of military intervention, I'm not sure.

And while we're on the subject, Aaron David Miller at Foreign Policy on five reasons why Israel and the United States might want to think twice before taking any military action.


the dour goat said...

"its overall conclusion (already much leaked in advance) that Iran has been working on a nuclear weapons program"

Just to be clear, what the report essentially says is that the IAEA believes that Iran worked on a structured nuclear weapons program up until 2003 (ie eight years ago), and that "some activities may still be ongoing", though it provides no actual evidence for this.

It is utterly bizarre that a report that is largely focused on a nuclear program that seems to have ended almost a decade ago (a conclusion that the US intelligence community came to four years ago) and based on documents the IAEA was provided six years ago is getting so much hype and being used to justify the build-up to a war now.

David Mack said...

The justification is for more punishing sanctions, not a "build up to war," to use the dour goat's conclusion. Appears to me that halt to Iranian weapons program and talking is still the preferred U.S. government outcome.

Michael Collins Dunn said...

See my subsequent post. On reflection, there's really not much new here: certainly less than is being reported. Less than meets the eye.