Demands in US-Iran nuclear talks as political Kabuki theatre

US-led coalition still wants inspections of Iranian military facilities it deems suspicious and interviews with Iranian nuclear scientists

By Gareth Porter

In the final phase of the negotiations with Iran, the US-led international coalition is still seeking Iran’s agreement to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit any military facilities it deems suspicious and to interview a selected list of Iranian nuclear scientists.

Such measures are not necessary to ensure that Iran is adhering to its commitments under the agreement, but they are necessary to manage the political threat from the pro-Israel extremists in the Senate to sabotage the whole agreement.

To fend off that threat, the Obama administration made the spurious claim that it had succeeded in getting Iran to agree to the demand for IAEA inspection of any site it found suspicious. In fact, Iran had agreed only that IAEA would have “enhanced access through agreed procedures” – as reflected in the wording of the joint statement of the P5+1 and Iran on 2 April. Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei and senior military officials have vehemently ruled out both IAEA inspection of military sites on demand and interviews with Iranian scientists.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano claimed on 12 May that Iran’s acceptance of the Additional Protocol as part of a comprehensive nuclear deal meant that Iran had accepted inspections of its military sites on demand. “In many other countries from time to time we request access to military sites when we have the reason to, so why not Iran?” Amano said. “If we have a reason to request access, we will do so, and in principle Iran has to accept it.”

But that was a brazen misrepresentation of the Additional Protocol. That agreement allows unrestricted IAEA access to sites that have already been designated previously by state as related to the nuclear fuel cycle. For all other sites, IAEA access under the Additional Protocol clearly depends on the approval of the state in question. Article 5 (c) of the agreement, provides that, if the signatory state is “unable to provide such access,” it “shall make every effort to satisfy Agency requests without delay through other means”.

Now the New York Times has further muddied the waters by reporting on 31 May that the Iranian rejection of those demands had “prompted concern that Iran might be backtracking from understandings sketched out in earlier talks”.

The Times tries to support the US demand by asserting that “experts” say “wide-ranging inspections are needed to guard against cheating”. That is a reference to the argument that opponents of a nuclear deal with Iran have been making for years that Iran is likely to try a “sneakout” route to nuclear weapons, using covert supplies of enriched uranium or plutonium and a covert enrichment facility.

The main figure to make that argument is David Albright, the founder of the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington think tank on nuclear proliferation, who had testified on 24 March that Iran must be compelled to accept “anywhere, anytime inspections”. He argued that, without such inspections, Iran could “produce enough weapons grade uranium for a bomb while avoiding detection by the IAEA”.

Another source cited by the Times in the past for that argument is Gary Samore, who was Obama’s adviser on negotiations with Iran until early 2013. Last November, the Times quoted Samore as saying, “From the beginning, the administration thought a nuclear agreement with Iran would need elements to deal with the overt program and one to detect covert facilities.” After leaving the administration, Samore became President of the organisation called United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), which got one-third of its funding in 2013 from Sheldon Adelson, the notorious right-wing extremist and the primary funder of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaigns.

But, although Samore has frequently reiterated the argument that the primary danger is Iranian “sneakout,” he admitted to Times correspondent David Sanger when he was still in the Obama administration that if Iran tried to deceive inspectors by using covert facilities, “We’re pretty certain we would detect it.”

An analysis by Robert Reardon of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University published in 2011 explains why the alarmist views of the problem put forward by Albright and Samore are politically motivated. “The technical and resource barriers” to achieving a secret enrichment program, Reardon pointed out, “are likely prohibitive”. Iran would have to “find a foreign supplier willing and able to provide a substantial supply of yellowcake secretly and without detection,” he wrote. And then Iran would have to “build and operate a number of secret facilities,” which would involve a “significant risk of detection”.

The IAEA demand for interviews with Iranian scientists has long been contentious, because the IAEA wanted to talk with individuals based merely on the fact that their names had been found in the “laptop documents” collection. Those were the intelligence documents that the Bush administration claimed had come from a covert Iranian nuclear weapons program. Both Iran and former IAEA Director Mohamed El Baradei challenged the authenticity of those documents, which bear the fingerprints of Israel’s Mossad.
The Iranian objection to such requests was validated when Israel carried out a series of assassinations of Iranian scientists from 2010 through 2012. Israel’s Mossad had chosen its targets for assassination, moreover, on the basis of open publications and positions in the nuclear program that were publicly known. Iran has every reason to believe that Israel could obtain any information gleaned from IAEA interviews with scientists on their list to plan more assassinations.

Even before Israel began killing Iranian scientists and engineers, however, it had strong objections to the request for interviews with leading scientists and engineers. For years, the IAEA explicitly demanded classified engineering data on the redesign of Iran’s Shahab-3 missile, even though a senior IAEA official acknowledged to this writer that it meant compromising Iran’s national security. The official claimed it was necessary to prove that it had not been for the purpose of integrating a nuclear weapon into the missile. Iran’s military leadership undoubtedly drew the conclusion that IAEA demands for interviews with senior scientists and engineers were essentially an intelligence fishing expedition on behalf of US and Israeli governments.

A US State Department official told the Times that Iran had agreed to work on a “list of people and places for access”. That means they are simply going to recapitulate the long-running history of the IAEA-Iran negotiations over the issue.

Amano has steadfastly demanded to visit Parchin, where the Agency says Iran installed an explosives container the Agency says related to nuclear weapons research. Iran has made the counter-offer to let the IAEA carry out an inspection at Marivan, where, according to the Agency, Iran had carried out “large scale high explosive experiments” on the “multipoint initiation concept” for a nuclear weapon.

The IAEA has rejected the offer without any explanation. The refusal to visit what ought to be its highest priority suggests that either the IAEA doesn’t have the coordinates of the alleged site of the experiments or it has reason to doubt that it is going to find anything there. In either case, its refusal to visit the site reveals the reality that Amano is not carrying out an objective investigation but supporting US policy by keeping the political pressure on Iran for as long as the US deems it necessary.

Behind the US political posturing of which the Times story is a part, the US delegation is almost certainly preparing to give up its demands for visits to military sites on demand and interviews with Iranian scientists. Meanwhile, however, we can expect the Kabuki theatre over those demands to continue as long as it can be useful for managing the Obama administration domestic political problems.


© 2015 Middle East Eye

– Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

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  1. Hugh
    June 7, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    It would be funny if Iran said it would accept any inspections regime the Israelis agreed to of Israel’s nuclear weapons program.

  2. jo6pac
    June 7, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    Yes, Iran agrees and the goal posts are move, just more BS from the so-called peace loving Amerika.
    Hugh, nailed it.

  3. June 7, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    The Beards should ask any Native American the real value of any signed treaty

  4. dubinsky
    June 7, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    Gareth Porter’s first book was a celebration of Khmer Rouge rule in Cambodia. and Porter had disgraced himself by denying the genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge.

    his opinions are to be dismissed and were he a decent person he would have ceased publishing them long ago

  5. June 7, 2015 at 9:35 pm

    Might he have, then, been a paid operative of the Carter/Reagan administrations?

    “I encouraged the Chinese to support Pol Pot. I encouraged the Thai to help the D.K. [Khmer Rouge government-in-exile of Democratic Kampuchea]. The question was how to help the Cambodian people. Pol Pot was an abomination. We could never support him, but China could.”

    Of course “we” did support him and the Khemer Rouge. “We” loved him long time…

  6. dubinsky
    June 7, 2015 at 9:55 pm

    ape, it’s wonderful that you don’t bother to substantiate or even attribute quotations.

    really a great idea.

  7. dubinsky
    June 7, 2015 at 9:56 pm

    yes, that would be disingenuous and ludicrous, but it really would appeal to adolescents.

  8. dubinsky
    June 7, 2015 at 9:59 pm

    and his denial of the Cambodian genocide was not an isolated incident… Porter also denied that the Hue Massacre ever took place.

  9. June 7, 2015 at 10:22 pm

    So sorry, my oversight. It was Big Zbig, of course.

    But while the United States gave tens of millions of dollars in aid throughout the 1980’s to Cambodian refugees, it orchestrated a complete program of sanctions against Cambodia because it was under Vietnamese occupation. And to insure that Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge would fight the Vietnamese occupiers, the Carter Administration helped arrange continued Chinese aid.

    ”I encourage the Chinese to support Pol Pot,” said Zbigniew Brzezinski, the national security adviser at the time. ”The question was how to help the Cambodian people. Pol Pot was an abomination. We could never support him, but China could.”

    At the United Nations, the United States, along with most countries of Europe and Asia, gave the Cambodia seat to the Khmer Rouge Government by itself and, after 1983, in coalition with other anti-Vietnamese Cambodian groups.

    All attempts even to describe the Khmer Rouge regime as genocidal were rejected by the United States as counterproductive to finding peace. Only in 1989, with the beginning of the Paris peace process, was the word genocide spoken in reference to a regime responsible for the deaths of more than a million people…

    Are we privy to a deja-vue in Iraq? ISIL, and Al Baghdadi, as the newest Pol Pot?

  10. dubinsky
    June 7, 2015 at 10:33 pm

    he described Pol Pot as an abomination and described US support for Pol Pot as being impossible, ape.

    that’s not support for him.

    what he’s describing is a tactic of trying to work against Soviet Russian allies.

  11. dubinsky
    June 7, 2015 at 10:36 pm

    but, of course, that’s not really the issue.

    the issue is why firedoglake was somebody blogging who would print the opinions of a disgraced and barely semi-lucid old fool such as Porter?

  12. June 8, 2015 at 12:29 am

    No, dub.

    That’s just the issue YOU want to foist on us…

  13. June 8, 2015 at 12:36 am

    Politically it would have met with public outrage, dub. Hence the back channel support for this and other abomination; Isis, Al Qaida, etc., find the oligarch’s, and their trained donkeys and lackey’s doing the same old same, and there is always an enemy they’ll conjure to justify to the sheeple – through fear – whatever atrocities they want to commit.

    Your naiveté is real, or is a lame attempt to shield your sociopathy and/or your authoritarian submissive character.

  14. dubinsky
    June 8, 2015 at 12:48 am

    you’re right. it is the issue that I’m bringing to the attention of the people here.

    Porter pulls stuff from out of his butt and he’snot only unreliable, he’s borderline sane.

    it’s not just that he’s wrong, a fool and a liar long ago…….. he’s still writing absurd crap.

    in Dec 2008, he wrote that Petraeus and Odierno were instigating a plot (supported by the Defense Dept.) to usurp civilian authority and to revolt against Obama……..and that Obama was going to allow it to happen.

  15. dubinsky
    June 8, 2015 at 12:56 am

    I’m not naive, ape, but I’m not willing to simply sweep distinctions aside.

    not supporting Pol Pot is not support for Pol Pot…even if we enjoy seeing the foreigners fighting Pol Pot having a hard time because we don’t like them either.

    it’s much like the US position in the Syria fighting……… we’re bombing ISIS…but that doesn’t mean that we’re supporting the Assads.

    sometimes, like the overall struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia, both sides suck.

  16. June 8, 2015 at 1:13 am

    America’s plutocrat beholden mis-leaders – who piss on you, dub, BTW – are blameless.

    I got it, dub. You are an authoritarian submissive. A “good German” material.

  17. dubinsky
    June 8, 2015 at 1:21 am

    you don’t “got it”. ……. I don’t love the gubmint merely because I try to knock down irresponsible and vastly overblown criticisms of it.

    I want precise and correct criticisms….. we don’t need to lob crocks of crap…we can let Sarah Palin and Rick Perry do that.

  18. June 8, 2015 at 1:29 am

    Apparently, dubiousky, Hugh hit on a painful truth judging by your vituperative response devoid of anything but insult.

  19. dubinsky
    June 8, 2015 at 1:35 am

    no James. my derision isn’t based on painful truth but on the speciousness offered by Hugh.

  20. WaveRunnerMN
    June 8, 2015 at 1:36 am

    Gotta watch out for that Assad guy he hangs with Hezbollah…bad shit watching out for your own turf and fellow Arab…pov…but not mine

  21. WaveRunnerMN
    June 8, 2015 at 1:37 am

    They let you ramble on?

  22. WaveRunnerMN
    June 8, 2015 at 1:40 am

    Since you are such a great historian of Far Eastern affairs…just how many Cambodians did the US bomb to oblivion…and in your infinite wisdom…WHAT allowed the Khmer Rouge to come to power?

  23. dubinsky
    June 8, 2015 at 1:59 am

    doesn’t take greatness to recognize the genocidal murder of Cambodians by the Khmer Rouge.

  24. dubinsky
    June 8, 2015 at 2:00 am

    me and Robert Plant both

  25. June 8, 2015 at 3:13 am

    The precise criticism is that your plutocrats decided that the world is their oyster and they can run around the world after resources; clearing markets for corporations and finance (Smedley Butler,) while selling the attending slaughter as democracy promotion to right wing neocons and patriotism puffed up sociopaths.

    You feel yourself to be righteously exceptional and indispensable. I do get it.

  26. dubinsky
    June 8, 2015 at 3:23 am

    that is a decent criticism,,,,,, that they’re chasing resources and claiming that they’re promoting democracy rather than hustling the bucks.

  27. June 8, 2015 at 3:24 am

    Takes a special sort of callousness yo ignore one’s own country’s hand in all the mayhem which spilled over from the US’s engagement in Vietnam.

    Iraq/ME is a redux of that same miserable act, today. Under Saddam’s rule approx 2000 per year fell victim to his brutality.

    The toll exacted by US’s “liberation” on innocent civilians, under Clinton alone, was in excess of 500,000…

    You’re a pig, dub.

  28. dubinsky
    June 8, 2015 at 3:27 am

    The toll exacted by US’s “liberation” on innocent civilians, under Clinton alone, was in excess of 500,000…

    please substantiate that if you can….. it may be somewhat difficult.

  29. June 8, 2015 at 3:41 am

    That’s not a new criticism, dub.

    American elites’ sociopathic hubris is what the rest of us (libertarians left, and right) find repulsive and abhorrent.

    In Vietnam grunts died to fend off some boogieman and caused millions to lose their lives, and for what? Did US’s “national security” suffer? Did anyone die by the boogieman’s hand other than those whom our gov. sent off to die?

    You, and everyone should be outraged that these shysters, using the same propaganda methods, continue to snooker the public into wars, as though a historical record of the criminality of these self-declared arbiters of “values” and justice – while only clearing space for corporate aggrandizement – did not exist…

    Official history, especially that of victors – throughout history – is understood as propaganda; as “the manipulation of populism by elitism.”

  30. June 8, 2015 at 3:44 am

    Madeleine Albright – The deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children was worth it for Iraq’s non existent WMD’s

    Bill Richardson on 500,000 dead Iraqi children it was worth it

    it –

  31. dubinsky
    June 8, 2015 at 3:52 am

    sorry, but they accepted an unproven premise in order to make a point.

    that claim was never correct, not only inflated based on false estimates of Iraqi population norms and estimates, but also not fully the fault of the sanctions.

    you can look up the original claim in The Lancet and then find the methodological criticism that followed it.

    after clearing away the faults in the study…the most interesting thing is getting a map and plotting out the locations of the actual reported infant deaths…… you’ll find that there are very few reported in the parts of Iraq where the population practices the Sunni form of Islam.

  32. dubinsky
    June 8, 2015 at 3:53 am

    didn’t say it was new

  33. June 8, 2015 at 3:54 am

    “sorry, but they accepted an unproven premise in order to make a point.”

    That’s not the point!!!

    The point is that they thought nothing of it! That had the numbers been as stated, these sociopaths thought it was worth it!

    50,000 children? 10,000? 1,000? For what?!

    Eff off, freak!

  34. Atomsk
    June 8, 2015 at 5:48 am

    Mossadegh didn’t suck; and I’m not sure even now if Iran sucks as much as Saudi Arabia. Fucking American imperialists, telling the rest of the world what they should want and why they should not want something else. Disgusting arrogant assholes.

  35. Atomsk
    June 8, 2015 at 5:51 am

    “Anything that flies on anything that moves.” Look it up and think a bit if you can do that.

  36. JohnRedican
    June 8, 2015 at 11:09 am

    If I were an Iranian scientist, I sure wouldn’t want my name on a list of those to be questioned. Israel’s practice of murdering physicists is well-documented and quite real.

  37. dubinsky
    June 8, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    I didn’t declare that Mossadegh did… I do declare that the current Iranian regime does….whether you’re sure to agree or not.

  38. Atomsk
    June 8, 2015 at 12:44 pm

    It was your country that did away with him and you still deny your responsibility. On the other hand, your country supports Saudi Arabia materially, and that country is not really better in any way than Iran. I didn’t say “Iran doesn’t suck” at all. I’m saying that the USA chose Saudi Arabia as an ally, which sucks much more.

  39. dubinsky
    June 8, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    my country did indeed help overthrow him,,,, and Khomeini supported the overthrow… did the middle and upper class Iranians….and the British who had set up the coup demanded the overthrow for two years and were denied permission by Truman.

    perhaps if you were better informed you would know that the responsibility for the coup is a bit more widely distributed.

    but that coup really does not change the nature of the present and quite vile reactionary Iranian theocratic dictatorship.

  40. Atomsk
    June 8, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    not supporting Pol Pot is not support for Pol Pot…

    You created Pol Pot by bombing Cambodia illegally. You also supported him after Cambodia was liberated by Vietnam. Is this not support?

    even if we enjoy seeing the foreigners fighting Pol Pot having a hard time because we don’t like them either.

    So, you bombed Cambodia (as part of a wider war that led to the death of millions of Indochinese) illegally, with an explicit order for genocide by Nixon, which led to the rise of Pol Pot, which led to the murder of hundreds of thousands – millions. You later went on to support Pol Pot when he was thrown out by Vietnamese.

    …and your opinion is that “you enjoyed seeing foreigners fighting Pol Pot”. You’re so cynical and so deeply disturbed that you don’t even notice what this means. You don’t even notice that you declared that you “enjoyed” seeing others fight in the war you provoked.

    I mean, I don’t know, I think this shows what you are pretty clearly.

  41. Atomsk
    June 8, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    my country did indeed help overthrow him,,,, and Khomeini supported the overthrow… did the middle and upper class Iranians….and the British who had set up the coup demanded the overthrow for two years and were denied permission by Truman.

    So, group raping people absolves you from responsibility? Is this your level?

    I was comparing Iran to Saudi Arabia, *your chief Arab ally*, and pointed out that what your country does has nothing whatsoever to do with how “vile” a country’s government is.

    but that coup really does not change the nature of the present and quite vile reactionary Iranian theocratic dictatorship.

    What does change it, however, is the continuous propaganda, military and economic pressure that you hypocritically apply to Iran but not to your even more disgusting allies, like Indonesia or Saudi Arabia. Having a constant pressure like that makes progressive reform extremely difficult.

    Your equivocation and slithering hypocrisy will not convince anyone. What you are is pretty obvious; although I guess I have to thank you for at least being a little more open about the issue. Now I know you like to “watch foreigners fight” in wars you provoke. There’s a certain amount of moral depravity necessary for one to be able to utter these words.

  42. dubinsky
    June 8, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    ” You created Pol Pot by bombing Cambodia illegally.”

    about as much as you’re responsible for the creation of idiocy by typing your comments.

  43. dubinsky
    June 8, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    “So, group raping people absolves you from responsibility?”

    you’re hopelessly flawed in argumentation or evaluating other’s argument….. I was assigning responsibility , not denying it.

    go argue with some other kids.

  44. Atomsk
    June 8, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    you’re hopelessly flawed in argumentation or evaluating other’s argument….. I was assigning responsibility , not denying it.

    No. I pointed out your responsibility and you tried to dilute it by bringing in other parties.

    My main point which you ignored was that your equalisation of Saudi Arabia and Iran (“sometimes, like the overall struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia, both sides suck”) is hypocritical: Iran is the “enemy” of the USA, and your country is highly responsible for its current reactionary nature and actually help; while even more reactionary Saudi Arabia, is your *ally* to which you sell a lot of weapons and which you support continuously in many other ways. Your country is not neutral in the conflict and it is deeply responsible for the fact that both sides are reactionary.

    I think tactically it works out better for you if you don’t even try to make a point, just limit yourself to personal insults.

  45. Atomsk
    June 8, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    Nahh, this is just a historical fact (and a pretty obvious one to boot). If your country hadn’t bombed, with an explicit and documented order for genocide by Nixon (whom educated Americans remember not by “anything that flies on anything that moves” or COINTELPRO but because he messed up in an infight with the other wing of capitalist power), Pol Pot would most probably not have come to power. And btw, since you *did* bomb Cambodia, the burden of proof is on your side to prove that what happened next wasn’t your fault, despite being quite predictable.

  46. Atomsk
    June 8, 2015 at 1:57 pm

    And obviously whatever you disagree with is “imprecise” criticism and brings your opponent immediately to the level of Palin.

    I mean, why don’t you just go home and say, watch a TV channel with “foreigners fighting each other”? I know you enjoy that!

  47. Hugh
    June 8, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    Disingenuous and ludicrous because as we all know double standards and hypocrisy are essential to any principled foreign policy, and people wonder why we have no credibility.

  48. dubinsky
    June 8, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    Disingenuous and ludicrous because Iran twice agreed to abide by the NPT and to additional protocols and Israel or Pakistan or India are not relevant to any agreement.

    hypocrisy and no credibility might be applicable to someone implying otherwise, Hugh.