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Lawmakers to Haley: Keep Pushing for Tougher Iran Nuclear Inspections

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U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley
U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley

The Weekly Standard, Oct 27, 2017 GOP lawmakers are urging the Trump administration to make good on President Barack Obama’s promise that, because of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, inspectors “will have access where necessary, when necessary.”

President Donald Trump refused to certify a condition about the nuclear deal to Congress earlier in October, setting off a 60-day period during which lawmakers can reimpose heavy nuclear deal sanctions on Iran through a fast track process. Trump warned that if Congress, administration officials, and European allies cannot fix the deal, he would withdraw from it.

13 Republican senators on Thursday wrote to U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, calling on her to address what they described as underreporting about Iran’s nuclear program and a lackluster inspections regime.

“President Obama promised that “inspectors will also be able to access any suspicious location,”” the lawmakers wrote. “In practice, it appears that this is not the case.”

Haley has pushed for inspections of Iran’s military sites, a demand Iranian officials have rejected. An official at the U.N. nuclear watchdog responsible for monitoring Iran’s activities under the nuclear deal (IAEA) said in August that the agency has not visited an Iranian military site since the agreement's implementation.

Experts have concluded that access to military sites is "an essential part" of efforts to verify the nuclear deal's Section T, which forbids “activities which could contribute to the design and development of a nuclear explosive device.”

The head of the IAEA said last month that the agency has limited “tools” to verify Section T.

“We believe that without visits to military sites, the IAEA cannot make a credible conclusion that Iran is meeting its Section T obligations,” the lawmakers wrote to Haley. “We encourage you to continue to stress this point of view to the signatories of the deal, as well as to the IAEA.”

Parties to the deal disagree on the IAEA’s mandate for Section T, which Reuters notesis broadly worded and does not explicitly mention the IAEA. Russia has said the IAEA has no authority over Section T. Haley said in turn that “some countries are attempting to shield Iran from even more inspections” and there must be a “common understanding" of the deal's terms.

Lawmakers also asked Haley to discuss a range of technical reporting issues with the agency, including more specific information in IAEA reports on Iran’s uranium enrichment activities.

In the wake of the president’s threat to withdraw from the deal, some Republican lawmakers have been working alongside administration officials to craft a legislative fix to the deal’s flaws. But they face hesitance from Democrats, who want European allies on board and want to be sure that the legislation will not negatively affect the deal. A number of Republicans are also skeptical of the idea of ‘fixing’ the agreement and continuing to abide by it.