′Iran has not changed its nuclear course′ | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 17.07.2015
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'Iran has not changed its nuclear course'

It's hard not to get wrapped up in the euphoria which has greeted the deal on Iran - on both sides. However, as Olli Heinonen, a former IAEA nuclear inspector tells DW, the outcome should be taken with a pinch of salt.

DW: Is this deal a win-win situation?

Olli Heinonen: The bottom line for me is that first of all Iran remains as a nuclear threshold state for years to come and after 10, 15 years it will have even more nuclear capabilities than before. And the second thing is that at least at this stage Iran has not changed its nuclear course. It maintains its uranium enrichment, it provides some additional access, but I'm surprised that regarding the Additional Protocol (The Additional Protocol requires states to provide an expanded declaration of their nuclear activities and grants the Agency broader rights of access to sites in the country - the ed.), which is one of the key legal instruments, Iran will not ratify it until several years from now.

For the verification, yes, I think there are things which are good, and they improve access for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and we get assurances about non-diversional nuclear material (material that can't be diverted for military purposes - the ed.). But there are still deficiencies in this agreement with regard to access to the undeclared places, and the arbitration process in my view is much too long to be technically justified.

Given all the deficits you've just mentioned, why did the West agree to this deal - was there no other choice?

These are the best terms they were able to negotiate, and the question is: Did they strike the deal too early or not? We don't know the negotiating atmosphere and the reasons for the concessions, so we can only speculate. But there are a few pieces which I would have preferred to see - one of them is the question of access I mentioned before.

We have to remember that this is a political deal, this is not - for me - a non-proliferation deal, but it has non-proliferation consequences. What happens now is that we make a deal with a country that is in non-compliance with its safeguard undertakings. That will have a great impact on future proliferation cases, and it will also have an impact on the region and for a long time.

Let's talk about the term "managed access" to certain military sites. Does that imply that inspectors - as in the past - will only be shown what the Iranians want them to see?

man Foto: IAEA

Olli Heinonen

I think this is a little bit misunderstood in this context. First of all, all IAEA access to nuclear facilities is to a certain degree managed. You cannot just go in anywhere in the nuclear installation. There are basic rules, the IAEA has access to certain places, which are called key measurement points. You cannot roam around freely.

The "managed access" is a special procedure, which will apply when you have so-called complementary access under the Additional Protocol. And what it means in practice is that if there is, for example, proprierty information which has nothing to do with the IAEA safeguards, some technological secrets, then the company is allowed to shroud certain parts, provided that the IAEA can still make its safeguard conclusions without trouble. I think this is understandable.

We had this type of access already in Iran in 2003 when I went to a couple of places, including the Parchin site which the IAEA now wants to access. And there were pieces of equipment of military nature and they were covered, but it was OK from the point of view of our verification process because we were looking for other things. So this is not an unusual arrangement.

The nuance here, which will have an impact, is that I see that the text now requires the IAEA to give a lot of justification for its access, and this may put some constraints on how they will run these types of inspections.

Is this a new development - that they have to have credible justification to go in?

Yes, I think so. It's one of the things the negotiators need to clarify now. What do they mean? For example, let's assume that there is an installation which is undeclared and the IAEA receives information based on intelligence that there are certain types of activities and equipment, and it wants to see them. I'm not so sure that it's so clever to tell in advance what you know because the counterpart (Iran) can either mitigate the situation by removing the equipment - which is a concern - or sanitize the place, or prepare a cover story based on the information which is there. So this will undermine the credibility of some types of these inspections.

Based on your own experiences in Iran, how difficult will it be for the inspectors when they go in to monitor and gather information - and to do so effectively?

First of all, there will be a tremendous burden in the beginning because so many things happen simultaneously. Iran is going to dismantle the centrifuges and the whole infrastructure in certain parts of Natanz and Fordow. So this will require a lot of labor when you move it to another room and put it under IAEA containment and surveillance systems. Then there are the discussions with regard to the possible military dimension, and, at the same time, you need to start to confirm the absence of certain activities. So the IAEA is going to have a big task and it has to get the proper people at the proper time to the proper places so they can do the job that is required. And of course you can't do it without Iran's cooperation.

And is that realistic?

To a certain degree. You know, there is no 100-percent assurance in any verification system. The system is set up to provide a chance for early detection which deters the counterpart from doing a certain thing. So it has a deterring effect and it delays certain things. We need to keep this in mind particularly when you go to the so-called secret areas: The detection probability might be low and the time required to find them might be long.

Olli Heinonen is a Senior Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Before joining the Belfer Center, he served for 27 years at the IAEA in Vienna as Deputy Director General and head of its Department of Safeguards. He led the agency's efforts to identify and dismantle nuclear proliferation networks, including the one led by Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan, and he oversaw its efforts to monitor and contain Iran's nuclear program.

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