This was a proper response to Iranian regime’s defiance of inspections of military sites, by Nikki Haley in her tweet, in the following article which appeared in ‘Forbes’ on September 2, 2017. Heshmat Alavi examines this issue.
Iran And The Nuclear Deal's Future
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? Certainly not.
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.