Cablegate: U.S. Posture On Iran's Nuclear Program and Next
OO RUEHDBU RUEHMR RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHTRO
DE RUEHC #0288/01 3250135
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 210127Z NOV 09
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO IAEA MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 08 STATE 120288
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/10/2019
TAGS: PREL IR
SUBJECT: U.S. POSTURE ON IRAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAM AND NEXT
Classified by NEA Assistant Secretary Jeffrey D. Feltman
for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1. (U) This is an action request. Please see paragraphs
2. (C) Iran's continued reluctance to cooperate with
international efforts to build confidence and
transparency in its nuclear program will be of
increasing concern to U.S. diplomacy in the weeks ahead.
Of particular note is Iran's apparent refusal to date to
agree to an IAEA proposal for Iran to exchange a
significant portion of its stockpiled low-enriched
uranium (LEU) for fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor
(TRR), and the IAEA report of November 16 indicating
serious unresolved questions about Iran's nuclear
intentions. Department requests posts to draw on the
attached narrative in explaining and securing support
for recent U.S. and P5+1 efforts to engage Iran on its
nuclear program, particularly in the lead-up to the IAEA
Board of Governors meeting on November 26. End Summary.
3. (C) FOR ALL POSTS (except Moscow, Paris, Beijing,
London and Berlin): Please draw on narrative beginning
in paragraph 7, and hard questions and answers in
paragraph 12 to brief host governments on:
-- Persistent U.S. efforts to engage Iran throughout
-- Iran's disappointing follow-up to its commitments
with P5+1 in Geneva on October 1;
-- Details of the TRR proposal and the
flexibility the U.S., Russia, France and the IAEA, have
demonstrated to deal with Iranian concerns; and
-- Key findings and implications of the IAEA Director
General's November 16 report on Iran; and
Posts should also begin laying the foundation for
possible future action in response to Iran's non-
cooperation, including at the IAEA (BoG) meeting on 26
November and prudent preparation in the event of a
decision to pursue increased pressure on Iran.
4. (C) SPECIAL REQUEST FOR MOSCOW, PARIS, BEIJING,
LONDON, AND BERLIN: Please inform host government that
we are delivering this message to IAEA members,
consistent with consultations among Political Directors
in the P5+1 process. Posts may share the general tenor
of our message but do not need to deploy the points
themselves with host governments.
5. (C) Posts should not leave any part of this message
in writing with host governments.
6. (U) Posts should report the results of their efforts
by November 25. Elisa Catalano (NEA/FO, 202-647-9533,
CatalanoE@state.sgov.gov) and Richard Nephew (ISN/RA,
202-647-7680, NephewRM@state.sgov.gov) are the
Department's POCs for this activity.
7. (SBU) Since the 1 October 2009 meeting of the P5+1
Political Directors and representatives from Iran, the
United States has been working closely with its partners
to fulfill the commitments reached in Geneva and engage
with Iran to build international confidence in the
peaceful nature of its nuclear program. In particular,
we have focused on supporting the IAEA's proposal for
refueling the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR),
facilitating the IAEA's inspection of the previously
clandestine uranium enrichment plant at Qom, and
pressing for a follow-on meeting between P5+1 Political
Directors and Iranian representatives explicitly on
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Iran's nuclear program.
8. (C) The results since October 1 have been
disappointing. It increasingly appears that Iran will
decline the IAEA's proposal on TRR, though a definitive
answer remains outstanding. In the lead-up to the IAEA
Board of Governors (BOG) meeting on November 26, Iran
may try to blame the apparent failure of the TRR
agreement on intrusive and inflexible demands by western
powers, rather than its own reluctance or inability to
reach agreement on the IAEA proposal which responded to
Iran's request for assistance and was created on the
basis of Iran's own commitments made in Geneva.
Although Iran granted IAEA access to Qom, Iran did not
cooperate with all of the IAEA's requests for access to
information and personnel and there remain serious
questions about Iran's intentions for the facility.
Finally, Iran so far has refused a further meeting with
the P5+1 to discuss its nuclear program. The United
States is now discussing with its P5+1 and other
partners potential next steps, including how to handle
these issues at the next meeting of the IAEA BOG.
9. (SBU) IAEA Director General (DG) ElBaradei released
his latest report on Iran on November 16. The report
makes clear Iran's continuing lack of transparency and
cooperation with the IAEA on its nuclear program,
including in assessing a possible military dimension to
its program. As expected, the uranium enrichment
facility at Qom (also known as the Fordow site) was a
central element of the report, and the IAEA states that
Iran's previous failure to declare the facility is
"inconsistent" with its obligations under its Safeguards
Agreement. The IAEA's report highlights that revelation
of the Qom facility raises concerns of additional
clandestine nuclear sites in Iran and has asked Iran to
confirm that there are no other undeclared nuclear
facilities; Iran has yet to respond to this IAEA
request. Iran continues to defy UNSC resolutions and
IAEA BOG resolutions calling on it to adopt the
Additional Protocol and to provide the access necessary
for the IAEA to provide assurance as to the absence of
additional undeclared nuclear activities.
10. (C) The P5+1 "dual track" policy towards Iran
includes both engagement and pressure if Iran does not
engage constructively. President Obama, Secretary
Clinton, and others have identified the end of the year
as a key period for assessing Iran's responsiveness. If
Iran continues to refuse to take meaningful steps to
meet its international obligations, the international
community must be prepared to take strong collective
action on the pressure track.
KEY DIPLOMATIC MESSAGES AND POLICY NARRATIVE
11. (U) Posts should draw on the following key messages
and policy narrative in briefing host governments.
-- We, in coordination with our international partners,
have demonstrated our willingness to engage
constructively and respectfully with Iran to address
long-standing international concerns over its nuclear
program. Our approach has clearly and consistently been
based on the P5+1's dual track strategy.
-- Iran so far has failed to accept a very good and
balanced IAEA proposal to facilitate the refueling of
the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) which would have
fulfilled an Iranian request, addressed a humanitarian
need of the Iranian people, and served as a confidence-
building step to create an opportunity for further
-- We look forward to close consultations on how best to
persuade Iran to engage constructively as we approach
the IAEA's Board of Governors meeting on November 26 and
-- Since President Obama took office, he has made clear
the willingness of the United States to engage with Iran
and to seek a new relationship based on mutual respect.
-- He has authorized the United States' full
participation in diplomatic discussions between the five
permanent members of the Security Council and Germany
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and Iran without pre-conditions.
-- The United States has stated its support for Iran's
full right to a civilian nuclear program within IAEA
guidelines, provided Iran meets it international
obligations and carries out its responsibilities within
the NPT framework.
-- As a way to build confidence, the United States, with
Russia and France, has also supported the IAEA's
proposal to positively respond to Iran's request for
nuclear fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR), in
spite of Iran's continuing violation of UNSC resolutions
and noncompliance with IAEA requirements on its nuclear
-- However, almost one year into the Obama
administration, Iran has not taken practical, concrete
steps that would begin to create confidence in its
nuclear intentions. Iran:
o Continues to enrich uranium despite UNSC
requirements that it suspend such operations;
o Revealed it had been building a secret uranium
enrichment facility at a military base near Qom,
in violation of its safeguards agreement ;
o Continues to refuse cooperation with the IAEA in
addressing the full range of IAEA questions about
the peaceful purposes of its nuclear program;
o Has not accepted the IAEA proposal to refuel the
o Since meeting with representatives of the five
permanent members of the Security Council and
Germany in Geneva on October 1, has refused all
subsequent efforts to schedule another meeting to
discuss its nuclear program.
-- Iran's failure to take advantage of these numerous
opportunities raises serious questions about the
intentions of its nuclear program that deserve urgent
international attention. We look to work closely with
your government in the run-up to IAEA Board of Governors
meeting on November 26 and beyond to develop an
appropriate international response.
Tehran Research Reactor
-- The IAEA, Russia, France and the United States
cooperated closely and flexibly to find a way to
positively respond to Iran's request for fuel for the
Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) so that it could keep
running to meet humanitarian medical needs beyond 2010.
-- The TRR refueling proposal offers Iran the
opportunity to convert its stockpile of low enriched
uranium (LEU) into higher-enriched fuel with the help of
Russia and France. The proposal's elements are simple:
o Iran would transfer a portion of its LEU
necessary for fuel production in one batch to
IAEA custody outside of Iran before the end of
o Russia would further enrich the LEU to meet fuel
o France would fabricate the fuel assemblies and
return them to Iran before Iran's fuel supplies
are depleted before the end of the year.
-- In addition the United States expressed a commitment
to work with the IAEA to improve safety and control
features at the TRR.
-- The U.S., France and Russia took great risks in
supporting the deal, especially in light of Iran's
continuing violation of successive UNSC resolutions and
IAEA requirements, including its secret construction of
a uranium enrichment facility near Qom, and its
continuing enrichment operations.
-- We did so because the arrangement would begin to
build confidence and would give Iran and the
international community more time to reach a
comprehensive negotiated solution to Iran's nuclear
program, while fulfilling Iran's humanitarian needs.
-- When Iran expressed concern about the reliability of
the proposal, the United States and its partners
expressed to the IAEA a willingness to address Iran's
concerns, including through:
o a U.S. offer to formally join the deal as a
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o a readiness of the five permanent members of the
Security Council and Germany to guarantee the
deal through a political statement of support;
o a willingness to help secure finance for the
movement of the LEU and fuel;
o an openness to move the LEU to any number of
locations outside of Iran; and
o a willingness to support the IAEA's holding
material equivalent to the fuel in escrow in a
third country as a guarantee for Iran of the
fuel's ultimate delivery.
-- After reaching an agreement in principle in the deal
following talks with the E3+3 in Geneva on October 1,
and following further technical discussions at the IAEA
October 19-21, Iran has so far failed to accept the
-- This raises a question about Iran's intentions. If
Iran is enriching uranium to meet its civilian reactor
fuel needs, why would it not accept an international
offer (with significant guarantees) to provide its LEU
for fuel to power the TRR to meet its humanitarian
needs, particularly when it does not have the capability
to produce the fuel on its own?
-- This question is troubling in the context of Iran's
continued enrichment activities in defiance of UNSC
resolutions; its secret construction of an enrichment
facility on a military base near Qom; its refusal to
cooperate with the IAEA in answering questions about the
peaceful nature of its nuclear program; and its refusal
to meet with the five permanent members of the Security
-- Together with our P5+1 partners, the United States
informed Iranian representatives in Geneva on October 1
of our willingness to discuss any items of concern to
Iran - both bilaterally and multilaterally - in addition
to our concerns about Iran's nuclear program.
-- On October 1, Iran's representatives committed to
meet again before the end of the month based on an
agenda that included Iran's nuclear program. Since that
time, however, the Iranian government has refused all
invitations to meet if its nuclear program would be on
-- Iran's continued refusal to engage on its nuclear
program with the P5+1 deepens our concerns about Iran's
intentions for its nuclear program.
The IAEA Director General's Report on Iran
-- The IAEA report makes clear that Iran has failed to
cooperate fully and transparently with the IAEA. Key
aspects of the report include:
---- Iran's new centrifuge facility at Qom - built in
violation of Iran's UNSC obligations and not declared to
the IAEA as required - has been inspected, but its
purpose and origin remain unknown. And, Iran has not
yet cooperated with all of the IAEA's requests for
access to information and personnel. Iran's failure to
provide the IAEA with early design information regarding
the Qom facility has been deemed "inconsistent with its
obligations under the Subsidiary Arrangements to its
Safeguards Agreement" by the IAEA. Furthermore, the
relatively small size of the facility at Qom is
inconsistent with Iran's assertion that it is to provide
fuel for Iran's civilian reactors, raising questions
about the planned use of the Qom facility.
---- The Agency noted that Iran's failure to declare the
Qom facility also "reduces the level of confidence in
the absence of other nuclear facilities under
construction and gives rise to questions about whether
there were any other nuclear facilities in Iran that had
not been declared to the Agency."
---- These concerns have been compounded by the
continued pace of Iranian enrichment and steadfast
refusal to abide by the UNSC's legal requirement that
Iran suspend all such work. Instead, Iran continues to
produce low enriched uranium and estimated its stockpile
at 1763 kilograms at the end of October.
Notwithstanding a reduction in the number of enriching
centrifuges by approximately 600 since August 2009, this
is roughly a similar rate of production as Iran has
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achieved for the past year.
---- Iran continues to install and test additional
centrifuges, with more than 1,000 new centrifuges added
since August 2009.
---- The IAEA has discovered a previously unknown cache
of heavy water in storage at Esfahan, and has requested
Iran to explain its origin. It is important to note
that UN Security Council resolutions include a ban on
supplying Iran with heavy water.
---- It also asked Iran to provide further information
describing an analytical laboratory that Iran says it
plans to install underground at Esfahan.
---- There has been no progress made in addressing
issues associated with Iran's efforts to develop a
nuclear warhead, despite a year having passed since the
last such conversation and many open questions that
surround this work.
-- If Iran wishes to begin to resolve international
concerns, it should comply with its international
obligations, cooperate fully with the IAEA, grant the
access requested (such as to individuals and workshops
associated with past weaponization efforts, and to
individuals responsible for managing Qom), and answer
the questions it has been asked. Iran has created this
confidence deficit and it is up to Iran to restore the
international community's trust.
-- The United States and its partners believe that the
troubling questions surrounding Iran's nuclear program
deserve the full and urgent attention of the
-- We look forward to working with your government to
promote the active involvement of the IAEA and the
international community in addressing these unresolved
-- We will be in touch with you in the days ahead to
share ideas on how to approach the issue at the IAEA
Board of Governors meeting that will begin on November
-- Beyond the Board of Governors meeting, we would also
like to intensify our consultations on next appropriate
steps in the international community based on the dual
track policy (engagement and pressure) to persuade Iran
to bring its nuclear program into full compliance with
its international obligations.
HARD QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
12. (U) We have also compiled the following questions
and answers to draw from should Posts require them:
On The TRR Proposal
-- Why must Iran surrender all of its LEU in one batch,
and why must it be before the end of the year?
o The TRR proposal was developed both to supply
Iran with the fuel required for the continued
operation of the reactor, and also as a measure
to build confidence in Iran's peaceful intentions
and its seriousness to negotiate with the E3+3.
o By agreeing to the transfer of 1200 kilograms of
LEU (enough to equal the last fuel supply
agreement Iran signed for the reactor with
Argentina in the early 1990s), we aimed to lessen
international concerns that Iran was attempting
to create a stockpile of uranium to contribute to
an eventual breakout from the NPT. This would
consequently allow more time for negotiations
with the E3+3 on the broader nuclear file.
o The transfer by the end of the year is needed to
ensure that Iran receives the fuel required for
the reactor before December 2010, when the
reactor will run out and be forced to shut down.
-- What risk does the LEU stored in Iran pose to the
international community? Isn't it under full IAEA
o Yes, this LEU is currently under IAEA safeguards.
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o However, given Iran's long history of IAEA
safeguards violations and NPT noncompliance, the
international community cannot trust that Iran
will not interfere with IAEA monitoring or
withdraw from IAEA safeguards or the NPT
o This project will remove an immediate source of
concern and establish some confidence in Iran's
peaceful intent and willingness to comply with
-- How can Iran be sure it will ever receive the fuel
assemblies for the TRR in the current international
environment, in which many openly seek to diminish
Iran's nuclear capacity?
o We and our E3+3 partners have each made political
commitments at the highest levels to the
fulfillment of this project. Should Iran agree
to it, Iran will receive the fuel required.
o All participants in this project are taking
risks. Iran stands in violation of the NPT, its
IAEA safeguards agreement, and three Chapter VII
UNSC resolutions. This project offers Iran an
opportunity to establish confidence in its
peaceful intentions, a confidence that has eroded
due to Iran's continued non-compliance.
-- Can Iran simply purchase the fuel from an
international supplier, as some have advocated in Iran?
o The UN Security Council resolutions do permit
Iran to Iran can purchase low-enriched fuel from
an international supplier if it wishes.
o However, we are confident Iran would not find a
willing supplier given the concerns surrounding
its nuclear program and its continued defiance of
the international community.
o Outside of the context of the IAEA proposal
before Iran, we would oppose such a deal.
-- How would the E3+3 respond if Iran announced it had
"no choice" but to make its own fuel for the TRR?
o Under three UN Security Council resolutions, Iran
is required to suspend all uranium enrichment-
related activities. We have offered Iran a way
to secure the necessary TRR fuel without further
violating these obligations. Enrichment
activities to produce its own fuel for the TRR
would be a violation of current UNSCRs.
o Further, Iran is not currently able to produce
the fuel. Reconfiguration of Iranian centrifuges
to produce the required enrichment level (19.75%)
would cause serious international concern and
could permit Iran to produce a stockpile of even
greater enriched uranium than it has currently
(Iran's current enrichment level is 3.5%). This
would increase the risk of a near-term Iranian
breakout from the NPT and sprint to producing
On Demands to Suspend Enrichment
-- Iran suspended enrichment once before in response to
international demands, and received no benefit. Why
should Iran trust the international community now?
o Iran's suspension of uranium enrichment and other
activities in the past was intended to support a
diplomatic process. Unfortunately, Iran
terminated that diplomatic process in August 2005
by abandoning suspension.
o However, prior to that point, Iran's temporary
suspension avoided its being reported to the UN
Security Council and the sanctions that would
have likely come along with that report.
o The requirement of suspension imposed by the UNSC
in resolution 1737 is intended to restore that
diplomatic process and to lead to a final
resolution of international concerns with Iran's
o This was codified in UNSCR 1737 when the UNSC
stated its intention to suspend implementation of
the measures adopted by the UNSC if Iran returned
to negotiations through suspension of its nuclear
and related activities.
o Trust is in short supply on both sides. It is
for that reason that we have offered Iran several
opportunities for reciprocal, confidence-building
steps (e.g., "freeze for freeze" and the TRR
-- What about recent reports indicating the Iranian
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enrichment program has not grown. What is the
significance of this stagnation?
o Iran has slowed or scaled back the enrichment
program several times since the project became
public in 2002.
o There are many possible explanations for the
stagnation of the Iranian enrichment program,
including technical issues with the centrifuges
and general system maintenance.
o Regardless of Iran's lack of progress in its
enrichment program, it continues to enrich and
stockpile LEU. This activity in violation of
three United Nations Security Council resolutions
calling for full suspension of its nuclear and
enrichment related activities, and increases the
risk of a near-term Iranian breakout from the NPT
and sprint to producing nuclear weapons.
Israel's Nuclear Program
-- Why is there not equal attention to Israel's nuclear
status? Does it not also destabilize the region?
o The United States has long supported universal
adherence to the NPT treaty and continues to
believe that all states that have not done so
should join the Treaty and accept the full-scope
IAEA safeguards on all of their nuclear
o It is extremely difficult, however, to make this
case to a non-NPT state when its neighbors are in
violation of their own NPT obligations, and when
the international community has not demonstrated
the political will necessary to enforce
o Iran's failure to comply with its NPT and IAEA
obligations bears out these concerns and
undermines attempts to secure universal adherence
to the NPT. It became a party to the treaty and
proceeded to violate its obligations under it for
over twenty years, presenting a fundamental
threat to the entire nonproliferation regime.
o Returning regional states to full compliance with
their NPT obligations would be an important step
toward NPT adherence by all states in the region.
An Iranian nuclear weapons capability also serves
as a destabilizing factor in the region, possibly
triggering proliferation across the Gulf in
response to a mounting threat posed by Iran. Not
only does this undermine the entire nuclear
nonproliferation regime, but risks further
instability in the region.
-- How can you say that the Qom facility was secret,
when it was Iran that announced its existence and
invited IAEA inspectors to visit?
o Iran was required to declare the existence of
this facility to the IAEA the moment the decision
was made to construct it, not several years into
its construction. This is a requirement of
Iran's IAEA Safeguards Agreement (contained in
Code 3.1 of the Subsidiary Arrangement to Iran's
o This code was modified after revelations
surrounding Iraq's nuclear program were made in
the early 1990s.
o Iran was the last state to agree to the revised
code, but it did so in March 2003. Iran
attempted to revert to the early form of the code
(which requires notification only 180 days prior
to the introduction of nuclear to the facility)
in March 2007. The IAEA consistently has
rejected that Iran has the legal ability to make
such a change.
o We also believe that Iran made the decision to
declare the facility not to conform to its legal
obligations, but because it had become aware that
the secrecy of the facility had been compromised.
-- Iran claims it needs such a hardened facility as
Fordu because for years both the US and Israel have
threatened to bomb its nuclear sites. Is it not
surprising Iran would try to keep its location a secret
to have an emergency back-up facility?
O Iran's own failure to meet its obligations for
transparency and IAEA monitoring of sensitive
nuclear installations is the cause for the
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international community's concerns that
surrounding its nuclear program.
o Iran's decision to construct yet another
clandestine site only deepens these concerns.
-- Why should Iran discuss its nuclear program with the
self-appointed P5+1? Isn't the IAEA the proper place
for Iran to engage on its nuclear program with the
O We welcome Iran's engagement with the IAEA. But
despite its rhetoric, Iran has not engaged with
the IAEA. Iran has refused for several years to
answer the IAEA's questions (even before the IAEA
reported Iran to the UNSC for its myriad
violations of its international obligations).
o The E3+3 mechanism evolved as a means to
negotiate a solution precisely because Iran was
refusing to engage with the IAEA on the concerns
regarding Iran's nuclear program.