China has warned Iran that it should show “flexibility and sincerity” over the nuclear issue, on the same day that details of an International Atomic Energy Agency report detailing its findings on the country’s nuclear program became available.
“China always holds that the Iranian nuclear issue should be properly solved through dialogue and cooperation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei reportedly told a daily news briefing. “The Iranian side should also show flexibility and sincerity.”
Both China and Russia have warned against a possible military strike as speculation grows that Israel might be considering striking Iranian facilities. China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has expressed Russia’s deep opposition to any military action against Iran, arguing that talks between Britain China, France, Russia, the United States, Germany and Iran should be resumed as soon as possible.
Energy hungry China, for its part, is now Iran’s biggest trading partner, with two-way trade of close to $37 billion a year, and growing quickly.
Still, it’s unclear if this trade gives China and particular leverage over the Iranian regime.
“China has some but not much influence, and less than Russia’s, although it may grow over time,” says Richard Weitz, a military analyst at the Hudson Institute. “China has supported sanctions in the past, and could do so again, but probably not at this point since the Russians will back them up.”
Some analysts doubt that Israel will undertake military action without U.S. backing. Writing in The Diplomat last week, Meir Javedanfar argued that a unilateral Israeli attack is almost unthinkable right now.
“It wouldn’t matter who is in charge at the White House and how pro-Israel they may or may not be – a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran, without U.S. consent, would likely have severe consequences for Israel-U.S. relations,” he wrote. “After all, the building of settlements doesn’t directly risk American lives and the U.S. economy. Attacking Iran without U.S. permission could and would.”
Still, the release of the IAEA report is likely to further increase the pressure for some kind of action, whether military or through tougher sanctions.
According to the report, a copy of which has been seen by The Diplomat, the IAEA has become increasingly concerned about the “possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile, about which the Agency has regularly received new information.”
“The Board of Governors has called on Iran on a number of occasions to engage with the Agency on the resolution of all outstanding issues in order to exclude the existence of possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme,” the report states.
“In resolution 1929 (2010), the Security Council reaffirmed Iran’s obligations to take the steps required by the Board of Governors in its resolutions GOV/2006/14 and GOV/2009/82, and to cooperate fully with the Agency on all outstanding issues, particularly those which give rise to concerns about the possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme, including by providing access without delay to all sites, equipment, persons and documents requested by the Agency.Since August 2008, Iran has not engaged with the Agency in any substantive way on this matter.”
More troubling still for diplomats, and of “particular concern” for the IAEA, are nuclear modeling studies allegedly conducted by Iran.
“Information provided to the Agency by two Member States relating to modeling studies alleged to have been conducted in 2008 and 2009 by Iran is of particular concern to the Agency,” the report states.
“According to that information, the studies involved the modeling of spherical geometries, consisting of components of the core of an HEU nuclear device subjected to shock compression, for their neutronic behaviour at high density, and a determination of the subsequent nuclear explosive yield. The information also identifies models said to have been used in those studies and the results of these calculations, which the Agency has seen.
“The application of such studies to anything other than a nuclear explosive is unclear to the Agency.”