By Ariel Ben Solomon/JNS.org
Earlier this year, President Donald Trump said that Iran was violating the “spirit” of its nuclear deal with the P5+1 powers. Now, it is clear that the Islamic Republic is disregarding the letter of the accord, but the international community is ignoring and denying that reality, experts say.
“It is mind-boggling that the violations are occurring in the open and all the parties to the agreement are pretending not to see it, and instead are dealing with issues that are important, but are not connected to the JCPOA (the nuclear deal’s formal name),” Yigal Carmon, president and founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), told JNS.org.
In mid-October, Trump announced his refusal to recertify Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the nuclear watchdog of the United Nations, is campaigning to counter Trump’s objections to the agreement.
On Nov. 7, Amano told the Financial Times that nuclear inspectors have accessed Iranian military sites and that the agency “has had access to all the locations that we needed to visit.” Yet Iran itself has rejected the U.S. demand for inspectors to visit its military bases.
Former weapons inspector David Albright, founder and president of the Institute for Science and International Security, told JNS.org that contrary to the Financial Times report, Amano said in a presentation to the Wilson Center think tank on Nov. 6 that Iran is not fully implementing the nuclear deal. The IAEA chief made a clear distinction between Iran working to implement the deal and full implementation, saying he is pushing Tehran to do the latter.
Albright said it is unclear what Amano means by “full implementation,” but that his comments to the Wilson Center are significant because they would “be another reason not to certify the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act,” which gives the president authority to decide every 90 days whether Iran is complying with the deal. Trump used that legislation as the basis for refusing to recertify the agreement last month.
Amano had also insisted last week that the Iranians are complying with the deal, saying that “they are discharging their responsibility without problem,” Reuters reported.
“Who is correct, the IAEA head or Trump?” asked MEMRI’s Carmon, while noting that the IAEA had “been turned by President [Barack] Obama into a political body to serve his wish to achieve the nuclear deal no matter what the cost.”
Carmon noted that the nuclear deal established a political body made up of all parties to the agreement—including Iran, Russia and China—called the Joint Commission, which can overrule the IAEA’s professional judgment. Amano “willingly collaborated with all that,” Carmon said.
Carmon pointed to Iran’s refusal to allow inspectors to oversee Section T of the agreement—namely, that Iran is forbidden to develop capabilities of detonating a nuclear explosive device. Amano describes this refusal to allow inspectors as a “problem” to be discussed by the Joint Commission, not a violation of the nuclear deal, Carmon explained.
“This shows the degree of collaboration between Amano, Iran and Russia,” said Carmon, a former Middle East adviser to Israeli Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Yitzhak Shamir.
Albright said that an Iranian declaration on its activities relating to Section T of the nuclear deal “is long overdue…Iran may be violating Section T.” Verifying a declaration from Iran would “undoubtedly require visits to military sites where certain controlled equipment would be utilized,” he said.
Amano, in his interview with the Financial Times, did acknowledge that “greater clarity relating to Section T will be helpful.” Yet Albright said he “did not hear Amano say they (inspectors) have gone to any military sites since implementation day” of the nuclear deal.
“Unfortunately, the structure of the Iran deal ironically creates a disincentive for the IAEA to ask to go to military sites, since a denial by Iran would likely bring the deal down,” he said.
Another problem, he said, is “the refusal of the IAEA to release specific compliance-related information in its reports.”
Carmon and Ayelet Savyon, head of the Iran desk at MEMRI, have called attention to congressional testimony by the Obama administration State Department’s coordinator on Iran, Stephen Mull, that a shipment of 8.5 tons of enriched uranium sent from Iran to Russia has disappeared and is not being monitored by the IAEA.
“How can the agreement be working when this amount of uranium has disappeared?” asked Carmon, adding, “Theoretically, it could be that the 8.5 tons of enriched uranium were returned to Iran if nobody knows where it is.”
“And where are the inspections of the military bases, and how come Iran, which has been turned by the JCPOA into an exporter of heavy water, is not subjected to the protocol of other exporting countries like Canada?” he said.
According to MEMRI’s research, Iran is building more advanced centrifuges than what the nuclear agreement allows for, and the Islamic Republic’s “actual heavy water quota exceeds the quantity permitted” while the Iranians are storing some heavy water in Oman.
Oman “has become the warehouse for Iran’s surplus heavy water and enriched uranium” and is covering up for Iran’s nuclear deal violations, Carmon and Savyon wrote.
According to a report by Albright’s organization, Iran has modified its Arak heavy water reactor in a way that the nuclear agreement does not authorize.
Deliberate distortions by Iran deal advocates such as former Secretary of State John Kerry, the Ploughshares Fund, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and others “muddy the debate” about the agreement, said Albright.
Asked what the next step should be regarding the deal, Carmon responded, “Congress should not only investigate the compliance to the deal, but also the cover-up by the IAEA.”