THE HILL, SEP. 28, 2017 -- Recently, President Donald Trump stated that he had come to a decision about whether or not to certify to Congress that Iran was complying with the 2015 nuclear agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Under the U.S. law, the president is required to provide such certification every 90 days, and the next deadline is in mid-October.
The issue has become polarized in the U.S. But politics notwithstanding, the issue is of paramount importance for the security of the international community. It aims to make sure an aggressive and theocratic regime does not obtain nuclear weapons.
The International Committee in Search of Justice (ISJ), a Brussels-based non-profit NGO recently released a thorough review of Tehran’s conduct on possible military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear program after the JCPOA. It leaves no doubt that the issue, though being shunted to the side at the conclusion of nuclear negotiations, is far from resolved.
Drawing upon publicly available information from the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) and other sources, as well as intelligence gathered by the main Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) from inside Iran, the report indicates that nuclear weapons-related work has continued at the notorious Parchin military site and elsewhere, much of it under the supervision of an institution dedicated to weaponization aspects of the nuclear program.
That institution, the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research (Persian abbreviation: SPND), remains fully operational to this day.
The report names specific individuals who should be made available to interviews by the IAEA. Some of these are nuclear experts whom the Iranian regime has specifically withheld from such access.
The report also rightly emphasizes the need for unhindered access to Iranian military sites for U.N. inspectors and the fact that without such inspections a thorough and credible verification is simply not plausible.
While the top U.N. official monitoring Iran’s nuclear program, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano rejected, on Aug. 31, Tehran’s claim that its military sites were off-limits to inspection, the Iranian regime senior officials have been hyper-sensitive on the issue and have been virulently opposed to the notion of visits to military sites; an attitude that only exacerbates legitimate concerns.
The report concludes with practical recommendations that warrant careful attention from the international community. The report makes clear that there is no indication that Tehran has put aside its intention to obtain nuclear weapons, and that is worrisome.
For all his recent caginess about the decision that is pending for October, President Trump has made it abundantly clear that he is suspicious of Iran’s intentions and is unconvinced by IAEA reports declaring the country compliant with the JCPOA.
As the debate on the correct attitude vis-a-vis the JCPOA rages on in Washington and major European capitals, Tehran keeps issuing denials and creating obfuscations.
Frankly, one would have to be terribly naïve or too committed to preserving the status quo in order to be convinced by those denials. They are eminently unconvincing and are obviously no replacement for the comprehensive and unhindered inspections that are required and that the Iranian regime angrily refuses to allow.
In Hassan Rouhani’s speech at the U.N. General Assembly a day after Trump’s, the Iranian president accused his American counterpart of “baseless allegations” regarding Tehran’s behavior in the nuclear sphere and other areas.
But such rhetoric does nothing to undermine the well-founded intelligence about ongoing Iranian activities. In reality, the regime’s denials are not difficult to refute, provided that the international community is appropriately interested in exposing persistent misbehavior and strengthening the enforcement measures laid out by the JCPOA.
The world’s response to the Trump and Rouhani U.N. speeches will be telling. Many nations now face the stark choice to either heed calls from the White House for more assertive policies or else swallow Tehran’s denials and obfuscations regardless of the facts. It is difficult to imagine the international community choosing the latter option.
Of course, it has done so in the recent past, but since then it has become more difficult to defend the old narrative that the Rouhani administration represents some kind of internal moderation.
The Iranian president’s speech made it clear that neither he nor anyone else in the regime is interested in responding to legitimate questions or criticisms. Clearly, the country’s nuclear activities will continue until the world bands together to stop them.
Alejo Vidal-Quadras, a Spanish professor of atomic and nuclear physics, was vice president of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014. He is currently president of the Brussels-based international committee, In Search of Justice (ISJ).