The Cable

State Department condemns Iran over nuke report

The State Department today urged Iran to publicly address issues raised in a new report by the International Atomic Energy Agency regarding the Islamic Republic's nuclear activities.

"We cannot explain why it refuses to come to the table and engage constructively to answer the questions that have been raised," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters today, "And you have to draw some conclusions from that."

Crowley noted that this was the first report on the issue from the IAEA since the agency's new director general, Yukiya Amano, took up his post and the first since the existence of Iran's secret uranium enrichment facility near Qom was exposed last September.

"There is no explanation for that facility that is consistent with the needs of a civilian nuclear program. And it characterizes the way in which Iran has conducted its relations with the IAEA and its failure to satisfactorily explain, you know, what its activities and ambitions are in the nuclear sphere," Crowley said.

Regarding the Qom facility, the IAEA report said the agency has information disputing Iran's contention that it chose the location in 2007. The agency says it was planned in 2006, when Iran would have been require to notify the IAEA. Iran has failed to answer properly several of the IAEA's questions on Qom, the report stated.

"The Agency has verified that the construction of the facility is ongoing, but that no centrifuges had been introduced into the facility as of 16 February 2010," it reads.

"The IAEA report shows in stark terms that Iran continues to obfuscate on its safeguards obligations," said Nima Gerami of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "Regrettably, results from the IAEA's inspection of Iran's enrichment plant near Qom are still pending because Iran delayed access to the facility last October and ElBaradei did little to put his foot down."

Amano is not doing much better, according to Gerami.

"If Amano wants to be successful he should report as straightforwardly as possible in explaining Iran's safeguards failures and avoid using falsely reassuring statements, as he did in this report, that the IAEA seeks to ensure its continuing ability to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material" in Iran.

The Cable

Biden on nuke policy: "We will remain undeniably strong"

Yesterday, The Cable previewed Vice President Joseph Biden's major speech on nuclear policy, which he delivered today at the National Defense University.

Here's the full text of Biden's speech and here are some important excerpts:

On defending the administration's plan to reduce the nuclear stockpile:

Capabilities like an adaptive missile defense shield, conventional warheads with worldwide reach, and others that we are developing enable us to reduce the role of nuclear weapons, as other nuclear powers join us in drawing down. With these modern capabilities, even with deep nuclear reductions, we will remain undeniably strong.

On the Bush administration's neglect of the nation's nuclear infrastructure:

Unfortunately, during the last decade, our nuclear complex and experts were neglected and underfunded. Tight budgets forced more than 2,000 employees of Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore from their jobs between 2006 and 2008, including highly-skilled scientists and engineers. And some of the facilities we use to handle uranium and plutonium date back to the days when the world's great powers were led by Truman, Churchill, and Stalin. The signs of age and decay are becoming more apparent every day.

On the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty:

A decade ago, we led this effort to negotiate this treaty in order to keep emerging nuclear states from perfecting their arsenals and to prevent our rivals from pursuing ever more advanced weapons. We are confident that all reasonable concerns raised about the treaty back then - concerns about verification and the reliability of our own arsenal - have now been addressed.  The test ban treaty is as important as ever.

On Obama's pledge to work towards a goal of zero nuclear weapons:

Oppenheimer famously lamented, after watching the first mushroom cloud erupt from a device he helped design, that he had become "the destroyer of worlds." President Obama is determined, and I am as well, that the destroyed world Oppenheimer feared must never become our reality. That is why we are pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. The awesome force at our disposal must always be balanced by the weight of our shared responsibility.