Closing the Loop: Iraq and the Additional Protocol

Iraq’s Ambassador to the IAEA, Surood Rashid Hajib, submits to IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano a letter announcing Iraq’s ratification and entry into force of the Additional Protocol in Vienna, Austria on October 23, 2012.

By Greg Thielmann

It was encouraging, and more than a little ironic, when the government of Iraq recently ratified the Additional Protocol to its comprehensive safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Iraqi deception was the principal impetus for creating the Additional Protocol in 1997. The absence of Additional Protocol powers for the IAEA in Iraq contributed to the inaccurate assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Iraq WMD estimate in 2002, and the U.S. Administration’s ability to distort the facts prior to the US/UK invasion in 2003. Iraq’s endorsement of the Additional Protocol can have a beneficial impact now on six power negotiations with Tehran over Iran’s nuclear program.

Iraq: Not so long ago, a nuclear-weapons-state aspirant

Iraq’s earlier success at cloaking the extent of its non-peaceful nuclear program from IAEA inspectors in the late 1980s was exposed when the IAEA gained full access to the Iraqi facilities and personnel dedicated to nuclear weapons development, following the international coalition’s 1991 liberation of Kuwait. The IAEA’s previous failure to adequately understand the scope of Baghdad’s deception demonstrated that the agency could not confine its inspection and monitoring activities to facilities or materials explicitly declared in a safeguards agreement. The Iraqi example led to a determination by IAEA member states to make major reforms in agency safeguards procedures.

As a first step, under its own existing authority, the IAEA added new monitoring measures, such as environmental sampling, no-notice inspections at key measurement points within declared facilities, and remote monitoring and analysis.

The second step was to secure an expansion of its legal authority in the form of an additional protocol to be voluntarily adopted by each NPT member state to supplement its existing IAEA safeguards agreement. This protocol was designed to strengthen and expand IAEA safeguards for verifying that non-nuclear weapon states-parties to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) only use nuclear materials and facilities for peaceful purposes. The agency would thereby be given authority to visit any facility, declared or not, to investigate questions about a state’s nuclear declarations.

If the Additional Protocol had been functioning in Iraq during the decade leading up the Second Gulf War, the U.S. Intelligence Community would have been less likely to judge erroneously in 2002 that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program. It would have also been more difficult for the George W. Bush Administration to distort the nature of the Iraqi threat.

Today, Iraq’s nuclear proliferation potential is far down on the ample list of concerns about the country’s future. In light of its reviving petroleum sector and less acute threats of external intervention, near- and medium-term incentives for nuclear power or nuclear weapons are minimal. However, considering where Iraq has been with its previous pursuit of nuclear weapons, Baghdad’s acceptance of the Additional Protocol bodes well for long-term monitoring of Iraq’s compliance with its NPT obligations.

Iran: Are you watching?

The impact of Iraq’s acceptance of the Additional Protocol may be most important initially with respect to Iran. Although the NPT is the most widely subscribed treaty in the history of arms control, only 140 of its 189 members have ratified the Additional Protocol and only 119 have brought it into force. The most consequential holdout is Iran. Although Tehran signed the Additional Protocol (and suspended uranium enrichment) in December 2003 in negotiations with the Europeans, it announced in October 2005 that Iran would not be subject to the procedures.

Any successful solution to the Iran nuclear crisis will have to include Iran’s agreement to again abide by the terms of the Additional Protocol, if not to grant even wider access to IAEA inspectors. As former IAEA Deputy Director General Olli Heinonen stated in an October 31 email exchange with the author, “[the Additional Protocol] will be indispensable in understanding [Iran’s] enrichment and heavy water programs…”

Various Iranian officials have suggested a willingness to accept the Additional Protocol if Iran’s right to enrichment is made clear. Endorsement of the Additional Protocol by Iraq, one of Iran’s few friendly neighbors, should help to increase pressure on Iran to do likewise.

Middle East WMD-Free Zone “Deliverable”

The timing of Iraq’s action is also propitious with respect to the Middle East WMD-Free Zone conference scheduled to be held in Helsinki next month. Participants in this event, which may include both Iran and Israel, have varying relationships to the NPT and the Additional Protocol. Since only seven of some 18 possible participants have signed and put into force the Additional Protocol, attracting additional adherents is a logical conference objective. Egypt and Saudi Arabia would be particularly influential converts, but any country either signing up to the NPT or to the Additional Protocol for NPT members would help fulfill the  nonproliferation objectives of the conference, giving momentum to regional arms control efforts in the Middle East.

Iraq’s acceptance of the Additional Protocol would have seemed improbable when it was first drawn up in 1997 and even more difficult to imagine one decade ago as the international community geared up to force Saddam Hussein to receive the UN inspectors he had expelled in 1998. In a neighborhood where good news is so scarce, last week’s achievement is well worth celebrating.

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5 Responses to Closing the Loop: Iraq and the Additional Protocol

  1. Wayne White says:

    Good comments, Greg.

  2. yousaf says:

    I agree that if Iraq had adopted the AP then it may have been somewhat less likely that Bush and Co. would have misled us into war — but only marginally. In the case of Iraq, nuclear issues were only one part of the puzzle: the fake pre-text for war was also based on wrong biological weapons assessments which the AP would not have stopped. So I think it is wrong to say that the AP alone could have stopped the war: the thinking behind the war (See Packer’s book “Assassin’s Gate”) was always regime change, as appears to be the case in Iran.

    Also, as you state, the AP is a voluntary measure — and it is HIGHLY unlikely that Iran will ratify it when its nuclear scientists are being killed and its facilities being subject to cyberwar. There needs to be goodwill for the AP to work.



    “Another common IAEA complaint is that Iran has blocked its access to several key Iranian scientists working on the nuclear program. But rather than being evidence of a nefarious purpose, Iran’s lukewarm attitude toward IAEA inspectors may be related to inspectors’ history of entanglement with Western intelligence services. David Kay, the chief U.N. nuclear weapons inspector in charge of monitoring Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program in 1991, told PBS that foreign spy agencies were linked to the mission in Iraq. “The intelligence communities of the world had the only expertise that you could use if you were unmasking a clandestine program,” he said. “I realize it was always a bargain with the Devil — spies spying.”



    “Importantly, both Argentina and Brazil enrich uranium but also have not adopted the Additional Protocol, and both pursued clandestine nuclear weapons programs in the past.

    The successful implementation of the Additional Protocol requires great cooperation and goodwill between the IAEA and signatory nations, and the protocol is unlikely to be effective when threats of force are on the table. The recent assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists and the apparently ongoing cyberattacks against Iran’s nuclear facilities further poison the atmosphere. The possibility that IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano has been less than apolitical in dealing with Iran is also likely to hurt chances that Iran easily accepts the protocol. Robert Kelley, an ex-IAEA inspector and nuclear engineer, went so far as to characterize parts of Amano’s November 2011 report on Iran as trying to misdirect opinion “towards their desired outcome,” adding, “that is unprofessional.”

    A reading of the US sanctions’ text makes it fairly clear that whomever in congress (or lobbyists) wrote the legislation meant it aimed towards regime change, so for those reasons it is highly unlikely Iran will ratify the AP.

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  5. Kindly provide citations to show that the ‘intelligence community’ failed to correctly assess Iraq’s WMD status. The administration was so dedicated to promotion of a fallacious sitrep that it went against the unanimous evaluation of the intelligence community that no such situation existed in the 2003 report to the President. Leading to War ( website /movie) is reported to give an accounting of the trail of lies that ginned up a phantom yellowcake menace. Interestingly, when Cheney’s office ( Scooter Libby took the fall ) leaked the identity of the Brewster Jennings controller at the CIA, exposing the network to retaliation by presumably ‘blowing a NOC’ in the person of Valerie Plame, wife of Ambassador Joe Wilson sent on the fool’s expedition to Nigeria in search of attempt to purchase deposits in plentiful existence within Iraq itself ! The Arms Control Wonk ran a post outlining how such was nonsense and impractical. But the damage was done. The CIA could no longer provide realtime intel.

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