Siddharth Varadarajan

Journalist | Writer | Analyst

U.S. overshadows G-20 summit with Iran nuclear hype

Iran disclosed the existence of the new enrichment plant to the IAEA on September 21 but that hasn’t stopped the Western media from speaking of the “discovery” of the plant by U.S. intelligence agencies. The plant, incidentally, is not a violation of the Iranian safeguards agreement with the IAEA…

25 September 2
The Hindu

U.S. overshadows G-20 summit with Iran nuclear hype

Siddharth Varadarajan

Pittsburgh: Iran’s decision to inform the International Atomic Energy Agency about a new pilot fuel enrichment plant it is building has been seized upon by the United States, and its allies as proof of the danger posed to the world by the Iranian nuclear programme.

Appearing before reporters an hour before the first plenary session of the G-20 group of leading world economies was set to begin here, U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister accused Tehran of defying the U.N. Security Council and directly challenging the international non-proliferation regime. They called upon Iran to provide the IAEA immediate access to the facility or face new international sanctions.

According to an IAEA spokesperson, Iran informed the agency about the facility on September 21.

Although U.S. officials say Iran had been forced to admit the existence of the new plant because it feared imminent exposure by Western intelligence agencies — an unverifiable claim that has, nevertheless, been dutifully echoed by the American media – Tehran’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA only obliges it to provide design information not later than 180 days before the introduction of nuclear material into a new facility.

The facility is said to be in the preliminary stage of development, with the introduction of uranium still several months away. Any international inspection of the facility could only come after that point, not before. That is why the IAEA never considered the Natanz facility whose existence was only revealed in 2002 a violation of Iran’s safeguards agreement.

In 2003, Iran agreed to a modified subsidiary arrangement requiring it to inform the IAEA as soon as a decision to construct a new facility was taken. But Tehran withdrew its adherence to the arrangement four years later, in retaliation against UN sanctions.

In March 2009, the IAEA’s Legal Adviser was asked by some member governments to qualify in legal terms Iran’s non-implementation of the new disclosure rules. His reply made it clear that there was considerable ambiguity and the matter was not as clear-cut as the U.S. and its allies claimed it to be. While Iran could not unilaterally withdraw its adherence to the new arrangement, the Legal Adviser said its actions should be seen in proper context. Elaborating, he said that since the old rules had been considered consistent with a country’s safeguards obligations for 22 years, it is difficult to conclude that providing information in accordance with the earlier formulation in itself constitutes non-compliance with, or breach of, the Safeguards Agreement as such.

Though Iran may be on reasonably firm legal ground, the politics of its latest disclosure could swing either ways. Tehran will begin formal talks with the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany on October 1. It is possible that it may use the new facility as a bargaining chip to resist the demand for an end to its enrichment programme. On the other hand, the new facility clearly gives the U.S. an excuse to harden its own stance in the run up to those talks.

3 comments on “U.S. overshadows G-20 summit with Iran nuclear hype

  1. RS
    September 27, 2009

    Siddharth, I'm afraid your articles are scaling new heights of bias every day—incredible though that might sound. You have become a shill for China, Iran, and any cause that you perceive as anti-American, despite the facts too that the forces you back are, almost invariably, also anti-Indian.

    It is difficult to see how you can live with the hypocrisy of backing a despotic Islamic theocracy that suppresses its own citizens brutally, but I suppose practice makes perfect. You have, after all, been at this game a long time. If your articles and viewpoints weren't so laughable, the situation might actually have been sad.

  2. Vijay Dandapani
    September 27, 2009

    ” But Tehran withdrew its adherence to the arrangement four years later, in retaliation against UN sanctions” Mr. Varadarajan, if your analysis is to have any semblance of credibility, please at least try to get your facts right. Iran did not and cannot “withdraw” adherence to the modification to the subsidiary agreement as the country's reps had, through an exchange of letters in 2003, modified the subsidiary agreement.

    Your shrill and ridiculously biased reporting requires the willing suspension of objective judgment and, perhaps, you ought to find a new medium such as the China Daily for publication of your Goebbelsian gibberish

  3. Jayaram
    September 26, 2009

    While accusing the American media of echoing claims by the White House, you seem to be echoing claims by the Iranians — “the facility is said to be in preliminary stages of construction” — have you seen it, or taken a trip inside?

    If the facility is really meant to be for nuclear power, why should the Iranians construct it deep inside a mountain invisible to aerial satellites and resistant to aerial bombing? They claim they have the right to enrich uranium for nuclear power. Then why not build a new power plant in full view of the world? How many Indian power plants are hid underneath a mountain? Why wait for the so-called 180-day limit to inform the IAEA?

    This is serious stuff. I hope you do not let your reflexive anti-Americanism cloud your reporting on a case of nuclear proliferation.

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This entry was posted on September 25, 2009 by in Iran, Nuclear Issues.



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