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The alleged IAEA-Iran agreement, annotated by a former IAEA inspections official

IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano
IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano

On Wednesday, the Associated Press published an explosive story alleging that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had struck a deal with Iran to allow the country to run the inspection of its own facility, an explosives test building shorthanded as Parchin that is believed to have been used for nuclear weapons research in the early 2000s. The report was based on what the AP's anonymous source claimed was an early draft of the agreement.

The story came under intense criticism from arms control experts, who said the AP's reporting did not back up its allegations. They said the story exaggerated the information it contained and misled readers on the very nature of how nuclear inspections work.

On Thursday, as the AP came under increasing pressure, it published what it said was the full text of the draft IAEA agreement. The arms control experts were not convinced: Jeffrey Lewis, of Middlebury College, called the draft "way too vague to support that story." Cheryl Rofer, who has previously worked alongside the IAEA, tweeted that there were "several things wrong" with the draft, for example that "the whole thing is far too vague. It has no resemblance to a sampling plan."

What follows is the alleged draft IAEA agreement, annotated by Tariq Rauf, the former head of verification and security policy coordination at the International Atomic Energy Agency and now a think tank nuclear nonproliferation scholar.

Rauf, who originally published his annotations through the organization Atomic Reporters (they are reproduced here with its permission), concluded that he suspected the draft may be fake. I am not convinced this is necessarily the case: Rauf bases this in part on several odd errors in the draft, such as misidentifying Iran's formal country name, but I suspect this may be because the AP reporter was required to copy down the draft agreement text by hand.

So I would not read too much into those smaller errors, which I would attribute to the handwriting equivalent of typos, although it does raise questions about whether there could be more substantial errors as well. Still, Rauf's annotations of the technical aspects of the agreement are helpful in understanding what this document says and does not say. In the aggregate, if we assume the document is broadly accurate, it still seems oddly bereft of details on how the IAEA will monitor any sampling processes, which, as Lewis explained, is a crucial detail in evaluating the strength of the agreement.

What follows is the full text of the draft IAEA agreement, according to the AP, along with annotations provided by nuclear nonproliferation expert and former IAEA official Tariq Rauf:

Separate arrangement II agreed by the Islamic State of Iran1 and the International Atomic Energy Agency2 on 11 July 2015, regarding the Road-map, Paragraph 5

Iran never calls itself "Islamic State"

Normal practice for the IAEA in official documents, legal agreements, is to refer first to the IAEA and then (second) to the Contracting Party – i.e., the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Islamic Republic of Iran

Iran3 and the Agency agreed on the following sequential arrangement with regard to the Parchin issue:

Iran refers to itself as the Islamic Republic of Iran in official documents, not just "Iran"

1. Iran will provide to the Agency photos of the locations, including those identified in paragraph 3 below, which would be mutually agreed between Iran and the Agency, taking into account military concerns.

2. Iran will provide to the Agency videos of the locations, including those identified in paragraph 3 below, which would be mutually agreed between Iran and the Agency, taking into account military concerns.

3. Iran will provide to the Agency 7 environmental samples4 taken from points inside one building already identified by the Agency and agreed by Iran, and 2 points outside of the Parchin complex5 which would be agreed between Iran and the Agency.

Standard IAEA swipe kit contains 6 "swipes" (swipe cloths). Even if 7 sampling points or locations within the building (purported ‘explosives chamber’) are meant, this is an arbitrary number?

Swipes "outside" of Parchin make little sense – and only 2! Even if 2 sampling points or locations outside the Parchin military-industrial facility are meant, this is an arbitrary number?

4. The Agency will ensure the technical authenticity of the activities6 referred to in paragraphs 1-3 above. Activities will be carried out using Iran's authenticated equipment7, consistent with technical specifications8 provided by the Agency, and the Agency's containers and seals.9

Not specified how IAEA would "ensure technical authenticity"

This is not standard IAEA language – there is no "authenticated equipment" for the use of States relevant for safeguards, monitoring and verification

This is not standard IAEA language – IAEA safeguards equipment is certified by IAEA for quality/tech specs for IAEA’s own use – any technical specifications are not shared with States. Even if IAEA swipe kits are meant, the formulation of language is strange and not standard IAEA language

Environmental sampling does not involve "containers and seals" as such – swipes are sealed in clear plastic pouches/bags – see photos on my article on Again the language is not standard IAEA language

5. The above mentioned measures would be followed, as a courtesy by Iran, by a public visit of the Director General, as a dignitary guest of the Government of Iran, accompanied by his deputy for safeguards.10

This is not standard IAEA language – there is no logical rationale for inclusion of such a paragraph. There is no reason for the IAEA Director General to make a "public visit" to Iran – he is not a tourist to make public visit, his visits normally are for official/technical purposes.

6. Iran and the Agency will organize a one-day technical roundtable on issues relevant to Parchin.11

IAEA organizes technical meetings, topical meetings, dialogue forums, topical meetings, experts meetings, symposia -- "technical roundtable" is not standard IAEA language

For the International Atomic Energy Agency: Tero Varjoranta, Deputy Director General for Safeguards12

Correct formal title is: Deputy Director General, Head of the Department of Safeguards – this formulation is used by the IAEA in official agreements and documents.

For the Islamic Republic of Iran: Ali Hoseini Tash, Deputy Secretary of Supreme National Security Council for Strategic Affairs13

This is unprecedented – in the past IAEA has signed agreements with the President or Vice President of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) and with the senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – these are "designated points of contact" (POC) in Iran for the IAEA – the Supreme National Security Council is not a designated POC and it is highly unlikely that IAEA would sign a binding agreement with such a non-designated entity. Mr Ali Hosseini Tash is previously associated with the Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL) – Internet search does not bring up Tash as Deputy Secretary of the SNSC – in fact Wikipedia page does not list any position as Deputy Secretary nor Tash.