State Department Spokesman Mark Toner Comments on IAEA's Iran PMD Report (Excerpts)

December 2, 2015

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear


QUESTION: So the IAEA report has been submitted to the Board of Governors, and I’m hoping that despite the fact that it’s still two weeks away before the director general makes this officially public – despite that fact, it is out, and that you will be able to respond to some of the things that are in it.

MR TONER: Sure. Well – go ahead. I’m sorry.

QUESTIONS: Hold on. (Laughter.) The summary of this says that the IAEA assesses that a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003 as a coordinated effort, and some activities took place after 2003. The agency also assesses that these activities did not advance beyond feasibility and scientific studies and the acquisition of certain relevant technical competences and capabilities. The agency has no credible indications of activities in Iran relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device after 2009.

Does the United – does the Administration accept that? Does the Administration believe that this report meets the requirements for Iran to address the outstanding concerns about its PMD – possible PMDs?

MR TONER: Right, right, right. Dimensions.

QUESTION: Dimensions.

MR TONER: Right, okay. All right, a lot of questions there, but let me – so as you noted, today the IAEA did submit its report on the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program – as we all call it here, PMD – to the IAEA Board of Governors. We have received that report as well and are providing it – in the process of providing it to Congress today. And while we recognize that the board has yet to make the report public, it is important for people to understand some of the outcomes of the report and why it’s significant and how it generally fits into the overall process.

So some key parts of the report, and I hope – hopefully they address your questions: One is the IAEA has confirmed that Iran met its commitments to provide responses to IAEA requests under the roadmap for clarification of past and present issues, which is that agreement that – between Iran and the IAEA for Iran to respond to IAEA questions. So this roadmap was critically important for Iran to show that it was willing to fulfill the necessary steps in a process to address the PMD issue with the IAEA, and the IAEA has confirmed that Iran has done so.

Second, the IAEA report is consistent with what the United States has long assessed with high confidence, and we talked a little bit about this yesterday. We made this public first in our 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, and that is that Iran had a nuclear weapons program that was halted in 2003. And it’s precisely because of our previous assessments, as well as the international community’s serious concerns about these possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program – past nuclear program, that we embarked on this process, brought to bear extensive national and international sanctions against – on Iran, and brought them to the table to negotiate the JCPOA.

And frankly, once the JCPOA is implemented, that – we’ll have assurance that these kinds of past activities cannot occur again. We’ll have that kind of transparency, that level of access. This is something we talked about with the IAEA. We’ll have that ability to go in and see what’s going on, so if we do see a recurrence of this past activity, we’ll be able to immediately address it.

QUESTION: So it does --

MR TONER: It does?

QUESTION: -- close the book?

MR TONER: Well, there’s --

QUESTION: This chapter at least?

MR TONER: There is – and again, that gets into process, so --

QUESTION: Well, I understand.

MR TONER: That’s okay, and I’m happy to talk about that.

QUESTION: From the Administration’s point of view --

MR TONER: Right.

QUESTION: -- the PMD issue is now resolved. Is that correct?

MR TONER: So it’s not just us to say this, and that’s why I want to talk a little bit about the process. So we, the P5+1 – and we talked a little bit about this yesterday – will now issue a report or a statement, rather, with a view towards closing this issue. And until that takes place – that’s going to be when the – the resolution, rather. I said statement; that was wrong. The resolution introduced by the P5+1. And that’s when the board of governors meets again on December 15th. And again, we’re submitting that resolution with a view towards closing the PMD issue, and then after that we can focus on implementing the JCPOA.

QUESTION: But you believe that this report gives you what you need to submit that resolution that would close the book on PMD.

MR TONER: Correct.

QUESTION: Correct? Okay.

Iranian officials are saying that this report is proof that their program has been exclusively peaceful and it is a vindication of their position, which was that the rest of the world is wasting its time, basically, and punishing it for a program that it says it didn’t have.

MR TONER: I would just say to that, depends on your definition of “exclusive.” And also, we’ve been very clear about our belief of Iran’s prior activities. We believe that this report supports those.

QUESTION: Supports that the --

MR TONER: Supports our previous assessments.

QUESTION: That they did in fact have a nuclear weapons program. Is that correct?

MR TONER: That – it doesn’t – again, it’s – it is --

QUESTION: Well, that’s what you said. You said --

MR TONER: No, no, no, I said – that’s okay.

QUESTION: -- it’s consistent with the U.S.’s long-assessed --

MR TONER: Right, exactly. Yes.

QUESTION: -- that Iran had a nuclear weapons program that was halted in 2003.

MR TONER: Yes. Yes, yes, sorry.

QUESTION: And does that – so this – you would disagree with Iranian officials who say that this is proof that the rest of the world was wrong.

MR TONER: I’m going to let the report stand for itself and not get into a tit-for-tat with Iranian officials.

QUESTION: Okay. You are – and you are satisfied that the IAEA got everything it needed in order to – in order for it come to a conclusion?

MR TONER: Well, that’s the IAEA’s assessment to make, but we believe that’s the case.


QUESTION: How is that different than the report that was issued back in 2007 by the national intelligence service, which – the NIA, which actually said that Iran ceased all activities in 2003?

MR TONER: Well, again, viewing this across the spectrum or the timeline, that report in our national intelligence assessment --

QUESTION: National Intelligence Estimate.

MR TONER: -- estimate, thank you very much – National Intelligence Estimate, along with other concerns documented by other international partners, was what led to the IAEA to investigate this. And then also the IAEA – I think it was in 2011 – they, in fact – forgive me. 2011, November, the IAEA laid out its own concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program. And so this has all led us to the point where they had to investigate. Iran had to answer questions or provide access to the materials to answer the questions – outstanding questions the IAEA had about its possible military dimensions of its nuclear program.


QUESTION: Can I go back to Iran?

MR TONER: Yeah, sure, of course.

QUESTION: I just want to get your – because while we’ve been in here, the other ISIS, the international --

MR TONER: Oh, yeah. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: The good ISIS, as they like call it. The Institute for Science and International Security has put out its initial reaction to the IAEA report, and their bottom line – I’ll just make it brief.


QUESTION: I want to make sure that the Administration does not agree with this assessment. They say, “The IAEA drew conclusions where it was able to. The bottom line is that the IAEA’s investigation into the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear problems” – I mean programs – “cannot be understood to be concluded, and certainly it cannot be closed.” You would disagree with that conclusion, right?

MR TONER: I would. I mean, again, this is something for the IAEA, of course, to speak to. But we believe that the IAEA was able to assess the credible information that it had access to and complete its report.

QUESTION: Isn’t that the key, though? They had – what it had access to?

MR TONER: Look, again, we --

QUESTION: I mean, do you think that they had the access – enough access to do what they --

MR TONER: We have confidence – we have confidence that they had the access that they needed.

QUESTION: And – okay. So you would disagree that this can – the case is not closed. You think that it is? And you will --

MR TONER: Again, let’s let the – I don’t want to get ahead of the process.

QUESTION: I understand that, but you will support a resolution in the Board of Governors to close this --

MR TONER: We believe – we believe that this report addresses that.

QUESTION: All right, thanks.