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November 13, 2014 12:27 pm

Iranian Obstruction Hampers IAEA Assessment of Tehran’s Nuclear Program

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avatar by Ben Cohen

Iranian anti-aircraft guns stationed outside the Natanz nuclear facility. Photo: Wikicommons

With under two weeks to go before the November 24 deadline for a final agreement over Iran’s nuclear program, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has slightly adjusted its estimate of the size of Tehran’s uranium stockpile, but analysts played down the significance of the revision, citing the regular obstruction which has plagued IAEA inspectors in their efforts to gain a true picture of Iranian activities.

The IAEA now estimates that Iran’s holding of low-enriched uranium gas is 8,290 kg, 100 kg less than it had said in a confidential report last week, diplomats said on Thursday. According to the Reuters news agency, “there was no explanation of why the initial figure was wrong, or the significance of the discrepancy, and there was no immediate IAEA comment.”

Iran’s uranium stockpile is one of the factors that could determine how much time it would need for any attempt to assemble nuclear weapons.

The Iranian regime’s English-language mouthpiece Press TV crowed that the “size of Tehran’s uranium stockpile is one of the moot points in the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers.” Press TV also provided valuable insight into the mindset of Iran’s negotiators, claiming that “sources close to the Iranian negotiating team say the main stumbling block in the way of resolving the Western dispute over Iran’s nuclear energy program remains to be the removal of all the bans imposed on the country, and not the number of centrifuges or the level of uranium enrichment.”

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“Tehran wants the sanctions entirely lifted while Washington, under pressure from the pro-Israeli lobby, insists that at least the UN-imposed sanctions should remain in place,” Press TV added.

The key point, however, is that the Iranians have prevented the IAEA from inspecting the full extent of their nuclear program. As the Weekly Standard‘s Lee Smith pointed out, “if Tehran continues to stonewall inspectors, there is no way to know whether or not the Iranians are in compliance with the terms of the [November 2013] agreement. If the IAEA investigators can’t get in to count and catalog what Iran has pre-deal, post-deal inspections are a waste of time, and any agreement coming out of Geneva will not be worth the paper it’s printed on.”

“Iran is constantly pushing the envelope” on the November 2013 agreement, known as the Joint Plan of Action (JPA) between international powers and Tehran, said Omri Ceren of The Israel Project, which has been working with journalists and policymakers on the Iranian nuclear threat.

Ceren offered several examples of Iranian duplicity. “The Iranians were only allowed one million barrels per day  of oil exports under the JPA on average, so they spent every month exporting 1.2, or 1.4, or whatever, and then constantly promised that they’d eventually dip below in order for everything to average out,” Ceren told The Algemeiner. “They never did. They weren’t allowed to expand their enriched non-oxide stockpile for the duration of the JPA, so they expanded it slowly in the first few months, always promising that they’d convert the excess in the end. They never will. And they weren’t allowed to pump gas into advanced centrifuges, so they pumped it into a single IR-5.”

The IR-5 is a new centrifuge that speeds up the enrichment process. Yesterday, Iran confirmed that it had tested the IR-5, and Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham gave no indication that the regime had stopped feeding natural uranium gas into the centrifuge. However, the Obama Administration nonetheless insists that Tehran has ceased this activity.

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