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memri
July 2, 2019 No.
1463

The Farce Of Iran's Breach Of Limit On Enriched Uranium: U.S. Never Had, Nor Does It Have Today, Any Clue Where The 8.5 Tons Of Enriched Uranium Ostensibly Shipped Out Of Iran In 2015 Are; Moreover, Russia Provided Iran With 200 Tons Of Yellowcake

Introduction

While the U.S. protests Iran's minor breach, announced this week, of the 300 kg limit on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium set in the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal,[1] the location of 8.5 tons of Iranian-enriched uranium that Iran ostensibly shipped to its ally Russia that year remains completely unknown. It could well be back in Iran.

Seven months after the JCPOA was concluded, and two months after the ostensible shipment, Amb. Stephen Mull, the Obama administration's State Department lead coordinator on Iran, declared that "it has not yet been decided where exactly Russia will put this" and added: "I believe, if it has not arrived yet, it will very soon."[2]

On the other hand, what is certain is that in December 2015, according to the Russian Tass news agency,[3] Russia provided Iran with 200 tons of yellowcake.

The U.S. Has No Clue Where Iran's 8.5 Tons Of Enriched Uranium Are

At a February 11, 2016 hearing before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, Amb. Mull acknowledged that Washington had lost track of the enriched uranium, which, he said, was now "on a Russian ship, in Russian custody, under Russian control" – that is, no longer under IAEA oversight.

Indeed, in response to Rep. Chris Smith's (R-NJ) question at the hearing, "Do we have any on site accountability? Can we go and verify ourselves, or?" Amb. Mull replied: "We cannot." Rep. Smith said: "We cannot. Who does?" to which Amb. Mull replied: "...Russia is responsible for maintaining access and controls."

Rep. Smith then asked, "Where has it been put?" and Amb. Mull answered: "It has not been fully, according to our information it has not yet been decided where exactly Russia will put this."

To Rep. Smith's question "But where did it go? I mean it has to be somewhere," Amb. Mull replied: "...I believe, if it has not arrived yet, it will very soon."

In reply to Rep. Smith's comment that "we are then trusting the Russians to say that they have it under their purview, that they are watching it? I mean they are so close to Iran, they have doubledealed us and especially the Middle East, the Syrians, I don't know why we would trust them. Could you tell us where it is going?" Amb. Mull replied: "That is a Russian Government responsibility to decide where it goes. We do not have concerns about Russian custody of this material. What is important in this deal is will it go back to Iran? And I can guarantee there are sufficient controls in place that if one piece of dust of that material goes back into Iran we are going to be aware of it."

Rep. Smith then asked, "But again, can the IAEA go to that ship and verify that it is there and follow it as it goes to its final resting place?" To this, Amb. Mull responded: "IAEA has different monitoring arrangements with each, each country in the world." (As noted, Mull had stated that the uranium was now in "Russian custody, under Russian control" – that is, not under IAEA oversight.)

 To Rep. Smith's statement that "... it is not even in a place, it is not in any city that you say. It is not in any, it is not somewhere in Russia that we could say there it is. We don't even know where it is," Amb. Mull replied: "The IAEA verified the loading of all of this material..."

In response to Rep. Smith's pointing out that "loading and where does it end up is very important," Amb. Mull said, "That is the Russian Government's responsibility to decide where it goes."

Rep. Smith concluded, "That is a flaw, in my opinion."

To view Amb. Mull's testimony, click here or below:

* A. Savyon is Director of the MEMRI Iran Media Studies Project; Yigal Carmon is President of MEMRI.

 

Appendix: Amb. Mull's Testimony

The following is Amb. Stephen Mull's testimony at the February 11, 2016 hearing.[4]

IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL OVERSIGHT: IMPLEMENTATION AND ITS CONSEQUENCES

HEARING BEFORE THE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ONE HUNDRED FOURTEENTH CONGRESS SECOND SESSION FEBRUARY 11, 2016


Ambassador MULL. The material that Iran shipped out, that 25,000 pounds of nuclear, enriched nuclear material, Russia took that under its control. We obviously have many differences over many years with Russia, but one of the features of our relationship is pretty close cooperation on protection of nuclear material. We do not have concerns that that material ---

Mr. SMITH OF NEW JERSEY. Do we have any on site accountability? Can we go and verify ourselves or?

Ambassador MULL. We cannot.

Mr. SMITH OF NEW JERSEY. We cannot. Who does?

Ambassador MULL. Well, we – I mean Russia has tons of nuclear material and has for many years. Russia is responsible for maintaining access and controls.

Mr. SMITH OF NEW JERSEY. What town is it actually being – where is the repository for it?

Ambassador MULL. I'm sorry?

Mr. SMITH OF NEW JERSEY. Where has it been put?

Ambassador MULL. It has not been fully, according to our information it has not yet been decided where exactly Russia will put this.

Mr. SMITH OF NEW JERSEY. Because if it has been shipped out it has gone somewhere. It's not ---

Ambassador MULL. It is still in the process of being delivered in its entirety.

Mr. SMITH OF NEW JERSEY. So it is not all shipped out yet?

Ambassador MULL. It is all shipped out. It all left Iran on a ship.

Mr. SMITH OF NEW JERSEY. But where did it go? I mean it has to be somewhere. Ambassador MULL. It is on a Russian ship, in Russian custody, under Russian control. Mr. SMITH OF NEW JERSEY. Actually on the ship right now?

Ambassador MULL. I believe, if it has not arrived yet, it will very soon. And it will be kept within control of Russian facilities.

Mr. SMITH OF NEW JERSEY. But again, we are then trusting the Russians to say that they have it under their purview, that they are watching it? I mean they are so close to Iran, they have doubledealed us and especially the Middle East, the Syrians, I don't know why we would trust them. Could you tell us where it is going? I mean that is important. And then I will ---

Ambassador MULL. That is a Russian Government responsibility to decide where it goes. We do not have concerns about Russian custody of this material. What is important in this deal is will it go back to Iran? And I can guarantee there are sufficient controls in place that if one piece of dust of that material goes back into Iran we are going to be aware of it

Mr. SMITH OF NEW JERSEY. But again, can the IAEA go to that ship and verify that it is there and follow it as it goes to its final resting place?

Ambassador MULL. IAEA has different monitoring arrangements with each, each country in the world.

Mr. SMITH OF NEW JERSEY. I would not have confidence that – I mean it is not even in a place, it is not in any city that you say. It is not in any, it is not somewhere in Russia that we could say there it is. We don't even know where it is.

Ambassador MULL. The IAEA verified the loading of all of this material onto the ---  Mr. SMITH OF NEW JERSEY. But loading and where does it end up is very important. Ambassador MULL. That is the Russian Government's responsibility to decide where it goes.

Mr. SMITH OF NEW JERSEY. That is a flaw, in my opinion.

 

[1] Fars (Iran), July 1, 2019.

[2] Docs.house.gov/meetings/FA/FA00/20160211/104456/HHRG-114-FA00-Transcript-20160211.pdf, pp. 30-31, February 11, 2016.

[3] Tass.com/world/847733, December 29, 2015; Tass.com/politics/929618, February 8, 2017; Commentarymagazine.com/foreign-policy/middle-east/iran/iran-yellowcake-nuclear-deal-ernest-moniz, March 21, 2017.

[4] Docs.house.gov/meetings/FA/FA00/20160211/104456/HHRG-114-FA00-Transcript-20160211.pdf, pp. 30-31, February 11, 2016.