Atomic swag-ger: Iran’s nuclear conference humor

Someone in Iran's nuclear negotiating team seems to have quite the sense of humor.

At the big International Atomic Energy Agency powwow last month--as The Envoy previously noted here --Iran's envoy to the atomic watchdog body was photographed sitting in the seats assigned to the delegation of Iran's arch-foe Israel.

And now, courtesy of Arms Control Wonk's Jeffrey Lewis, comes another photograph of Iran's curious behavior at the IAEA meeting.

You know how at big conferences, companies sometimes give out pens or calendars or refrigerator magnets to advertise their brand?

Well, it was apparently in that spirit that at the IAEA general conference last month, Lewis reports, the Iranian delegation gave out its own swag--only at this gathering, the Iranians chose to hand out not pens or t-shirts, but laser pointers shaped to look like miniature nuclear enrichment centrifuges.

"Yes, the Islamic Republic of Iran distributed laser pointers in the shape of a centrifuge," Lewis, a counter-proliferation expert, marveled at his blog, Arms Control Wonk. Lewis posted a photo of Iran's nuclear-themed swag provided by a colleague who requested anonymity. The laser pointers were emblazoned with the phrase "Nuclear Energy for All, Nuclear Weapon for None"--apparently a dis at Israel among other nuclear powers whom Iran accuses, not entirely incorrectly, of employing a double-standard in their approach to nuclear proliferation. The word "Uranium" circles the bottom of the pointer, as you can see in the photo above.

Of course, Iran's nuclear enrichment program--including the buried enrichment facility it got busted for secretly building at Fordo, near Qom, in 2009--has been far from a laughing matter, as evinced in several rounds of UN Security Council resolutions sanctioning the program. Recent IAEA reports have expressed concern about Tehran's unwillingness to explain certain activities and its decision to pursue higher levels of enrichment ostensibly for the country's nuclear medical needs. Some analysts and policymakers fear that, if diplomatic pressure and economic sanctions fail to bring Iran to the bargaining table to resolve outstanding concerns, that Iran's nuclear program could become the target of future military action.

So it's an uncharacteristically puckish move for Iran's delegation to give out centrifuges as IAEA conference grab-bag swag.

As Lewis noted, it would be much as if the United States delegation had given out thumb-drives--with an implied wink and nod to the suspected means by which the Stuxnet worm reportedly made its way onto the computers running Iran's centrifuge program, and damaged them.

Meanwhile, Israeli diplomats, on a visit to Washington Tuesday for regular consultations with the U.S. administration, were scarcely inclined to laugh about Iran's nuclear program. "Sanctions against Iran are having an impact, but they need to be strengthened and intensified even more," Jeremy Issacharoff, Israeli Foreign Ministry deputy director general told The Envoy in an interview Tuesday. "At this point, we believe that renewed diplomatic pressure could still be effective. Though it has not yet been sufficient to get Iran to change its nuclear behavior, Iran clearly seeks to avoid further sanctions."

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