Wikileaks: UK, US Planned to Pressure IAEA on Iran, Tie Tehran to Pyongyang

Scott Peterson’s fine piece at CSM on Iranian reactions to the Wikileaks cables is given further credence by yet another document that surfaced Tuesday. Peterson says that the Iranians took the documents to suggest that President Obama was all along plotting against them even while pursuing a diplomatic track in public, and that a breakthrough through negotiations is now very unlikely.

It is an account of conversations between the US undersecretary for arms control and British officials in early September, 2009. It shows that the then British Labor Government supported President Obama’s diplomatic outreach to Iran but was very much prepared for it to fail, and fail quickly, and so was already focused on ratcheting up further economic sanctions on Tehran. Simon McDonald said that the prime minister did not think Obama’s diplomatic efforts should be “open-ended,” and seemed to have a 30-day deadline in mind for Iran to respond. That sort of impatience does not comport with genuine diplomacy, and it seems clear that the British were eager to impose further sanctions as soon as possible.

Another passage suggests strong British and American pressure on Yukiya Amano, the then incoming head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Under his predecessor, Mohammad Elbaradei, the IAEA had steadfastly refused to rubber stamp US and Western European charges that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon. The inspectors could find no evidence of it, and were able to certify that no nuclear material had been diverted from the civilian program. They were extremely frustrated by Iran’s lack of complete cooperation, and some entertained dark suspicions, but Elbaradei’s reports only included what could be proven from the inspections. Foreign Minister David Miliband spoke of putting some “steel” in Amano’s spine. Ellen Tauscher, the US under secretary for arms control and international security affairs, said that the US and the UK must work to make Amano a “success.”

Reading between the lines, it seems clear that London and Washington intended to get hold of Amano as soon as Elbaradei had departed, and twist his arm to be more alarmist in his reports on Iran. Surely from Washington’s hawkish point of view, any “success” of the IAEA would be in demonstrating an Iranian weapons program and giving evidence that could be used to ratchet up sanctions at the UN Security Council. Ironically, the 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate on Iran had supported Elbaradei’s careful approach. Amano may have been predisposed to be suspicious of Iran because of his own country’s experience of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and his consequent personal commitment to non-proliferation.

It was improper for Miliband to have spoken of putting steel in Amano’s spine, with the obvious meaning that the UK wanted the IAEA to put out reports on Iran’s nuclear activities that mirrored Whitehall’s suspicions– suspicions for which there is no known proof. (Iran has a civilian nuclear enrichment program; no one has found any dispositive evidence that it has a nuclear weapons program, and there is much evidence to the contrary).

There is also a passage about tying Iran’s nuclear program to that of North Korea, said to be urged by then National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones. That strategy is shot through with propaganda, since North Korea went for broke to get a nuclear warhead and has a handful of them now. North Korea conducted underground nuclear detonations in 2006 and 2009, as confirmed by seismic activity. In contrast, Iran has no bomb. All Iran can be shown to have done is to whirl radioactive material around to produce about two tons of uranium enriched to 3.5% and a very small amount enriched to 19.75%, intended for use in Iran’s small medical reactor, given it by the US in 1969. Both these levels of enrichment are considered Low-Enriched Uranium (LEU) and are irrelevant to bomb-making unless they are further processed to 95%– something there is no evidence of the Iranians trying to do or even being able to do. Remember, their facility at Natanz is being inspected. So, Iran is just not like North Korea. The latter is a known violator (like Israel, Pakistan and India) of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Nothing Iran has done since 2003 violates the NPT, which it signed– unlike Israel.

The USG Open Source center today translated an Iranian Fars News Agency, Wednesday, December 1, 2010, report of a television discussion in which an Iranian security expert complained about this very strategy:

‘ Fars News Agency: An expert on Iran and the region emphasized with the new atmosphere of controversy the Zionists are creating they are trying to show that Iran’s peaceful nuclear program is connected to North Korea’s nuclear program. Fars reports Amir Musavi in an interview with this week’s program The Israeli Eye on the Al-Alam News Network mentioned the creation of controversy by the Zionists against Iran’s nuclear program and said the Zionists are trying to divert world public opinion away from their own nuclear armory towards other directions, and to portray Iran’s peaceful nuclear program as a threat they are connecting North Korea’s nuclear program to Iran’s peaceful nuclear program. This expert on Iran and regional affairs added: However unlike North Korea the Islamic Republic of Iran consistently cooperates with the IAEA.’ Musavi added: If the Islamic Republic of Iran were seeking to conceal its peaceful nuclear program it could have done this but Iran has always sought mutual cooperation with the IAEA.

Iran-related passages of the wikileaks cable:

Background: Ellen Tauscher, the US under secretary for arms control and international security affairs held meetings in London on September 2-4 on the margins of the P5 Conference on Confidence Building Measures Towards Nuclear Disarmament with Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Simon McDonald, Head of the Foreign and Defence Policy Secretariat at the Cabinet Office … [and others]

“Tuesday, 22 September 2009, 14:13
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 05 LONDON 002198
NOFORN… 09/21/2019
SUBJECT: U/S TAUSCHER’S MEETINGS WITH FS MILIBAND AND OTHER
HMG OFFICIALS

¶11. (S/NF) Tauscher made clear that Iran needed to respond to the P5 1 offer prior to the UNGA, at which point there would be a stock-taking; absent progress, attention would turn to substantially stronger sanctions. FS Milband opined that U.S. Administration is “rightly trying to overcome a deficit of prejudice and mistrust in a relatively short time” by diplomatic outreach to Iran. He continued that the Iranian elections were a “bad outcome” — an outcome that had given extremists the upper hand and resulted in a “culling of reformists.” Miliband said that, in his opinion, Iran’s extremist government would not make concessions in a short time. Nonetheless, the U.S. “Administration’s support for a diplomatic solution is very wise.” He praised the impact of financial sanctions spearheaded by Treasury U/S Levey. Leslie asserted that the Iranian administration is “in a state of flux” and “not focused,” so probably unable to respond to overtures.

LONDON 00002198 003 OF 005
¶12. (S/NF) McDonald stressed that the PM supports the President’s outreach efforts to Iran, but this outreach should not be “open ended.” The UK view is that “if Iran is not responsive, we have to get serious.” UK experts have concluded that stronger sanctions should be in place by the end of the year if Iran is not significantly responsive by the end of September. McDonald observed that it would take some time to negotiate a UNSCR [United Nations Security Council Resolution]; in the meantime, the UK is considering national steps it could take as well as possible steps the EU could take. HMG shares NSA Jones’ view that proliferation problems posed by Iran and North Korea should be addressed together, not as separate, unrelated issues, McDonald said…

¶14. (S/NF) “We need to put some steel in Director General-elect Amano,” [of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency] Miliband opined. Amano has a key role and he “must be a leader and a consensus-builder who reports faithfully what experts tell him.” McDonald observed that the IAEA seems more prepared than it has in the past to address Iranian conduct. Tauscher agreed we need to make Amano a success.”

13 Responses

  1. Israel’, UK, US aggression against Iran must end. Just look what happend in monday, a nuclear scientist got killed. Cui bono? You know it..

  2. As to “Peterson says that the Iranians took the documents to suggest that President Obama was all along plotting against them even while pursuing a diplomatic track in public, and that a breakthrough through negotiations is now very unlikely.”

    Let us not accept the premise of the hysterical reaction to the Wikileaks that suggests the countries in question have been totally ignorant of true US motives prior to the availability of leaked documents. The only population expected to be surprised by the leaks, and, indeed, in great need of this surprise, is the proudly and aggressively ignorant American citizenry

    To suggest that Iran, for example, needed Assange to point out the treachery of US intentions is to accept the underlying, imperial, racist view that all who are not us
    1) are inferior in every way (especially intellectually) and, therefore
    2) are expendable if we see fit.

    This is especially so if they wear funny headgear and insist on living atop OUR
    petro fuels.

    Note: the CIA World Factbook has all one needs to know about our “policy” towards Iran: it has the world’s third largest oil reserves AND the world’s second largest natural gas reserves. All the rest, including Wikileaks, is window dressing.

    link to cia.gov

    • Iran may have known that US is playing double cross. However, since the exposure by wiki leaks, we have solid proof available to the world at large as to the kind of game they were playing. The contradiction and dishonest dealing of the US govt is there for all to see. It makes a world of difference. Now its all in the open and its not easy to deny. This is just the kind of argument US govt makes.

  3. I don’t know about North Korea but India, Israel and Pakistan never signed the NPT, so they can’t have violated it.

    • Israel did not sign the NPT so they should shut the fuck up . Iran signed the NPT so they are allowed to develop their Nuclear technology, because the NPT says they could do so as long as inspectors are allowed to visist. The IAEA is allowed to visit the Installations.. So why is Israel whining all the time.??

  4. Interesting stuff. I’m still trying to get through all the Iran related cables to get a complete picture of the US approach. There is no doubt that there was a sanctions track, but I don’t think that was in any way concealed. The conversation to which this cable pertains must have taken place in the knowledge of the existence of the Qom facility, which at that point was undeclared by Iran. I suspect the US and UK were able to use Qom as significant leverage to get nuclear talks started. Also, if you look at the cable about the briefing by the IAEA’s Nackearts to the US Embassy in Vienna, it shows the IAEA is genuinely very concerned, but it does raise the question as to how or why the US was entitled to such briefings from IAEA inspectors (a big Iranian concern of course).

    The negotiating advice provided to the US by the Chinese in particular is fascinating, and their pressuring of Iran to negotiate while refusing to upgrade Sino-Iranian relations from normal to strategic as Iran requested is also revealing I think.

  5. It’s likely that this is not about Iran’s nuclear program at all – much like the Iraq invasion was not really about WMD. One Wikileak which is intriguing is the report of Prince Andrew’s comment about The Great Game, and how the Game is back on and “this time we’re going to win!” While publicly the Anglo-American/NATO moves into Afghanistan and the Middle East have been sold as a response to 9-11/terrorists, less docile observers have seen it all as a series of maneuvers based on a geo-political strategy which favors aggressive military tactics to force advantage. Seems that the Prince agrees.

  6. What is also interesting but does not seem to have received much reporting is this from Tauscher’s Tel Aviv meeting in December 2009:

    26. (S) Turning to his crystal ball, Gilad was not sure
    Tehran had decided it wants a nuclear weapon — but is
    “determined” to obtain the option to build one.

    The option to build one – “breakout” capability is not a breach of the NPT. Yet in public the Israelis express a different opinion because they do not want a regional ‘competitor’ and want to be able to strike with impunity at any country in the region.

  7. As for North Korea, let’s not forget how it was and why they ended up developing atomic bombs:

    link to afp.google.com

    The U.S. gov’t under Bush kept insisting that they had a uranium enrichment program, a claim they based on the supposed cocktail party talk between some visiting N. Korean flunky and a U.S. State Dept. flunky (link to antiwar.com). Since second-hand gossip counts as “evidence” to neoconservative minds, this was the pretext for the U.S. breaking the “Agreed Framework” established by the Clinton administration in the ’90s (which the N. Koreans had to agree to if they didn’t want to be bombed back to the stone age by the Clintonistas), even though the N. Koreans officially protested that there was any such uranium enrichment program, of which there was also no independent evidence.

    After the U.S. broke the Agreed Framework, THEN the N. Koreans went ahead and built and tested their first atomic bomb in 2006, which they built with what PLUTONIUM they had from some old Soviet-era nuclear reactor. Thus, the neocons set in motion the chain of events that led to the N. Koreans building nuclear weapons. To which I say, “Well THANK GAWD!” that Most Holy Chosen Exceptional Nation in the Entire History of the Universe and Beyond is policing the whole world!

  8. [...] at Iran but far outside their known missile range. This would have ideally placated Russia and given the US another excuse to rail against Iran. Or it would, if it was actually [...]

  9. Amano has a key role and he “must be a leader and a consensus-builder who reports faithfully what experts tell him.”
    Yeah, sure. “Experts”…

  10. > “North Korea conducted underground nuclear detonations in 2006 and 2009, as confirmed by seismic activity.”

    Carefully chosen wording there.
    While the 2006 test (which was a “fizzle”, probably due to the level of Pu-240 contaminating the Pu-239) released radioactive Xenon-133 – a sure sign of a nuclear test, the 2009 test released no Xenon-133 at all, despite the CTBTO confirming that if it had, the traces would have reached their monitoring stations, that were on maximum alert given that North Korea announced its intention to test in advance.

    It is likely that North Korea had 4,000 tonnes of TNT on standby, ready to use to save face if the real test failed. CTBTO said that this was “logistically very difficult” and dismissed the idea, instead confirming the test was nuclear, despite no radio-nuclide signature. Full story at link to peakoil.org.au

    It is extremely unlikely that North Korea has engineered its Plutonium into bombs when they haven’t yet had a successful test.

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