March 1, 2008

Iran's Sisyphean Task

by Gordon Prather

Sisyphus was a character in Greek mythology, condemned to roll a huge rock to the top of a steep hill, with said accursed rock rolling back down again the moment Sisyphus thought he had accomplished his task.

In the modern version of this Greek tragedy, G. Aghazadeh, Vice-President of Iran and President of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, has been cast as Sisyphus.

The tragedy has its origin in the 1974 agreement between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency for the application of "safeguards" - in accordance with the IAEA Statute - on certain materials and activities proscribed by the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The Safeguards Agreement was agreed to by Iran "for the exclusive purpose of verification" by the IAEA "with a view of preventing diversion" of any "source or special fissionable material" to a military purpose.

IAEA Safeguards were to be applied to all Iranian source or special fissionable materials, whether being stored or chemically/physically produced, processed, transformed, utilized or disposed of as waste.

Last week Mohamed ElBaradei, IAEA Director-General, made his most recent report to the IAEA Board of Governors, entitled "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions 1737 and 1747 in the Islamic Republic of Iran." So, what does ElBaradei have to say about the Iranian NPT Safeguards Agreement?

"The Agency has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran.

"Iran has provided the Agency with access to declared nuclear material and has provided the required nuclear material accountancy reports in connection with declared nuclear material and activities."

Okay, that's that. The huge rock has been pushed to the top. Iran continues to be in full compliance with all its obligations assumed as a NPT signatory. . . .


Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. - ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Enver Masud, "Iran Has an 'Inalienable Right' to Nuclear Energy," The Wisdom Fund, January 16, 2006

[Ronald Reagan told reporters on the campaign trail that he did not believe the United States should stand in the way of other countries developing nuclear weapons. "I just don't think it's any of our business," the future president said.--David Armstrong and Joseph J. Trento, "America and the Islamic Bomb: The Deadly Compromise," Steerforth (October 23, 2007), p94]

Leonard Doyle, "U.S. Hits Iran With Toughest Sanctions Since 1979," Independent, October 26, 2007

Tahani Karrar, "Third Middle East Undersea Cable Cut," Zawya Dow Jones, February 1, 2008

[The evidence was gleaned largely from a laptop computer that was spirited out of Iran in 2004 and obtained by U.S. intelligence agencies.--Warren P. Strobel, "Iran rejects U.S. weapons evidence, U.N. agency says," McClatchy Newspapers, February 22, 2008]

[There are some indications, moreover, that the MEK obtained the documents not from an Iranian source but from Israel's Mossad.--Gareth Porter, "Iran Nuke Laptop Data Came from Terror Group," Inter Press Service, February 29, 2008]

[Last Monday, the chief United Nations nuclear inspector gathered ambassadors and experts from dozens of nations in a boardroom high above the Danube in Vienna and laid out a trove of evidence that he said raised new questions about whether Iran had tried to design an atom bomb.--William J. Broad and David E. Sanger, "Meeting on Arms Data Reignites Iran Nuclear Debate," New York Times, March 3, 2008]

Robin Wright, "Iran a Nuclear Threat, Bush Insists: Experts Say President Is Wrong and Is Escalating Tensions," Washington Post, March 21, 2008

Eric Umansky, "Lost Over Iran: How the press let the White House craft the narrative about nukes," Columbia Journalism Review, March / April 2008

[At least 40 developing countries from the Persian Gulf region to Latin America have recently approached U.N. officials here to signal interest in starting nuclear power programs, a trend that concerned proliferation experts say could provide the building blocks of nuclear arsenals in some of those nations.

At least half a dozen countries have also said in the past four years that they are specifically planning to conduct enrichment or reprocessing of nuclear fuel, . . .

Although U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Iran halted its research into making nuclear weapons five years ago, the Islamic republic still seeks to make enriched uranium with centrifuges at its vast underground facility at Natanz.--Joby Warrick, "Spread of Nuclear Capability Is Feared: Global Interest in Energy May Presage A New Arms Race," Washington Post, May 12, 2008]

[The U.S. intelligence community, however, thinks that Iran halted an effort to build a nuclear warhead in mid-2003, and the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, which is investigating the program, has found no evidence to date of an active Iranian nuclear-weapons project.--Jonathan S. Landay, "Both McCain, Obama exaggerating Iran's nuclear program," McClatchy Newspapers, June 2, 2008]

[Iran's supreme leader has insisted it will continue its nuclear activities for civilian purposes only and will not manufacture nuclear weapons.--"Iran 'not seeking' nuclear arms," BBC News, June 2, 2008]

[Iran has never attacked anyone outside of its borders for 280 years--Seymour M. Hersh, "Congress Agreed to Bush Request to Fund Major Escalation in Secret Operations Against Iran," Democracy Now, June 30, 2008]

[The consensus view on Iran's nuclear program shifted dramatically last December with the release of a landmark intelligence report that concluded that Iran halted work on nuclear weapons design in 2003.--Joby Warrick, "Ex-Agent Says CIA Ignored Iran Facts," Washington Post, July 1, 2008]

Seymour M. Hersh, "Preparing the Battlefield: The Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran," New Yorker, July 7, 2008

Gareth Porter, "Nuclear 'scare' against Iran exposed," Asia Times, July 10, 2008

[In a secret agreement between Israel and Georgia, two military airfields in southern Georgia had been earmarked for the use of Israeli fighter-bombers in the event of pre-emptive attacks against Iranian nuclear installations.--Arnaud de Borchgrave, "Israel of the Caucasus," Middle East Times, September 2, 2008]

Scott Peterson, "For Iran, energy woes justify nuclear push: Many Iranians see the Nuclear Suppliers Group's Saturday decision that could permit nuclear trade with India as a double standard," Christian Science Monitor, September 9, 2008

[Energy security will also become a major issue as India, China and other countries join the United States in seeking oil, gas and other sources for electricity. The Chinese get a good portion of their oil from Iran, as do many U.S. allies in Europe, limiting U.S. options on Iran. "So the turn-the-spigot-off kind of thing -- even if we could do it -- would be counterproductive."

. . . there is no evidence that Iran has resumed work on building a weapon, Fingar said, echoing last year's landmark National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, which concluded that warhead-design work had halted in 2003.--Joby Warrick and Walter Pincus, "Reduced Dominance Is Predicted for U.S.," Washington Post, September 10, 2008]

[The shah's plans and Iran's co-operation with Europe and the US came to an abrupt halt after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. . . .

When Dwight Eisenhower initiated his Atoms for Peace programme in 1953, Iran was one of the first countries to receive a small nuclear reactor. It was primarily used for university research. Then, in the early 1970s, the shah came to the conclusion that Iran should develop its nuclear technology. We needed nuclear power plants to generate electricity: the population was increasing and people were using more electricity than before. . . .

The shah always believed that oil shouldn't just be burned to produce energy. He used to tell other world leaders that oil is an industrial product and we have only a limited amount of it available to us. He thought that everyone should be looking for alternative sources of energy.--Maziar Bahari, "'The shah's plan was to build bombs'," New Statesman, September 11, 2008]

[The problem is the IAEA's failed record with respect to Iraq, where eventually the US utilized information procured by the IAEA to help justify its invasion in 2003.

The Iraq analogy is hardly misleading. Just as Iraq was pressed to "prove a negative", that is, the absence of a clandestine weapons of mass destruction program, the IAEA is now dead set on denying Iran a clean bill of health as long as it has not satisfied concerns about a similar absence.--Kaveh L Afrasiabi, "Big-bang report blasts Iran," New Statesman, Asia Times 17, 2008]

[Known for its cult-like behavior, the MEK (also known as the People's Mujahedin of Iran, PMOI or MKO) fought alongside Saddam Hussein's regime against its own country during the bloody Iran-Iraq war. This is one reason why it has almost no Iranian support, even if it refers to itself as the "most popular resistance group inside Iran" on its official website. It does, however, enjoy the backing of several US heavyweights with high national security credentials.--Jasmin Ramsey, "Iranian terrorist group has close US allies," New Statesman, Asia Times 17, 2008]

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