Report

IAEA Closes Investigation into Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Research

The International Atomic Energy Agency voted yesterday to close its investigation on the possible military dimensions of previous iterations of Iran’s nuclear program. The decision comes after the investigation submitted its final report earlier this month, which was then leaked to the press. Despite only intermittent cooperation from Iran, the IAEA concluded that the serious ...

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The International Atomic Energy Agency voted yesterday to close its investigation on the possible military dimensions of previous iterations of Iran’s nuclear program. The decision comes after the investigation submitted its final report earlier this month, which was then leaked to the press. Despite only intermittent cooperation from Iran, the IAEA concluded that the serious elements of Iran’s nuclear weapons program had concluded in 2003, with some limited research continuing until 2009 — findings that mirror Western intelligence reports. The IAEA’s decision to close the file on this previous weapons research is a component of the international nuclear agreement reached with Iran in July, though Iran must complete significant reductions of its nuclear capacity before sanctions-relief elements of the deal can be implemented.

The deal faces other challenges, though. European diplomats are suggesting that new restrictions on the U.S. visa waiver program on individuals who have recently traveled to Iran could undermine the nuclear agreement, which obligated P5+1 nations not to implement policies that would interfere with the normalization of trade and economic relations. “They could argue that European businessmen will be more reluctant to go to Iran if that would then make it harder to visit the US,” a European official told the Financial Times. Other officials have expressed frustration about Iran’s continued ballistic missile tests, which violate U.N. resolutions, though not the nuclear agreement.

Qatari Hunters Abducted in Iraqi Desert

A group of at least 26 Qatari hunters were abducted from their encampment in the desert near Layyah, Iraq, close to the Saudi-Iraqi border. Approximately 100 gunmen in 50 vehicles captured the hunters, who had a security detail of Iraqi military forces that did not engage the abductors. It is unclear who is responsible for the attack but a search is underway.

Headlines

  • Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry said he was surprised to hear that Pakistan was included in the 34-nation counterterrorism coalition announced yesterday by Saudi Arabia and that Saudi officials had not consulted with Pakistan.

 

  • With peace talks starting yesterday in Switzerland, Houthi and pro-government forces in Lahj Province, Yemen, exchanged hundreds of prisoners that each side had captured; while minor violations of the ceasefire have been reported, it appears to be holding.

 

  • The Iraqi government reiterated its call for the withdrawal of Turkish forces from Iraqi territory; Turkey has withdrawn some of its forces from Bashiqa, near Mosul, but Baghdad insisted yesterday on a “complete withdrawal.”

 

  • Free Syrian Army rebels responded to comments by a Russian official that Russian airstrikes had aided the FSA, saying that they remain under attack from Russian strikes and that they receive no direct support from the Russian military.

 

  • After meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the focus of talks going forward would be “not on our differences about what can or cannot be done immediately about Assad,” but about  a peace process in which “Syrians will be making decisions for the future of Syria.”

Arguments and Analysis

A Trip Report from Tunisia’s ‘Dark Regions’” (Amy Hawthorne, Project on Middle East Democracy)

“Cynicism about the revolution and a feeling of isolation from a transition that is constantly praised by the international community ran deep among the young people we met. It is clear that democratic changes to the political system have not yet fixed old problems of alienation. Our interlocutors spoke disdainfully of political parties, complaining that the members of parliament elected last fall were now nowhere to be seen in their home districts. Numerous reports note that youth turnout in last year’s elections was low across Tunisia, and anecdotally it appears to have been especially weak in these deprived regions. Civil society activists said that they feel far removed from national politics and that they cannot influence debates in the capital as the prominent NGOs in Tunis can. People mentioned repeatedly the absence of “political will” on the part of Tunisia’s leaders to improve conditions in the interior and south. And some complained that since the 2014 elections, many of the “same people” who were running the country under Ben Ali are back in power. One person blamed disengaged citizens: if they desire more change, they will push for it. A civil society activist in Sidi Bouzid captured the disillusionment of many when he noted, ‘The only thing that has changed since 2011 is that we can now speak out freely. Before, if we expressed our opinions, we were beaten up or thrown in jail. Now they let us say whatever we want, but they ignore us.’”

 

IAEA Closes Iran’s Nuclear Past, Not its Future” (Kelsey Davenport, Arms Control Association)

“The Board’s decision to close Iran’s file was hardly a surprise. The Dec. 2 report from IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano determining that Iran pursued a nuclear weapons program prior to 2003, and conducted periodic activities leading up until 2009, largely fit with intelligence estimates from the United States and other countries. Additionally, the United States and its P5+1 negotiating partners (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom), all of whom also sit on the 35-member Board of Governors, agreed on a draft resolution prior to the special Dec. 15 meeting. But the passage of this resolution does not mean that the relationship between Iran and the IAEA is normalized. The Dec. 15 Board resolution closes the IAEA’s investigation into the past weaponization activity and will terminate the IAEA’s board resolutions when Tehran complies with its commitments under the July 14 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA ). However, the IAEA will continue to report on Iran’s implementation of the nuclear deal before every quarterly Board meeting and that Iran’s implementation of the nuclear deal will be a matter for the Board’s review for another 10 years, or until the agency reaches its broader conclusion. Iran will also be subject to stringent monitoring and verification. The agreement sets unprecedented provisions as part of the nuclear deal with the P5+1, giving the IAEA access to undeclared sites within a set timeframe if the agency has concerns about illicit activities.”

-J. Dana Stuster

JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images

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