Why We Won’t Know Iran Cheats
This week, the world was sent another message by Iran about its aggressive intentions even after the nuclear deal was supposed to herald a new era in which, as President Obama said, it could “get right with the world.” Defying the United Nations again, the regime fired off more ballistic missile tests. Rather than doing so in private, Tehran openly boasted about the launches. And if anyone didn’t already get the message about the likely target of any future missiles that have a range of 850 miles (enough to reach the Jewish state), the official FARS news agency noted that the projectiles had the following written on them in Hebrew: “Israel must be wiped off the face of the earth.”
What was the U.S. reaction to this outrageous behavior by the president’s negotiating partners? So far, nothing. The administration did previously announce some minimal sanctions placed on individuals that helped procure the missiles, but that slap on the wrist impressed no one, least of all the ayatollahs that have long understood that Obama is a paper tiger with respect to Iran.
The missile tests are important because they provide the Iranians with a reliable delivery system once they procure their weapon after the nuclear deal expires. But, as I noted after the first such launch, the impunity the West gives them for this violation is a crucial indicator of how it will react should Tehran cheat on the nuclear deal. Which is to say that based on the collective shrug from the West, it doesn’t have much to worry about.
Of course, the administration still says it will do something if it finds out that Iran isn’t keeping its word. In Israel this week, Vice President Joe Biden said, “If in fact they break the deal, we will act.” If true, that would be good. But even if we lay aside all of our justified doubts about whether President Obama or a President Hillary Clinton would actually do anything about a report of Iran cheating, the question arises how will they know about such activity? Unfortunately, faith in such promises received a body blow this week.
On Monday, Yukio Amano, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency revealed something that even those of us who have been following the issue closely didn’t realize. As the AP reported, he said that a resolution passed by the IAEA Board of Directors on December 15, 2015 laid down a new rule about the agency’s activity. Rather than publicly issue regular reports about all Iranian nuclear activity as it has been doing for the past several years, that kind of reporting will now cease.
As Fred Fleitz of the Center for Security Policy writes in National Review, from now on, the IAEA will monitor whether the terms of the deal are being strictly followed. But it will stop monitoring other aspects of the nuclear question including those related to the possible military dimensions of the Iranian program. This is a crucial aspect of the discussion about Iran’s activity and about which important questions about its past research are still very much unresolved as the mystery about building and missing materials at the Parchin site demonstrated. But as far as the IAEA is concerned, the file is now closed. Their reports will also omit details about any compliance issues including how much enriched uranium is or is not shipped out of the country, centrifuge development and whether what remains can be easily converted to use for weapons.
In other words, although the West is largely relying on the IAEA to ensure that the deal is being kept by Iran, the UN agency will now largely ignore some of the most important elements of compliance.
This is one more reason why it was an outrage that some of the side deals between the IAEA and Iran associated with the nuclear deal were not presented to Congress before it voted on the agreement. Though the administration promised rigorous compliance procedures, Iran’s insistence on vague IAEA reports gives the lie to that pledge as well as to the sort of boasts Biden was spouting in Israel this week.
The facts are clear. If the IAEA is not reporting everything that is going on with respect to the regime’s nuclear activity and its military research then any talk of a rigorous inspection regime that can ensure that Iran can’t cheat is less than hot air. It is a lie.
In Yet Another Secret Side Deal, Iran’s Nuclear Violations Won’t Be Publicly Disclosed FRED FLEITZ March 9, 2016
Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/432516/iran-nuclear-deal-iaea-reports-violations-disclosure
On Monday, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director general Yukiya Amano explained what had up to this point been a mystery: namely, why its recent reports on Iran’s nuclear program have been so vague and contain such little data. As it turns out, under the Iran nuclear deal or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), there are now limitations on what the IAEA is allowed to report.
According to Amano, due to new U.N. Security Council and IAEA resolutions, the agency will only monitor and verify Iran’s compliance with its JCPOA commitments and will no longer provide broad reporting on its nuclear program. A December 15, 2015, IAEA Board of Governors resolution directed the organization to cease reporting on Iran’s compliance with its Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligations and past Security Council resolutions because the Board of Governors is no longer seized of this matter.
This also means that even though a December 2, 2015, IAEA report raised several serious unresolved questions about Iran’s nuclear weapons–related activities, the IAEA will no longer report on this issue because its Board of Governors closed the file on the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.
But it gets worse. Not only are the new IAEA reports much narrower in focus, they also omit important data on how Iran is complying with the nuclear deal itself.
Many experts were concerned at the vagueness of an IAEA report issued on January 16, 2016, which declared Iran had met the JCPOA’s “Implementation Day” requirements, allowing it to receive up to $150 billion in sanctions relief and other benefits. This was an atypical report for the IAEA which the Institute for Science and International Security said provided few details about the steps Iran took to comply with JCPOA requirements. For example, it lacked information on how much enriched uranium Iran allegedly sent to Russia, whether the IAEA monitored this transfer, and how much enriched uranium Iran may have kept in the country by converting it into uranium dioxide powder, a process that can be quickly reversed.
Experts were even more concerned by a February 26 report which left out important data needed to assess Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA such as the size of its enriched-uranium stockpile, how much uranium Iran is enriching, and details on its centrifuge research and development.
In a recent analysis for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, Olli Heinonen, a former senior IAEA official, said the February IAEA report provides “surprisingly scant information on key issues.” According to Heinonen, “without detailed reporting, the international community cannot be sure that Iran is upholding its commitments under the nuclear deal.”
I am one of many critics who have argued that a legitimate nuclear deal with Iran would bar all uranium enrichment and centrifuge development. The fact that the JCPOA permits these activities to continue and also bars the IAEA from releasing public reports on them is very disturbing and will prevent the U.S Congress and outside experts from assessing the implications of these dangerous U.S. concessions to Tehran.
In his recent analysis, Heinonen offered an explanation for the missing data in the recent reports. “For years, Tehran has advocated for less-detailed IAEA safeguards reports, citing concerns ranging from confidentiality matters to IAEA inspection authorities under the comprehensive safeguards agreement.”
It seems clear the West conceded to Iran’s demand for vague IAEA reports during the nuclear talks in yet another secret side deal that the Obama administration failed to disclose to Congress. This is more evidence that the nuclear deal with Iran is a fraud. U.S. officials gave away everything to get this legacy agreement for President Obama that will not stop Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons.
It also appears that by preventing the IAEA from publicly disclosing the full details of Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA, the Obama administration found a way to perpetuate the myth that this is a good agreement and keep Republicans from using reports of Iran’s cheating on the deal against Democrats in the 2016 presidential and congressional campaigns.
The only good news in this story may be that although the U.S., Russia, and China are satisfied with the IAEA’s reporting on Iran, at least two European nations believe the IAEA’s reporting is too superficial and plan to press Amano to provide “the necessary information” in his next quarterly report, according to the Associated Press.
The nuclear deal with Iran is one of the most important reasons to elect a Republican president this November who will tear up this disastrous agreement on his first day in office. Our next White House occupant must exercise the leadership to negotiate a legitimate nuclear deal that actually halts Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and requires Tehran to fully explain all unanswered questions about its past nuclear-weapons work.
— Fred Fleitz is senior vice president for policy and programs with the Center for Security Policy. He followed the Iranian nuclear issue for the CIA, the State Department, and the House Intelligence Committee during his 25-year government career. Follow him on Twitter @fredfleitz.