IAEA: Question of trust and independence

TEHRAN, Aug. 04 (MNA) – IAEA Director General Yukio Amano’s upcoming appearance before US senators has stirred controversy over impartiality and reliability of the international organization, whose damaged reputation can have horrible consequences.

Yukio Amano, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has accepted an invitation from the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and is due to brief Senators on the Roadmap with Iran on Wednesday. The news of his decision has prompted Iranian officials, including the Iranian ambassador to the IAEA and the spokesperson for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), to react and warn of possible repercussions if confidential data is disclosed.

Iran’s legitimate concerns regarding the confidentiality of the agreement, continuation of American excessive demands, and IAEA’s reputation as an independent international organization are three main aspects of the evolving debate on Amano’s decision to appear before the committee and discuss his Agency’s confidential agreement with Iran.

Firstly, Iranian reaction to Amano’s decision is reflective of their concerns over the confidentiality of the agreement, concerns that are legitimate and rooted in the IAEA’s past record regarding its relations with Iran. The Agency has previously leaked confidential information on Iran’s nuclear program to third parties; something that has cost the country greatly. This information has been the basis of espionage, sabotage and assassinations directed by America and Israel towards Iran’s nuclear program. Masoud  Alimohammadi, Majid Shahriyari, Darioush Rezaeinejad and Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan were all Iranian scientists who lost their lives to Israeli and Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK, aka MKO) terrorism. Iranian officials including former ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asqar Soltaniyeh, have stated that information on these scientists was leaked to intelligence services by the Agency.

The IAEA has also, according to former DGs Hans Blix and ElBaradei, referred to ‘unverified intelligence’ from foreign intelligence services to make allegations against Iran. It has been pressured to write reports on Iran’s nuclear activities based on this misinformation, pressure that some DGs have given into.

Still, to give diplomacy a chance, Iranian diplomats have decided to trust the IAEA one more time. To make this chance work, they have shown tremendous flexibility; in Obama’s words: “Iran has agreed to the most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated for any nuclear program in history.” But now it is up to Amano to practically prove that the agency he is heading is an independent and trustworthy one, one that abides by international law rather than being accountable to particular governments.

Another basis for Iran’s insistence on the confidentiality of the agreement is its security concerns. American officials have maintained that the military option is still available, even being more effective after the agreement since Washington will have more accurate information (a further sign that information obtained through nuclear inspections are going to be abused). The American Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has stated: “We have a more complete understanding where everything is associated with a nuclear program that we might strike”.

American media talk about bunker-buster bombs that appear to be the most suitable weapon to attack Iran. The Israeli regime, armed with numerous nuclear warheads, makes threats every day. And there’s also ISIL (aka Daesh or ISIS); a threat to global peace and security, which is growing and expanding near Iran’s borders and no Western state appears to be taking it seriously.

To see the whole issue from a second perspective, it appears that American senators are manufacturing a hype concerning the agreement between Iran and the IAEA; a new excuse for war mongering and also for a new playing field for carrying out their partisan fights. They’re calling it a “secret deal” while it’s a perfectly normal ‘side-deal.’ All agreements between the IAEA and member states are confidential, and this is not specific to the case of Iran (because such agreements usually include sensitive information related to the national security of those states). In fact, the American Energy Secretary, Earnest Moniz has stated that this confidentiality is ‘standard practice.’ He has even referred to a similar agreement between the international body and the government of South Africa, signed in the 1990s, which remains confidential to this date. So the Senator’s demand that they should be informed of each and every detail of the agreement - a rather arrogant demand - is a violation of the IAEA’s independence.

If the American government recognizes the Agency as the principle international organization that is responsible for preventing nuclear proliferation, and verification of members’ compliance with their obligations, then they have to trust the body. Interference with the details of the Agency’s agreements with member states, and requiring the Director General to be accountable to them sends the message that the IAEA doesn’t know how to do its own job; a message that certainly is disrespectful and damaging to the Agency’s reputation. All this whilst Amano has explicitly stated prior to taking office, according to leaked cables, that he is “solidly in the US court on every key strategic decision,” including the handling of Iran’s case.

The reputation of the IAEA is an extremely important issue that will certainly be affected by how it reacts to the American Senator’s demands and the way it handles its future relations with Iran. If the Agency intends to play a constructive role in the JCPOA being a diplomatic success, it has to revise its position towards Iran. Respecting the country’s rational sensitivities and abiding by international norms and regulations guarantees not only the success of the nuclear deal but also the reputation of the agency itself. Continuing its previous record of leaking confidential information and cooperating with foreign intelligence services, on the other hand, brings other member countries to the conclusion that they cannot trust the Agency with sensitive information related to their national security, dissuading them from cooperation with it to reach a nuclear free world; an outcome that will certainly make the world a much more dangerous place to live in!

 

Elham Kadkhodaee is a PhD candidate in North American Studies in University of Tehran and a regular contributor to Mehr News Agency.

 

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