Forbes, September 2, 2017 - It has been over a week since a new round of tension has initiated over the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). This string of developments were kick-started with a meeting between Nikki Haley, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, and Yukio Amano, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The fact that Washington suddenly sought a meeting with the chief of the UN nuclear watchdog and launched an emphasis on inspections of Iran’s military sites has raised eyebrows.
In retaliation, Iran vowed no access to its military sites, prompting Haley’s reaction in saying such an approach by Tehran will severely jeopardize its future compliance with the JCPOA. And despite the IAEA issuing a quarterly report confirming Iran’s compliance with the deal terms, Amano on Thursday “rejected Tehran’s claim that its military sites were off-limits to inspection…,” according to the Associated Press.
The Trump administration has been in office for over 7 months now and this issue coming under limelight is quite significant, to say the least.
The US President is obligated to provide a report to Congress every 90 days on Iran’s compliance or non-compliance with the JCPOA. It is known by now that President Trump agreed, grudgingly, to find Iran in compliance back July. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal () he went as far as to say he had actually sought to find Iran in non-compliance in the first such report under his watch, let alone in July.
Mid October is the next set timing for Trump’s future report to Congress. If he finds Iran in compliance, we will witness a continuation of the status quo, despite Trump’s belief that Tehran has violated the JCPOA spirit and that this is the worst deal possible.
As a result, documents, evidence and a strong argument is obviously needed to prove Iran has violated the pact. Only under such a scenario will the Europeans and other parties be convinced to board ship.
This can be analyzed as the very purpose of Haley’s meeting with Amano and other IAEA officials. Washington needs assurance that the IAEA, as a technical oversight entity, is actually surveilling Iran’s nuclear program and that all JCPOA articles are truly implemented. And more importantly, is Iran cooperating and complying or not?
From the JCPOA signing to this day the IAEA has issued seven verification reports confirming Iran’s compliance. In two reports the IAEA confirmed Iran exceeding its heavy water limits, resulting in Tehran taking immediate action to send the excessive amount to Oman. Various analysts viewed this as a sign of Iran’s desperate need to the JCPOA, despite recent threats of relaunching nuclear efforts.
It would be difficult for the Trump administration to issue a report finding Iran in non-compliance when the IAEA says otherwise. This will provoke criticism across the board, such as claims of Trump’s measures being politically motivated. Others have made similarities to the Iraq scenario where claims that led to war were never proven. And the rest is history.
Does this mean the Trump administration has its hands tied and is forced to continuously find Iran in compliance with the pact?
There is no doubt that Trump’s predecessor provided Iran with significant concessions. The list is quite lengthy and shameful in fact.
The Obama White House deliberately neglected the possible military dimension of Iran’s highly controversial nuclear program. Negotiations were launched and sanctions were lifted without any such concerns being resolved.
Iran was also provided another loophole in regards to inspections, permitted time to eliminate evidence of any wrongdoing. The IAEA, going against norms, has been obligated to inform Tehran beforehand of which site its inspectors intend to visit and for what particular reason. This is tantamount to informing a burglar of when and where the police will be patrolling. This certainly dissolves the inspections regime of any legitimacy.
More interesting is the fact that these articles are not an actual branch of the JCPOA, but added to by the Obama administration as sideline agreements with Tehran. The JCPOA itself has emphasized on the implementation of the Additional Protocol, meaning IAEA inspectors enjoying 24/7 access to military sites with specific mechanisms to prevent any gaps for Iran to take advantage of. There is no differentiation between military and non-military sites in the Additional Protocol.
As a result, one can come to the conclusion that the Trump administration has placed its crosshairs on a very necessary matter. And this is exactly why senior Iranian officials have launched a chorus of brouhaha in their reactions.
Interesting is how officials of the IAEA and Europe have remained silent in regards to recent US actions and Haley’s meeting with Amano regarding the inspection of military sites. This is a candid approval by their part, especially since Haley described her three-hour meeting with the IAEA chief as constructive.
Why the subject of inspecting Iran’s military sites has been raised at this timing is truly of significant importance. Of course, the Trump administration’s reservations in this regard is anyone’s guess.
However, there is undeniable evidence proving Iran is busy with major nuclear activities in its military sites, resulting in a major JCPOA violation.
As explained in a recent Washington Examiner piece by Alireza Jafarzadeh, “In June, the National Council of Resistance of Iran revealed details of the escalation of the Iranian missile program, proving the nuclear threat to be real. The opposition coalition identified more than 40 sites for missile development, manufacturing, and testing, all of which were under the control of the IRGC. What's more, at least one of those sites was known to be collaborating with the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, known by its Farsi acronym SPND, the institution tasked with weaponization activities related to the Iranian nuclear weapons program.”
Jafarzadeh is Deputy Director of the NCRI Washington office and credited with blowing the whistle on Iranian nuclear sites in Natanz and Arak in 2002 that triggered IAEA inspections in Iran.
Natanz uranium enrichment facility - Iran . security.blogs.cnn.com
Former IAEA inspector David Albright recently said buildings in Iran seen in satellite imagery match the sketches of facilities used to test strong explosions. He believes the IAEA should press to gain access to these sites.
Former IAEA deputy Olli Heinonen, who has visited Iran more than 20 times on different missions, also emphasized how the facilities referred to by Albright are protected by berms and specifically distanced from one another. This is similar to the blueprints used for sites testing high explosives, he said, adding this raises serious questions that Iran must answer and the IAEA should enjoy access to this site.
White House National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton said the administration is evaluating the NCRI’s recent package of information very closely and has placed it against the very best intelligence reports and analysis available to the United States.
Speaking of grave concerns over Iran’s nuclear activities, the al-Shabab terrorist group in Somalia, a known al-Qaeda affiliated, has gained control of African uranium mines and has its eye on supplying the material to Tehran. This is according to a letter seen recently by Fox News from Somalian Ambassador to the U.S. Ahmed Awad to his counterpart, U.S. Ambassador to Somalian Stephen Schwartz. The letter was dated August 11th.
Maybe the best early conclusion was for Haley to pay a visit to Vienna and seek IAEA’s intelligence access to Iran’s military sites, including the all controversial Parchin complex located southeast of Tehran.
Upon her return Haley emphasized:
. Iran has secret, unannounced and illegal sites that have yet to be inspected.
. Iran has publicly announced there will be no access granted to its military sites while the JCPOA recognizes no difference between military and non-military facilities.
. Iran’s regime has a clear history of lies and pursuing clandestine nuclear program. Therefore, Washington encourages the IAEA to practice its full authority and pursue all of the IAEA’s angles, knowing they enjoy complete US support in this regard.
. The IAEA can only carry out its duties to a certain extent, as its access to Iran’s facilities are limited.
Back in December 2015 Iran’s official news agency wired a report on the IAEA chief voicing how Iran carried out activities in relations with developing a nuclear explosion device. This intelligence also indicate that prior to 2003, these measures were very institutionalized and some may continue as we speak.
Now the all-important question is what are the consequences if come October it is proven Iran has failed to comply with the JCPOA and, in effect, violated the agreement?
This can signal the end of the entire accord as we know it and bring a disastrous finale to the years of investments made by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Sanctions will return on Iran as six UN Security Council resolutions will be reinstated.
In case of a violation by Iran, each member of the P5+1 has the authority to call on the Security Council to vote on the continuation of sanctions reliefs. No permanent member of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States) has veto right and all relieved resolutions and sanctions will be re-imposed. This authority is based on UN Security Council Resolution 2231.
It is also interesting to know that 10 articles of the new resolution are based on Chapter 7, Article 41 of the UN Charter, and international law, providing authority to use force and the military option to implement their demanded actions.
Under Article 41, the Security Council resolution is binding for all countries for a period of ten years.
All said and done, with the Trump administration signaling intentions to dent the JCPOA, and the IAEA reporting Iran has stuck to the deal, the path forward can be quite a complicated matter.
There is also the possibility of Trump declaring Iran in non-compliance, without actually pulling out of the JCPOA, to pave the path for addressing Tehran's nefarious activities in the Middle East.
Here the interest of the Iranian people are paramount. Considering how the ruling regime in Tehran is plundering the country’s wealth in support of terrorism, warmongering, and pursuits of an unnecessary nuclear program and ballistic missiles, restricting and limiting the outreach of the main force behind all this belligerency is crucial.
Iran’s IRGC controls 40% of the country’s economy and supervises all the above mentioned troubles. As a result, the recent US sanctions blacklisting the IRGC as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist group is a step in the right direction. Washington should not hesitate in implementing these sanctions immediately and without any loopholes.
Restricting the IRGC is in the Iranian people’s full interests and will support their effort in establishing freedom and democracy after four decades of utter crackdown.