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Don't Trust, Can't Verify

9:05 AM, Nov 26, 2013 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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There were many problems with the 2007 NIE, and the IAEA’s subsequent reporting has contradicted the intelligence community’s assessment that Iran’s work had been stopped. In 2011, for instance, the IAEA reported there are “indications” that “some activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device continued after 2003, and that some may still be ongoing.”  

But it is worth stressing that even in the NIE’s world Iran had been working on nuclear weapons at one point, making Khamenei’s unequivocal denial problematic for those who want to take the Ayatollah at his word now.

The problem is that Iran’s military-related nuclear work undermines the same statements made by Khamenei that Obama has deemed credible.

Why should we believe Khamenei’s claim that Iran “will never pursue nuclear weapons” when he hasn’t, according to the IAEA’s evidence, told the truth about his nation’s past endeavors?

The text of the new deal with Iran focuses mainly on uranium enrichment and related activities. The deal does not explicitly mention the evidence concerning Iran’s military-related work on nuclear weapons, as documented by the IAEA, nor Iran’s development of ballistic missiles capable of delivering a nuclear payload. The IAEA’s own “framework for cooperation” with Iran, signed earlier this month, does not explicitly mention this weapons work either. Apparently, it is a matter to be pursued in future negotiations.

For its part, the IAEA believes that Iran has been working hard to make sure that its weapons work is never fully discovered. The Parchin site is one location where the Iranians are suspected of carrying out nuclear weapons-related work.

“Since the Agency’s first request for access,” the IAEA noted again in its November 14 report, “extensive activities have taken place at this location [Parchin] that will seriously undermined [sic] the Agency’s ability to conduct effective verification.”

That is, the IAEA says it can't verify the intelligence about Parchin, or even Iran's denials with respect to Parchin, because the Iranians have scrubbed the site. This is almost certainly the case when it comes to other aspects of Iran's clandestine nuclear work -- verification is impossible.

Meanwhile, the Iranians continue to insist there is nothing more to its quest for nuclear power. And the world’s negotiators have now lent credence to their claim.

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.  

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