Hans Blix and Robert Kelley, as inspectors for the IAEA, were spot-on right about Iraq: it had no WMD. So when they both accuse current IAEA head Yukiya Amano of pro-western bias, over-reliance on unverified intelligence and of sidelining sceptics it might be a good idea to listen.
Robert Kelley, a former US weapons scientists who ran the IAEA action team on Iraq at the time of the US-led invasion, said there were worrying parallels between the west’s mistakes over Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction then and the IAEA’s assessment of Iran now.
“Amano is falling into the Cheney trap. What we learned back in 2002 and 2003, when we were in the runup to the war, was that peer review was very important, and that the analysis should not be left to a small group of people,” Kelley said.
“So what have we learned since then? Absolutely nothing. Just like [former US vice-president] Dick Cheney, Amano is relying on a very small group of people and those opinions are not being checked.”
…Hans Blix, a former IAEA director general, also raised concerns over the agency’s credibility. “There is a distinction between information and evidence, and if you are a responsible agency you have to make sure that you ask questions and do not base conclusions on information that has not been verified,” he said.
“The agency has a certain credibility. It should guard it by being meticulous in checking the evidence. If certain governments want a blessing for the intelligence they provide the IAEA, they should provide convincing evidence. Otherwise, the agency should not give its stamp of approval.” Blix said he could not say for certain whether that had happened under Amano’s watch.
Blix is talking about the Laptop Of Death, which forms the basis for the current hyperventilation about Parchin. While everyone at least suspects the Laptop came out of Israel via the MeK, to give it a veneer of believablility, and thence to the U.S. and IAEA, few say so out loud. The incredibly dodgy Laptop appeared in 2004 and Israeli intelligence has been recycling its claims to try to give them greater credibility ever since, most notably in 2009.
Blix and Kelley aren’t the only experts worries by the IAEA’s new zealotry.
Jim Walsh, an expert on the Iranian nuclear programme at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that US intelligence had become more certain over recent years in its judgment that Iran ceased weaponisation work in 2003.
“Amano has been way out in front of the US on this,” Walsh said. “I think if the agency is going to be a neutral player in this ”“ and we need a neutral player to make the sort of judgements that have to be made ”“ it will have to be more conservative that the national governments on this.”
The issue is critical. While there is no doubt that Iran is in contravention of US security council resolutions, and there is substantial evidence that the country had an organised weapons project up to 2003, the claim that work has continued has added to the sense of urgency that has fuelled the western oil embargo, due to take effect in less than four months, and threats of military action.