Institute for Contemporary Affairs
Founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation
Over the last number of weeks, the great debate over Iran has focused on whether Iran is complying with the JCPOA from 2015. Is it keeping the Iran agreement or is it violating the Iran agreement. Frankly, this story and that question have been put to rest when the national security adviser of the United States, General McMaster, said on Fox News that in fact the Iranians have already violated parts of the agreement.
So then the question is: Does that mean that President Trump will not certify Iran. There’s a point here which is not really well understood by many people. The question of certifying Iran or not certifying Iran, which the president will be called to do in mid-October, is not an issue of treaty compliance. It’s whether certain specific standards set by the U.S. Congress not long after the agreement was concluded are being met.
As far as I’m concerned, one of the most important of these standards set by the U.S. Congress is whether there are no covert Iranian activities going on in the nuclear field. The Iran agreement gives the P5+1, it gives the IAEA – the International Atomic Energy Agency, in particular – access to certain declared facilities. But what’s increasingly coming to the attention of the public is that the agreement doesn’t adequately address the question of undeclared sites. It’s as though the negotiators forgot some famous names: Natanz – the main enrichment site of Iran; Arak – where the Iranians have their heavy-water facility which will allow them the pathway to a plutonium bomb; and the famous underground site at Fordo near Qom where the Iranians have another enrichment facility for their uranium.
What has to be remembered, and maybe should have been remembered, is that all these sites that were eventually disclosed were all secret, undeclared sites. If the Iranians are ever going to break through to a nuclear bomb, they’re going to do it in those kind of secret sites that eventually the West discovered over the last 20 years, and not through some declared facility that was put into the JCPOA.
All this is particularly important because if we go back to 2015, Secretary of State John Kerry was asked by The Times of Israel about the verification procedures in the agreement. And he said that according to the Iran agreement, Iran will be subjected to the most rigorous and demanding verification and monitoring regime ever negotiated for a nuclear agreement. Is that so? The head of the Atomic Energy organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, has insisted that the requirement put forward by American spokesmen that Iran’s military sites be inspected is unacceptable.
Indeed, Dr. Olli Heinonen, a former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, wrote in September in an FDD policy brief that he has information from an IAEA staff member that the agency has not conducted a single visit to suspected military sites in Iran. They’re off the table. In fact, the whole arrangement for inspections and monitoring is the weak link in the Iranian nuclear deal. I’m afraid we’re reaching the conclusion that Iran can continue with secret activities that will allow it to reach nuclear breakout sooner than later.