Jeffrey (quite rightly) had words with me in Oslo about my recent lack of postings and so let me start this week with a public promise to improve my blogging statistics. Incidentally, speaking of Oslo, the Minister’s Summary (which I assume will be posted soon on the Norwegian disarmament website) backed (or at least backed considering) one of the ideas that interested Jeffrey, an Intergovernmental Panel on Nuclear Disarmament, analogous to the IPCC.

Anyway, back to Iran… I have a simple question: What does the IAEA mean when it “considers [a] question no longer outstanding” or “considers an issue resolved”? Does it mean (a) that it has a full understanding of what Iran has done, or (b) that it believes Iran’s explanations of why certain activities were carried out?

I have posted on the issue of intent before. My aim in this posting is not to argue what the IAEA ought to do, but simply to ask what the IAEA thinks its role is. You see, sometimes the IAEA gives the impression that its job is to assess Iran’s intentions as this famous quote by the Director General in 2003 illustrates:

To date, there is no evidence [sic] that the previously undeclared nuclear material and activities referred to above were related to a nuclear weapons programme. However, given Iran’s past pattern of concealment, it will take some time before the Agency is able to conclude that Iran’s nuclear programme is exclusively for peaceful purposes.

Moreover, in its most recent report the IAEA clearly gives the impression that it is very interested in Iran’s intentions. Indeed, the entire section on “Procurement activities by the former Head of PHRC” is largely about Iranian motives in acquiring certain bits of kit. Similarly, the IAEA reports Iranian claims that its Po-210 experiments were fundamental research that could eventually be applied to radioisotope batteries. However, the conclusion about Po-210 does not mention Iranian intentions at all:

Based on an examination of all information provided by Iran, the Agency concluded that the explanations concerning the content and magnitude of the polonium-210 experiments were consistent with the Agency’s findings and with other information available to it [my italics]. The Agency considers this question no longer outstanding at this stage

This conclusion makes no judgement—positive or negative—about Iran’s motives. The IAEA very carefully refrains from coming to a conclusion about why Iran was attempting to isolate Po-210. Rather, it concludes that it has obtained a self-consistent picture of what Iran did.

Is it not potentially confusing for the IAEA to discuss Iranian intentions at length, but then omit them when it gives its reasons for relegating an item from the outstanding questions list? I think some greater clarity from the IAEA about what it considers its job to be would be helpful here.