‘IAEA works with spies, but checks data independently’ – former chief
The cooperation of the International Atomic Energy Agency with the world’s intelligences started following the Iraqi crisis of the1990s.
“In 1991 we realized that Iraqis had been cheating the IAEA. We went to declared installations, but not to other places and they were building things elsewhere,” he said. “So we said if intelligence knew about this, if the CIA knew about this thing they should tell the IAEA. The IAEA can then ask Iraq and say ‘Look we have heard this, we would like to go there and verify. You say there is nothing, then let us in.’ We then encouraged the US and others to come with intelligence to the IAEA. There have done it a great deal with Iran.”
The former IAEA chief said that the watchdog should trust countries it sends its inspectors to and should not be considered the CIA’s “prolonged arm”. For that matter, the agency carefully checks all spy data it received.
“Of course, intelligence can always try to fool everybody,” he said. “Half of the information may be true, half of it may be disinformation, and therefore they have to examine it critically.”
Hans Blix, who was the chief of the agency in 1981-1997, stressed that the IAEA has been very “cautious about the information they have received about Iran.”
“The combination of the tools of national states and the inspectors who are there legally on a site is very useful,” he said.
Iran does not have a pressing geopolitical need to develop nuclear arms and that makes it possible to come to a settlement with the country, Blix said. However, this requires a wise approach, something the Western states are failing to employ at the moment.
“They have run the diplomatic path and only sanctions remain,” he said. “We are talking about stopping oil importing and maybe bombing, but I think they have lost their imagination.”
There are still things that can be put on the negotiation table with Iran, but for that a colonial tone should be dropped and more attention should be paid to the reward side, Hans Blix believes. The US could, for instance, promise resumption of diplomatic ties in exchange for the settlement. Or Israelis could drop their nukes in exchange for the halt of the nuclear enrichment in Iran, with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey joining in the nuclear non-proliferation.
“That is what you call a nuclear-weapon-free zone for the Middle East,” he said. “I think that is where the aim should be, but if I mentioned that today they would laugh at me.”