Jennifer Linker: This is Jennifer Linker at the Carnegie Endowment. If you're just joining us, we’re about to start our conference call. This is a press briefing on the Iranian Nuclear Showdown with Non-Proliferation experts Pierre Goldschmidt and George Perkovich.
The conference call will be held from until approximately Eastern Standard Time. The conference call is also being recorded. And after the conference call, I will be able to email out instructions on how to access that recording. Eventually, we hope to have a transcript within 48 hours. Just a couple of key commands, you can mute your own line by pressing star- 6 and un-mute by pressing star-7. And I’d appreciate if everyone would mute their conference line so we don’t get noise interference when we begin. We will begin momentarily in about two minutes.
Jennifer Linker: Okay, let me welcome everyone to this conference call once again. My name is Jennifer Linker. I am the Communications Manager here at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in
He’s written several analytical papers proposing constructive and pragmatic solutions to address the weaknesses of the non-proliferation regime. As moderator, we have George Perkovich, who is vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment. He’s written extensively on and traveled to
And let’s begin.
George Perkovich: Thanks. Good morning or afternoon, whatever the case may be, depending on where you're calling from. I'm just going to introduce Pierre very quickly, but also just want to remind you that once Pierre has done a five-minute kind of update or - and briefing, we will open to questions. And please, when you ask a question, state your name and your affiliation so that both Pierre and I, but also your colleagues, know where you're working from. Pierre, will you do us a favor since so much is happening so quickly on this story over the last week, maybe give us a five-minute update on what are the outstanding questions that the IAEA inspectors still have regarding Iran? And then talk about based on your experience, do you think the matter will be referred to the UN Security Council at what is now being called a Special Meeting of the IAEA for February 2? And then I think we should just open to questions after that.
Pierre Goldschmidt: Okay. Good morning, George. Do you hear me?
George Perkovich: Yes. We hear you great here, yeah.
Pierre Goldschmidt: Okay. Well, to answer your question there are quite a number of outstanding questions that have been reported by the IAEA Secretariat to its Board of Governors, and I will try to mention just a few. First of all, the Agency has still to understand why in 1985, in the middle of the war with
Also, it was reported very recently that contrary to what could have been expected, environmental samples recently collected at the location in another member state where the centrifuge components had been stored, well, did not indicate any trace of contamination, and this has to be still explained. The Agency also does not have a clear understanding of the activities carried out by the
And finally, last November the IAEA reported that it was - that it had found documents related to the casting and machining of enriched uranium metal into hemispherical form, which has absolutely no peaceful use but can be used for some type of nuclear weapons. And I think I will stop there.
Pierre Goldschmidt: Yes, that’s correct. Yes. That’s correct.
George Perkovich: Why don’t we stop right now and take questions on what
Man: One clarification. Can we use the name of
George Perkovich: As far as I'm concerned, since I have access to no classified or IAEA record and Pierre didn’t tell me this, I got it on my own someplace else, as far I'm concerned, you can. But it’s not coming from
Pierre Goldschmidt: I have said nothing that you wouldn’t find in the Board reports.
Michael Glenzer: Michael Glenzer with Exchange/Monitor Publications. In the past, Director-General El-Baradei has been very cautious with how these reports are termed, but there has been sort of a sense of a mood change I guess that El-Baradei is getting more frustrated, or at least seems to lay off. What are those (unintelligible) information that was just detailed is the most (unintelligible) evidence that is causing us that sort of shift in perspective?
George Perkovich: Did you hear that,
Pierre Goldschmidt: I didn’t get the question.
George Perkovich: Okay, it was basically - he was - the question was noting that El-Baradei, Director-General El-Baradei seems more frustrated in his - you know, has more energy, is little less diplomatic in his recent statements on Iran.
Pierre Goldschmidt: Yes.
George Perkovich: So the question was asking, what of the issues that you cited, the evidence that you cited, is there any particular piece in there that may be causing El-Baradei to grow more frustrated or is it something else that’s leading to his, for lack of a better word, his tougher language over the last week?
Pierre Goldschmidt: Well, I think -- it would be for him to speak of course -- but I think he’s disappointed by the fact that - he’s a great believer in negotiation and diplomacy. And of course
George Perkovich: Other questions?
Howard LaFranchi: Howard LaFranchi with Christian Science Monitor. The points you raised there, I noted, I mean even the first question goes all the way back to 1985. And I'm just wondering how long would it take to sort of get to the bottom of these issues, and I guess -- I'm trying to get an idea of what might happen at this meeting on February 2. I mean these issues are very complex, and on the other hand we’re talking about El-Baradei, among others, that’s sort of losing patience. How long would it take to really get to the bottom of these issues, and what's likely to happen about them at the February 2 meeting?
Pierre Goldschmidt: Well, if you're asking how long it would take to resolve all the outstanding issues, well, I think with the existing authority of the IAEA inspectors, it could take forever. And I don’t think time is in anyway helping the inspectors, because the more time goes, the more difficult it will be to reconstruct the past history of the Iranians’ undeclared activities. So it has become urgent and essential for the IAEA in this specific case of
cooperative with the IAEA. But that has absolutely no legal value. I mean they can ask and ask and ask again, but the inspectors, when they are going in the field, they can do nothing with that, they don’t have the authority. So only the UN Security Council can give the IAEA that authority. And clearly this has nothing to do with sanctions.
Howard LaFranchi: So would you - would that come in a (unintelligible) that would be - thenthe Board recognizing that would then, even if that were they're limited goal, then they would presumably move to send this to the Security Council just to get that expanded authority?
Pierre Goldschmidt: Yes. Yes, I think, at this stage, I see no alternative -- I see no alternative. I think it is important to request the UN Security Council to provide the IAEA with extended authority, and of course, in parallel, to request
its enrichment-related activities. These are the two fundamental needs today. George Perkovich: Yes. Okay, speak up and say who you are and then your question and name.
Joni Jaje: My name is Joni Jaje based with NHK, it’s a Japanese news network. Can you just reiterate the end of that answer, I'm sorry -- and kind of what - exactly what in your mind the UN needs to do to help the situation?
Pierre Goldschmidt: What was that?
Joni Jaje: To make it more progressive. Can you reiterate the end of that answer and tell me exactly what you think the UN would have to do next to make the situation progressive?
Pierre Goldschmidt: Yes. Well, first of all, let me say something. I'm struck by the tendency of the international community to only react to crisis and by its difficulty to draw the lessons from previous crises in order to diminish the chances that they could reoccur. And so, generally speaking, I try to stand back and to find out what could reasonably be done to improve and consolidate the non-proliferation regime but not to link it to a specific case. So I find it quite embarrassing and uncomfortable to now come to have to solve one specific case which is
Pierre Goldschmidt: Pardon?
George Perkovich: You said
Pierre Goldschmidt: I meant
Carol Giacomo: Carol Giacomo from Reuters.
Can you tell me at what point you believe we reach a critical phase with
Pierre Goldschmidt: Well, frankly, I don’t like to speculate on those things because I don’t think it helps very much, and I would leave that to others. I'm trying to define and find out what is necessary to progress in this crisis with
Elaine Sciolino: If I could follow up…
George Perkovich: Sure, Carol.
Elaine Sciolino: This is - if I could follow up the question from my very dear friend Carol Giacomo. This is Elaine Sciolino from The New York Times. Mr. Goldschmidt, you talked about that
Pierre Goldschmidt: Yes. Well, I think, you know, Iran - the game chess - chess game I mean was invented by the Iranians, so they are extremely good players, and I always have felt that they are playing three steps in advance of anyone else. So I admire them very much for that. It is clear that the last three years and the delays during the last three years had been to the advantage in my mind of
George Perkovich: Elaine, this is George Perkovich. Just - I’ll try a little answer to your question which is just based on interactions with some of the new negotiators and a lot of the old negotiators who were replaced in the last few months, and also things that, you know, that Iranians say and the President of Iran says, which is that over the last few months what you see is a view that Iran was either mistaken to engage in the suspension and the negotiations or at least was way too accommodating, and
that President Ahmadinejad and perhaps others have a view that the way the world works is you act tough, you make clear what your bottom lines are and you pursue it and you don’t act as if other people (adhere) the strength or the will to stop you and you create facts on the ground and eventually the rest of the world has to adapt to this. So I was told for example that President Ahmadinejad was in
Pierre Goldschmidt: Right.
George Perkovich: And if that - that actually - whether he said that or not, I don’t know, I was told by an Iranian he did.
Elaine Sciolino: Uh-huh.
George Perkovich: But in any case, the behavior since then suggests that logic. So, you know, in August, which was prior to the alleged statement, you know, they resumed their operation in
Pierre Goldschmidt: Yeah.
George Perkovich: …if that was a mistake, but because, well, finally you kicked a dog enough and either, you know, the dog actually turns around and bites or, you know, the master of the dog goes and gets a gun and act but that may take a while. But I think there has been a shift over the last few months in
Pierre Goldschmidt: Yes. Obviously there has been a shift at least in the negotiation tactic. Now, you have to - the Iranians are very legalistic in their approach to the whole issue. And one has to remember that the suspension of the activities, they have repeatedly and rightfully so said, “This was on a voluntary nonlegally- binding basis”. So really by restarting, they are not violating anything except of course the agreements with EU3. But from a non-proliferation point of view and IAEA as a body, they are not violating anything. And it’s the same with the Additional Protocol. They have signed the Additional Protocol to the Safeguards Agreement but they didn’t ratify and they just, in the meantime, agreed on a voluntary basis to implement it. Now again this is not legally-binding.
And so they are very clever. They are not in new breaches of Safeguards Agreement. And this is why it is necessary, and they are forcing the issue, to report to the Security Council because only the Security Council can give - can make those commitments binding. The Security Council can give - improve the authority under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter to the IAEA and request suspension. So that’s very important, because they are very careful about the legal aspect, and they are using that to convince the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) that it’s the neocolonialist countries that are trying to impose things which are against the Article 4 of the NPT and that it is - well, you know, and on developing countries, and they are trying to make a case and convince the NAM.
And what is important is to tell the
Babak Yektafar: Mr. Goldschmidt, this is Babak Yektafar with Washington Prism online magazine. I guess you've kind of started answering the question I was going to ask you a little towards the end. And that is, you’ve mentioned a great deal about a lack of authority on behalf of IAEA and that Iranians have maintained, and that’s also what I keep hearing when I visit, that they’re being picked on. Is there anything, immediate remedies so to speak, that you can think of that would come up with some sort of a consensus among these countries who are negotiating with Iran -- to come up with a set of rules that would also include countries like North Korea and so on and so forth, that would at least eliminate this claim that Iran is having, that they’re just being singled out and they’re being picked on?
Pierre Goldschmidt: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. That’s exactly my point. I think the UN Security Council should adopt a generic resolution saying that when the IAEA has found the country to be in noncompliance and if the IAEA requests more verification authority, the UN Security Council would immediately, under a Chapter 7 resolution, provide this authority, additional authority, to the Agency. I think that’s the solution. And this would not be case specific and it would apply for
George Perkovich: This is George Perkovich again. I just want to add to that, and I think
Pierre Goldschmidt: Yes.
Pierre Goldschmidt: Yes. And if I may add one more thing, is, also no one has really learned the lessons from
George Perkovich: Other questions?
Dave Ruppe: Yes. Dave Ruppe with Global Security Newswire. I’m sorry, maybe this was discussed, I just came on. But would it be within
cite some sort of a security threat that warrants it?
Pierre Goldschmidt: No, they would have to cite a security threat.
Dave Ruppe: But has anyone in
Pierre Goldschmidt: Well, no - they - no. I don’t think they have. But then we will not know until they notify their withdrawal, if they intend to do so. But…
George Perkovich: This is George again. Let me add also. I’m not a lawyer. My understanding from international lawyers is that there’s some kind of a common practice and common legal understanding that one cannot withdraw from a treaty in order to escape the consequences of having violated the treaty. And that withdrawal under those conditions would not be recognized. So under the scenario that you’re talking about, the only basis for withdrawal that would somehow be recognized is this material change in the security circumstances of a country, and there’s a negotiating record on the NPT on this, but you can’t get caught, be under investigation, and then say, “Well, fine, I’m out of the treaty, therefore I don’t care about your little investigation or what happens.” No. It’s applicable for those violations even if you try to withdraw.
Dave Ruppe: Right. And I guess they try to make the claim that, you know, regardless of these other questions, they have a security threat that warrants it.
George Perkovich: They don’t actually make that claim. And this is very…
George Perkovich: Well, no, this is very important too. You have to remember, Iranian officials insist they don’t want nuclear weapons and that this is entirely a peaceful program. So they are not out making claims, you know, “Here’s why we need nuclear weapons. We have security threats and so on and so forth,” because they’re insisting they don’t want nuclear weapons and this isn’t about nuclear weapons, it’s entirely peaceful. So you don’t get that articulation of a security rationale.
Dave Ruppe: Right, okay.
Pierre Goldschmidt: Yes, I have here the text exactly; I just tried to get it. You know, the Article 10 of the NPT says, each party shall, in exercising its national sovereignty, has the right to withdraw from the treaty if it decides, it decides, that extraordinary events related to subject matter of this treaty have jeopardized the supreme interest of its country.
Dave Ruppe: I mean obviously a country that’s going to that, before they make such a declaration, is going to pretend like they don’t have a nuclear program and then, you know, all of a sudden they’re going to say, “Well, maybe we should
have one after all.”
Pierre Goldschmidt: Well, that's exactly what the DPRK did,
George Perkovich: I mean I think this is highly unlikely in the case of
Pierre Goldschmidt: Sure…
George Perkovich: It would be abandoned by everybody. So I don’t think this is…
Dave Ruppe: That’s a good point.
George Perkovich: …a useful, kind of line of pursuit right now. I think - let me just add something to -- again I don’t know that I’ve seen written about, but there’s partly a structural problem, and
Pierre Goldschmidt: Well…
George Perkovich: There’s a structural question here which is to say at some point, does the interest - the international interest in having the mysteries all resolved lead you to say, okay, your past sins are forgiven and we can move forward, or do we not do that? But it seems to me this is an issue that’s worth addressing.
Pierre Goldschmidt: Yes. But I think we have a precedent with
George Perkovich: Other questions?
Any other questions out there in telephone land?
Pierre Goldschmidt: No, not for me.
Woman: I guess not.
Michael Glenzer: This is Michael Glenzer…
George Perkovich: Okay, we got one more here. Hang on.
Michael Glenzer: This is Michael Glenzer, Exchange/Monitor Publications again. I'm wondering where the Russian proposal stands right now with all the talk in the international community about getting a lot of (unintelligible) this proposal has gotten sidelined from the press reports. What’s going on, to what it’s ironic? That thing, is it still out there and what are the details of the proposal as it stands at this point?
Pierre Goldschmidt: To whom - who should answer that one?
George Perkovich: Go ahead,
Pierre Goldschmidt: Well, I don’t really know more than what I read in the media. I think the Russians as many others are still hoping for a negotiated solution, so their proposal is still on the table. But
George Perkovich: No. I - my own sense is that, just what you said. Other questions? Well, then I - we’ll close. I want to thank all of you for joining, but especially Pierre Goldschmidt. I think you understand why we’re so happy to have him as a visiting scholar at Carnegie Endowment. He’s got a fount of information and one of the more rigorous analytic minds I've ever encountered. So it’s a pleasure to work with
And he’s also available through Jennifer here at the Endowment, you know, for follow-on and other questions. Thank you for joining us.
Pierre Goldschmidt: It’s a pleasure.
George Perkovich: And, Jennifer is there anything else to close?
Jennifer Linker: Yes. This is Jennifer Linker from the Carnegie Endowment. Let me just make two points.
We will - we have recorded this conference, and as far as I understand it, it will be available five to ten minutes after the conference closes. In order to access it, you will need a pass code that I will email out to all participants. If you don’t receive it from me, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following the recording, in about 24 to 48 hours, we will have a written transcript available; everything will be up on our Web site at
And I thank everyone for joining.
Pierre Goldschmidt: Thank you.
Woman: Thank you.
Pierre Goldschmidt: Okay.