Since the interim agreement, moreover, the State Department has avoided language that would commit it to requiring anything resembling an Iranian confession. In Israel on Feb. 22, Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, who is the primary negotiator with Iran, said, "What we have said to Iran is that [the 'possible military dimensions' issue] will have to be addressed in some way."
Sherman suggested for the first time the possibility of a less than complete and clear-cut outcome of the process. The IAEA was "very much focused on working through PMD with Iran," said Sherman. "And the more Iran can do with the IAEA, which is where this belongs, the more likely we will have successful comprehensive agreement."
A former U.S. official who had worked on Iran suggested in a recent off-the-record meeting that the "possible military dimensions" issue could not be resolved completely, but that one or more parts could be clarified satisfactorily. The rest could be left for resolution by the IAEA after the comprehensive agreement is signed, the ex-official said.
That possibility arises because Iran and the IAEA agreed in February to work on the "Exploding Bridgewire" (EBW) issue -- the claim published by the IAEA that Iran had carried out experiments on high explosives developed for the purpose of detonating a nuclear weapon. That claim was based on a document that was part of the large collection originally said by anonymous intelligence sources to have come from the laptop computer of a participant in a purported Iranian nuclear weapons research project.
The documents were actually turned over to German intelligence by the Iranian terrorist organization Mujahedin-E-Khalq, which had close links to Israel's intelligence agency, Mossad.
Iran provided the IAEA with an account of its actual EBW development program in 2008. The Iranian account, cited by the agency in its May 2008 report, indicated the rate of explosions in its experiments, which was just one-eighth the rate mentioned by then IAEA deputy director Olli Heinonen in a briefing for member states in 2008.
But instead of acknowledging that fact in its report, the IAEA suggested repeatedly that Iran had acknowledged carrying out the EBW experiments described in the purported document from the secret weapons program while claiming it was for non-nuclear applications.
The new Iran-IAEA agreement on the EBW issue raises the question of whether IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano is now ready to reach a deal with Iran, despite having staked his own reputation on the November 2011 report on intelligence claims of covert Iranian nuclear weapons research coming from Israel.
Such an agreement might be based on the IAEA's stating accurately the Iranian explanation for the EBW -- and thus implicitly admitting that the agency had distorted the issue in the past. Other issues might be left to be resolved quietly after the negotiations on a comprehensive agreement are completed
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