May 8, 2018 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1395

Insights Following Exposure Of Iran's Military Nuclear Program – Part II: IAEA's Closure Of File On Iran's Possible Development Of Nuclear Weapons (PMD) Was Collusion By Obama Administration, Europeans, IAEA

May 8, 2018 | By Yigal Carmon and A. Savyon*
Iran | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1395


The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal, could not be achieved until Iran was cleared of suspicions that it had worked on developing nuclear weapons. This was because earlier, in 2011, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had published an unequivocally incriminating report stating that Iran's nuclear activity was aimed at producing nuclear weapons.[1]

How was it possible for IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano to clear Iran of these suspicions, thus allowing the JCPOA to be achieved?[2] 

The Stages Of Clearing Iran Of Suspicions That It Is Developing Nuclear Weapons

The Procedural Stages

In 2013, following several rounds of secret U.S.-Iran negotiations, U.S. intelligence agencies published a joint assessment that contradicted both all previous assessments and the IAEA's 2011 report and stated that Iran was not currently engaged in military nuclear development. This assessment, however, did not address Iran's previous efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

On the morning of July 14, 2015, just hours before the JCPOA was declared, IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano announced that he had reached a secret agreement with Iran on a roadmap that would allow Iran's PMD file to be closed.[3]

The Substantive Stages

A Scandalous Inspection At The Parchin Military Site

IAEA director-general Amano agreed to a scandalous inspection process at the Parchin military site, in which he complied with the following demands from Iran:

  • No IAEA inspector entered the site. Amano himself entered Parchin for a token visit for only a few minutes, but not for inspection purposes. He was not even permitted to carry his cellphone.

  • Iran refused to allow the IAEA to question Iranian nuclear scientists.

  • The soil samples from the site were taken and handed over by the Iranians themselves, with no way of ascertaining their source.

  • Amano even accepted Iran's demand that the title of his report not be "Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of Iran's Nuclear Programme," but that it be "Final Assessment of Past and Present Outstanding Issues Regarding Iran's Nuclear Programme."[4]

The above was confirmed by Iran's representative in the IAEA, Reza Najafi, in a September 21, 2015 interview with Iran's ISNA news agency: "I deny the Reuters report that the samples from Parchin were taken in the presence of IAEA inspectors. We ourselves took the samples. This is the red line for us, and no inspector is authorized to enter a military site and conduct an inspection. The visit of Amano and his deputy was strictly a general protocol visit; they had no equipment, not even a cellphone; their visit lasted no longer than a few minutes, [and it was] only in order for them to see that there is nothing suspicious and that the claims about [Parchin] were completely wrong."[5]

In a November 26, 2015 Reuters interview, IAEA director-general Amano said, regarding the conclusions of the report that he was about to submit, that "the report will not be black and white," and that the PMD issue "is an issue that cannot be answered by 'yes' or 'no.'"[6] It is noteworthy that the final IAEA assessment report confirmed that suspicious nuclear activity had taken place in Iran, but refrained from stating that the Iranian regime was responsible for it – as if it had been carried out by a body completely independent of the Iranian regime, which is ludicrous.

The Prior U.S.-Iran-IAEA Agreement To Close The PMD File

U.S. Secretary Of State John Kerry

Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed in a June 16, 2015 statement that the U.S. knew of the military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program, and clarified that the U.S. was not interested in focusing on Iran's past military violations, but was looking towards the future. He said: "The possible military dimensions, frankly, gets distorted a little bit in some of the discussions in that we're not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they did at one point in time or another… "We know what they did ... We have no doubt. We have absolute knowledge with respect to certain military activities they were engaged in....

"What we're concerned about is going forward. It's critical to us to know that going forward, those activities have been stopped and that we can account for that in a legitimate way... That clearly is one of the requirements, in our judgment, for what has to be achieved in order to have a legitimate agreement. And in order to have an agreement, to trigger any kind of material, significant sanctions relief, we would have to have those answers."[7]

Senior Iranian officials close to the negotiations attested to the prior political agreement among the parties as follows:

Iranian Vice President And Negotiating Team Member Ali Akbar Salehi

In a July 21, 2015 interview on the Iranian TV channel IRIB, Iranian vice president and negotiating team member Ali Akbar Salehi disclosed that Iran had reached agreement with the IAEA on Iran's PMD. Now that the problems had been resolved on the political level, he said, and since there was political backing (i.e. for closing Iran's PMD file), the IAEA could no longer act independently, unlike when there had been no such political backing (that is, when it had published reports incriminating Iran). Therefore, the IAEA's PMD investigation would be extremely positive for Iran. Salehi added that the IAEA had to "be reasonable" or "they would be the losers."

Below are highlights of Salehi's IRIB interview:

Salehi and Amano show the "roadmap" between the IAEA and Iran, in Vienna, July 14, 2015( Image: IAEA)

Salehi: "By December 15, at the end of the year, the issue [of the PMD] should be determined. The IAEA will submit its report to the board of governors. It will only submit it. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA] will continue independently of the results of this report. We have reached understandings with the IAEA. God willing, there will be very positive results.

"We do not accept the PMD issue, the [suspicions against] Iran's past [military nuclear] activity. We are resolving this in a political-technical framework, in order to deny them any pretext...

"If the IAEA was not meant to be convinced in the regular track, it would never be convinced, regardless of what we did. They presented 18 questions, we answered them [but couldn't convince them], and there is nothing more that could be done.

"Now that the technical issues are being resolved on the political level, the pace has picked up. The technical issues are now being resolved in a political framework. They have set a time frame and, God willing, the issue must be resolved by December 15.

Interviewer: "But considering the IAEA's bad record regarding...

Salehi: "In short, they will be the losers. As I have said, the issue has received political backing. The work of [the IAEA] must be reasonable. They cannot do anything unreasonable. When there is no political backing, they do whatever they want, but now there is political backing, and the issue should be resolved, and God willing, it will be."[8]

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister And Negotiating Team Member Abbas Araghchi

In a November 25, 2015 interview on Iranian television with Iranian deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi, it emerged that Araghchi had held talks with IAEA director-general Amano on "closing the Possible Military Dimension (PMD) dossier," and that Amano had filled him in on "some of the points he would be presenting" in the upcoming IAEA report on this issue. Araghchi noted that he had also spoken with the Americans and Europeans in Vienna, and had understood from them that "they too were heading towards closing the PMD dossier."

In the interview, Araghchi noted: "In the next few days our experts will be in contact with the IAEA experts, and if necessary they will bring up additional points. I may also meet with Amano again... They [our experts] told us there were some weak points in the IAEA report and I commented on them. I am optimistic that they will be corrected..."

He added: "I don't think there is any plan behind the scenes to leave the PMD dossier open. We have not received any indications that there is a plan [of this kind] behind the scenes. In any case I provided the Americans and Europeans with the necessary comments."

Araghchi stated further: "On December 1, 2015, we expect this report to be published and submitted to the [IAEA] Board of Governors. A special board meeting has been scheduled for December 15, 2015, in which a resolution on the IAEA report will be taken. During this time [until December 15], the P5+1 group will submit a [draft] resolution [to the IAEA Board of Governors] with the objective of  closing the PMD dossier, and [this draft resolution] will come up for a vote in its December 15, 2015 meeting. Also, on December 7, 2015, there will be a meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, attended by [representatives of] Iran and the P5+1, in which we will discuss the P5+1 [draft] resolution on closing the PMD. We have taken all the necessary steps so that on December 15, 2015, [the IAEA Board of Governors] will resolve to close the PMD dossier and this issue will be put to rest."

According to Araghchi, "if the [IAEA] Board of Governors does not close the PMD dossier, the process of implementing the JCPOA will stop. Hence, the P5+1 must decide between the PMD and the JCPOA... In the past, the P5+1 chose the JCPOA. The [Supreme] Leader [Khamenei]'s letter on Iran's implementation of the nuclear steps likewise emphasizes that they must choose between the JCPOA and the PMD."

According to Iran's Press TV news agency, Araghchi said in the same interview: "If Yukiya Amano or the [IAEA's] board of governors will present their report in such a way that it does not meet the stipulated commitments, the Islamic Republic of Iran will also stop [the implementation of] the JCPOA" In this statement, Araghchi implies that Iran has received commitments that the PMD dossier will be closed.[9]

Negotiating Team Member Hamid Baidinejad

From June 1, 2015 statements on the Instagram account of negotiating team member Hamid Baidinejad, which were quoted by the Iranian news agency Fars, it emerged that the Europeans and the IAEA had demanded a genuine investigation regarding the PMD file, including visiting two military sites and questioning nuclear scientists, as a precondition for reaching the JCPOA. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei vigorously opposed these demands, and the U.S. capitulated, agreeing to forego a real investigation of the IAEA findings that raised suspicions that Iran was developing a military nuclear program and also agreeing to accept a token inspection in its stead. The U.S. requested that Iran carry a few specific measures, such as allowing a purely token visit to Parchin by IAEA director-general Amano, with the questioning of Iranian nuclear scientists waived. Thus the way was paved for a comprehensive solution of the PMD issue.[10]

Conclusions And Ramifications

Although the U.S., the Europeans, and the IAEA had unequivocal information that Iran had conducted activity to develop nuclear weapons, the three of them colluded to clear Iran of these suspicions, and the report published by IAEA director-general Amano served this purpose.

Israel's exposure of Iran's military nuclear program is justification for a suspension of the JCPOA agreement pending a comprehensive investigation, unconditional and without restrictions on Iran's part, of Iran's military nuclear activity, at every site about which information on such activity has been discovered. If Iran does not allow such an inspection, this will mandate a return to the pre-JCPOA sanctions on Iran.

It is also necessary to investigate the conduct of the IAEA, which was obligated to act an independent professional body not subject to political pressure, but wrote its reports of inspections in consultation with the party under investigation, that is, Iran. The conduct of IAEA director-general Amano must be examined, since he agreed to a scandalous, unprofessional, and unreliable inspection procedure at the Parchin military site; also there must be an examination of the IAEA's claim that it was impossible to determine with certainty that the suspect activity was carried out by the Iranian regime.

While the West now says it knew of previous Iranian activity to develop nuclear weapons, achieving the JCPOA was not based on this knowledge, but on Iran's denial of any military dimension to its nuclear program, and on the IAEA report that cleared it of the accusation that it existed.

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


[1], December 8, 2011.

[2] Over the years, the IAEA had maintained an investigation file on the Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of its nuclear program.

[3], July 14, 2015.

[4], December 2, 2015.

[10] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1167, Nuclear Negotiations At An Impasse: Leader Khamenei Rejects Agreement Reached On Token Inspection Of Military Sites And Questioning Of Scientists; U.S. Willing To Close IAEA Dossier On Iranian PMD, To Settle For Inspecting Declared Nuclear Sites Only, And To Rely On Intelligence; EU Objects, June 11, 2015. The EU announced its objections to a comprehensive agreement with Iran in the absence of satisfactory answers from it regarding the IAEA dossier on its PMD. It said that the IAEA investigation of the PMD "will be essential" to a nuclear deal. AP, June 8, 2015.

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