10 November 2011

Authority, intelligence and the IAEA

Cartoon courtesy China Daily cartoonist Luo Jie 羅傑, via Hidden Harmonies blog.

The IAEA released its report on Iran earlier this week, and it was followed by the all-too-predictable chorus among the EU calling for more sanctions, as well as the all-too-predictable objections from Russia and China (though China’s was carefully massaged and muted). There are authority and credibility problems abounding, however, that go far beyond the anticipated objections of international political players. For example, the entirety of the first eight pages of the recent report, whilst in some respects quite alarming, refers solely to:

45. The information indicates that prior to the end of 2003 the above activities took place under a structured programme. There are also indications that some activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device continued after 2003, and that some may still be ongoing.

The entire report, in fact, is littered with this sort of highly-qualified and very vague language – high on incidents and accidents, hints and allegations (some of which are in excess of ten years old), yet somewhat low on current facts; much more suited to a press release for an elected official than to an internal policy document of a respected international agency. What facts there are, are facts referring to activities that are at least eight years old. And yet, how is this news being reported?

Report: Iran developing nuclear bombs (and later, Iran’s nuclear programme alarms world powers)
Iran ‘months from building atomic bomb’, claims atomic agency report
The truth about Iran
IAEA report: Iran has been working toward nuclear bomb since 2003

At this point, it appears that both the news media and the IAEA itself are actually being used as ready-to-hand tools of the foreign policy agendas of a few national governments. The New Statesman’s Mehdi Hasan and Emptywheel’s Jim White each cover in some detail the ways in which IAEA has been institutionally compromised and made a tool of the foreign policy priorities of the United States in particular with this report. One of the difficulties of being a member of an Abrahamic faith in an age such as this one, is that the sorts of truths and authorities one wants to be able to take for granted (like those responsible for our physical security) appear to be, in actuality, the fear-spreading tools and playthings of the powerful where most they should be the goods all people can hold in common. This is a theological and philosophical argument, but the way the assumptions are being hashed out in practice could very well end up placing a lot of real people – Iranian, Israeli, British, American – in harm’s way.


  1. hola!
    totally agree; I have counted the number of "allegations" by a member state (unnamed) in the report; and frankly it reads like hot air ... very frustrating to see some pundits, god knows on whose payroll, make it into a damning report of Iran's imminent weaponization intentions, while the report is little more that "allegations" and revision of what they already knew in 2003

    (for record: 28 counts of word 'allege'; 16 counts of word weapon; 16 counts of "possible military".)

  2. Hello Naj! Welcome, and thanks for commenting!

    I also found reading the IAEA report quite unnerving, with lots of weasel-wording. I wasn't able to count all the examples, though... It would also be quite interesting (and quite probably illuminating) to know exactly which member states were making these 'allegations', and on whose authority.

    Hope to hear from you again soon, Naj, and keep up the excellent blogging!