AMAD Men – or, how to resolve Iran’s Possible Military Dimensions

One of the pesky things getting in the way of a nuclear deal between Iran and the West is the so-called Possible Military Dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program: the IAEA’s extensive collection of evidence that indicates that prior to 2004, Iran had a consolidated nuclear weapons program under the auspices of the AMAD plan.

Iran doesn’t want to admit to AMAD being real because it doesn’t want to get punished even more than it has been already.

And the West won’t turn a blind eye to Iran’s past transgressions on weaponisation work because that would further undermine the global nonproliferation system.

This makes for a bit of a stalemate.

It’s a stalemate that doesn’t help anyone. Meanwhile, the IAEA stares harder and harder at fuzzy satellite images of Parchin, dreaming of a site visit (and the travel allowances that would go with it), even though swipesampling Danilenko's chamber of secrets would most likely yield nothing of value. And as Iran provides increasingly convoluted rejections of the PMD file in Vienna – while indiscreetly bulldozing sites that once housed AMAD experiments – Tehran literally digs itself an even deeper hole.

What to do then? I’ve got a proposal. It’s as close as we’ll get to a win-win for both Iran and the West on the PMD issue, and would allow the IAEA to mark the PMD file as closed. And, crucially, it gives both sides the wiggleroom they need to keep hawkish domestic constituents happy.

Here’s what’s required from the major players:

  1. Tehran concedes that the studies and work described in the PMD file most likely reflect activity that was actually conducted in Iran prior to 2004. (Note the lawyerly phrasing here: most likely. That’s a deliberate hedge so Iranian hardliners can pretend that AMAD doesn’t actually exist: as Sun Tzu says, if you surround an adversary, leave them a way out.)

  2. Tehran states that the PMD activity, if it happened, was conducted by elements of the Iranian military or IRGC who had exceeded their authority. AMAD was unauthorised and unsanctioned. Iran’s top leadership was left in the dark as to what was going on in AMAD headquarters.

  3. The West and IAEA accept Iran’s mea culpa, even though all privately acknowledge that it might not represent the whole truth.

Let me explain a bit further.

Is it possible that AMAD was a product of individuals who were acting without endorsement from the top? Likely – no. Possible – absolutely. Remember, we’re not looking for the absolute truth here – just a workable fig leaf to get us all out of this morass.

Let’s also remember that the heyday of AMAD took place at a very strange time in the Middle East: 1999-2003. In the context of Saddam Hussein ‘apparently’ reinvigorating his secret WMD programs again, who knows what some over-excited Iranian military officials might have got up to in response. That particular card is just begging for Tehran to play.

The idea of a notcompletelyauthorised nuclear weapons program, of course, would require us to find a group of personnel that could be credibly implicated as both competent enough to have tried to run a smallish Manhattan Project on the down-low, and of sufficient gravitas that they are not – and don’t end up looking like – complete patsies. To keep the IAEA happy and to prevent the whole story from being perceived as total fantasy, the composition of this group would ideally need to be as close as possible to, well, the truth of AMAD.

That’s where I can help out.

Might I suggest we hang out to dry twelve men who, very conveniently, just happen to reflect the actual key personnel from the AMAD program – and include some very senior Iranian officials? Here they are:


These are your fall-guys. Get them in the press. Make them read contrite statements on PressTV . Put their names and photos in the next IAEA Board of Governors report. To keep Vienna happy, we’ll throw the IAEA a bone and allow these 12 men to be ‘interviewed’ in Tehran – but because they don’t speak English perfectly, they’ll have to recite from carefully prepared statements that are consistent with the IAEA’s existing understanding of how AMAD went down.

They won’t even need to swallow their pride very hard; Tehran’s punishment of the AMAD men is unlikely to be harsh. It may involve them being temporarily sent to the naughty corner, as has been done to previous regime loyalists who slightly exceeded their mandate or went off the reservation. A nice IRGC pension or position on an oil company board will probably await those who go along with the game. And yes, unfortunately men with guilty pasts will get off lightly – but I’d argue that’s a small price to pay to get us much closer to a nuclear deal.

This plan also leaves room for our new friend President Rouhani to keep playing the good guy, as he seems to be doing so far. You’ll recall the public record shows that Rouhani was pretty much the Winston Wolf of late 2003 – he was brought in to clean up the mess and reel in the zealots when the IRGC and AEOI had their clandestine nuclear programs publicly blown. And like Mr Wolf, he did a pretty bang-up job – blocking the the IRGC hardliners who wanted to hang onto their own secret nuclear projects while simultaneously arranging a nuclear deal with the West. So he can plausibly claim that even he has been shocked by the extent of AMAD. (The rest of us can enjoy a nice irony: the man who mopped up the dead bodies ends up with the cleanest hands of all.)

No more PMD, then. With that irritant dealt with, we can get to the issues that really matter – like Iran’s uranium enrichment and heavy water reactor progress, and its long-range missiles efforts .

Doubt that such a convenient – albeit cynical – approach could work? I think it could. If you don’t believe me, maybe ask someone who’s been the fall guy of a previous I-got-hung-out-to-dry-and-all-my-government-got-was-rapprochement-with-the-West policy.

His address:

Mr AQ Khan c/o Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence, Karachi, Pakistan.

Comment on this article...

Enter text shown below:

All comments will be moderated before submission. Please allow some time for them to appear.