So Has Iran Actually Violated Any Specific International Obligation Here?

Thanks to a comment from Siun in the previous post, I took a look at the question of whether the revelation of Iran’s previously-undisclosed nuclear facility near Qom actually violates any specific international obligation. The short answer is: probably not; it certainly violates the spirit of the NPT; and this is all a good reason to neither underreact nor overreact. It gets a bit complex:

 Under the NPT, each state negotiates a safeguards agreement to the IAEA so the atomic watchdog can work out where and how to establish monitoring devices like cameras at declared facilities. “Iran’s specific safeguards agreement doesn’t say anything about the time limits for the provision of design information,” says Ivanka Barzashka, an analyst with the Federation of American Scientists’ Strategic Security Program. Specific time-frames for site or design disclosure typically occur in additional “subsidiary arrangements,” and usually provide for disclosure around 180 days before the introduction of nuclear material into a given facility. But Iran’s subsidiary arrangement with the IAEA “has not been made public as far as I know,” Barzashka says.

That said, in its Aug. 28 report, the IAEA criticizes Iran for not adopt implementing a section of its subsidiary arrangement that dealt with design notificiation. “The absence of such information results in late notification to the Agency of the construction of new facilities and changes to the design of existing facilities,” the IAEA warned. Barzashka translates that such adoption would require Iran to notify the IAEA “of the construction of a new plant, any kind of new facilities, as soon as a decision has been authorized by the government.”

There’s more, so I’d ask your indulgence for clicking through. Thanks again to Siun for raising an important question of precision.

Update: Also see this.

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Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman