Iran’s wiggle room

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) usually makes headlines for its leadership on nonproliferation issues, so it is easy to forget that its primary mission is actually to promote the peaceful uses of atomic energy. The IAEA runs roughly 800 “technical aid” projects around the world, many of which involve transferring knowledge that would be ...

604108_IAEA_logo_05.gif
604108_IAEA_logo_05.gif

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) usually makes headlines for its leadership on nonproliferation issues, so it is easy to forget that its primary mission is actually to promote the peaceful uses of atomic energy. The IAEA runs roughly 800 "technical aid" projects around the world, many of which involve transferring knowledge that would be helpful in making nuclear weapons.

Enter Iran. The limited sanctions imposed by the Security Council in December focused on blocking cooperation in nuclear programs that could lead to weapons. Accordingly, the IAEA has reportedly "suspended" almost half of its technical cooperation programs with Iran.

These reports are misleading, though. The status of "almost half” (22) of the programs was changed today, but not all are suspended completely. According to the IAEA report (pdf), Iran is participating in 55 technical cooperation programs. Ten of those are exclusively for medical, agricultural, safety, food, or humanitarian purposes and will be allowed to continue. Ten are very sensitive and will be suspended entirely. The other 12 can continue only on a case-by-case basis. That is, upon Iran's request, an individual "project activity" can be assessed by the IAEA to determine whether it can proceed. Essentially, the Iranians must prove that activities under those projects are benign in order for them to proceed. All of the suspensions are temporary, pending a full vote of the IAEA Board of Governors on March 5. So Iran has yet another chance to change some minds in the interim.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) usually makes headlines for its leadership on nonproliferation issues, so it is easy to forget that its primary mission is actually to promote the peaceful uses of atomic energy. The IAEA runs roughly 800 “technical aid” projects around the world, many of which involve transferring knowledge that would be helpful in making nuclear weapons.

Enter Iran. The limited sanctions imposed by the Security Council in December focused on blocking cooperation in nuclear programs that could lead to weapons. Accordingly, the IAEA has reportedly “suspended” almost half of its technical cooperation programs with Iran.

These reports are misleading, though. The status of “almost half” (22) of the programs was changed today, but not all are suspended completely. According to the IAEA report (pdf), Iran is participating in 55 technical cooperation programs. Ten of those are exclusively for medical, agricultural, safety, food, or humanitarian purposes and will be allowed to continue. Ten are very sensitive and will be suspended entirely. The other 12 can continue only on a case-by-case basis. That is, upon Iran’s request, an individual “project activity” can be assessed by the IAEA to determine whether it can proceed. Essentially, the Iranians must prove that activities under those projects are benign in order for them to proceed. All of the suspensions are temporary, pending a full vote of the IAEA Board of Governors on March 5. So Iran has yet another chance to change some minds in the interim.

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.