New round of sanctions on Iran

22 November 2011

Further energy and financial sanctions are being placed on Iran after more detail was published by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on an alleged military nuclear program it said was 'credible'.


The US State Department yesterday announced restrictions for American companies whose goods or services help Iran to develop its domestic oil production. It also listed "the entire Iranian financial sector" as "posing illicit finance risks for the global financial system" and banned trading with seven companies or individuals associated with the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, itself already proscribed.



The Bushehr nuclear power plant comprises something of a sideshow to the main nuclear issues in Iran. The IAEA reported that its experts had visited the plant during operation in early October but it had since been informed that the plant has been shut down for what Iranian officials called "routine maintenance."


The 1000 MWe power reactor was built by Russia and is jointly operated with Iran under close surveillance by the IAEA. It was officially commissioned in mid-September.

France has officially proposed to partners Canada, Germany, Japan, the UK and the USA as well as European officials that they act together to freeze the assets of the Central Bank of Iran and stop buying oil from the country.


Russia, however, rejected these kinds of moves, saying they "seriously complicate efforts for constructive dialogue with Tehran." Iran is already subject to four sets of sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council, as well as some from the European Union and several from a range of other nations.


International attention has been focused on Iran's nuclear work since late 2002, with the majority of commentary directed to the uranium enrichment program. This is a technology used to manufacture some kinds of reactor fuel, but can also be used to create fuel suitable for weapons. In this respect, the safeguards system administered by the International Atomic Energy Agency gives confidence to all nations that their neighbours are using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes only, but Iran has a long history of patchy compliance.


The latest report by the agency, issued on 8 November complained that Iran continues to enrich uranium in spite of requests and resolutions calling on it to stop; refuses to give design information on the IR-40 heavy water reactor; and refuses access for the IAEA to inspect ongoing construction there. The IAEA has been given no information regarding the ten underground enrichment centres that Iran has proposed.


But those aspects are the least concerning in the current situation, because the IAEA document explained in detail what it understands of the 'alleged studies'. IAEA director general, Yukiya Amano, told the agency's board in September last year that he wished to be far more detailed in what is publicly shared about the alleged studies. Previous periodic reports focused on safeguards issues surrounding uranium and reactor developments, with one minor section on the studies. By contrast, the November document included a 14-page dossier of its understanding as well as stronger language throughout.


Cards on the table


Agency experts hold some 1000 pages of "technically complex and interconnected" documentation as provided to it by ten countries. A significant amount is "consistent with the day-to-day implementation of a formal program" to develop nuclear weapons.


The IAEA has put together a detailed collage of the Iranian agencies and academies involved, their key staff and the work of their related projects, some of which produced numerous technical reports. It has even had interviews with a member of the "clandestine nuclear supply network" that gave Iran some key documents, as well as a technician from a country already holding nuclear weapons that worked in Iran for eight years.


The IAEA said the body of evidence indicates a fully structured national nuclear weapons program existed before the end of 2003 with related research on detonation and underground tests. The adaptation of missiles was being done in a way "highly relevant" to nuclear weapons delivery and by which most other weapons kinds "could be ruled out."


"After assessing carefully and critically the extensive information available to it, the agency finds the information to be, overall, credible," said the report. The report was the strongest yet on Iran and perhaps the strongest possible from the IAEA. It led to the adoption of resolutions condemning Iran's continued defiance at the IAEA board, in addition to six existing resolutions of the UN Security Council.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News