Report - Institute for Science and International Security

Understanding the IAEA's Mandate in Iran: Avoiding Misinterpretations

| Nov. 27, 2012

Much attention has focused on Iran's advancing nuclear program, on the peace and security concerns which that program has raised, and on the international policy debate over how to respond to that program. Far less attention has been paid to the various legal-sounding arguments used by Iran and a few academics to call into question the mandate of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to investigate and make determinations about actual or suspected violations of Iran’s legal obligations. Although arguments used by Iran and these academics to undermine the legitimacy of IAEA activities regarding Iran are patently false, they are nevertheless dangerous to both current and future nonproliferation efforts. Unless these arguments are clearly countered, and their fallaciousness clearly demonstrated for all the world to see, these arguments may decrease the chances of Iran agreeing to comply with its international legal obligations, could provide a fig leaf to those countries disinclined to hold Iran accountable, and might undercut the IAEA's and the United Nations Security Council's potentially pivotal roles in facilitating a peaceful resolution to disputes over the nuclear programs of Iran and future proliferators.

It is in that light that we have chosen to address the dangerous claim published on September 13, 2012 by Daniel Joyner, a law professor at the University of Alabama, that the IAEA has exceeded its legal mandate in applying safeguards in Iran in accordance with a comprehensive safeguards agreement (CSA) under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In view of the importance of the IAEA's activities regarding Iran, the persistent efforts by Iran to call into question the legitimacy of those IAEA activities, and our concern to ensure that there is no misunderstanding as to the agency's mandates, we are writing to discuss those mandates and explain why Joyner is incorrect.

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For Academic Citation: David Albright, Olli Heinonen, and Orde Kittrie. “Understanding the IAEA's Mandate in Iran: Avoiding Misinterpretations.” Institute for Science and International Security, November 27, 2012.

The Authors