Geneva nuclear accord gains important achievement of verification

Access granted to IAEA will give immediate indication of seriousness with which Tehran takes the deal, says proliferation expert.

By HENRY ROME
November 25, 2013 03:41
2 minute read.
A general view of the Arak heavy-water project, 190 km (120 miles) southwest of Tehran

Iran's Arak heavy water reactor 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The nuclear agreement signed with Iran provides for a major increase in the monitoring capabilities for the UN nuclear watchdog, allowing inspectors to conduct daily visits and unannounced inspections at the Islamic Republic’s most sensitive nuclear sites, according to nuclear proliferation experts.

“Verification is extremely important and perhaps the most important gain achieved” in the negotiations, said Hebrew University of Jerusalem Prof. Shlomo Aronson, who studies nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.

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The access granted to the International Atomic Energy Agency will give an immediate indication about the seriousness with which Tehran takes the agreement, Aronson said.

“The actual implementation of this clause of the agreement depends on the next report that we should receive from Vienna from the IAEA, and they have their own, let’s say, experience with Iran cheating,” Aronson added.

Because of those provisions, Iran will have a hard time concealing its activities at established nuclear facilities, said Meir Litvak, the director of the Alliance Center for Iranian studies at Tel Aviv University.

But, he said, “if they have someplace [else] that the world doesn’t know about, that’s a different story.”

Iran’s previous efforts to conceal elements of its nuclear program make the IAEA part of the agreement all the more critical. In the agreement, inspectors are granted daily access to the Natanz and Fordow facilities.

Iran agreed to provide detailed information about the design of the Arak heavy water reactor, which observers fear could be used to develop plutonium for use in nuclear weapons.

“The kinds of information that the deal requires Iran to provide the IAEA... is a level of the information which the Iranians, since 2008, have not been willing to provide. The repeated requests by the IAEA to get this information, to allow the IAEA to comprehend the program... were rejected by Iran,” said Mark Hibbs, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Nuclear Policy Program.

“The biggest question mark for me in this entire deal is whether the Iranians will be able to deliver on their commitment to the IAEA,” he added.

The two other main aspects on the Iran side regard limits on the enrichment of uranium and a freeze on construction at the Arak reactor.

The stoppage at the Arak site is a victory from the Israeli point of view, said Uzi Even, professor emeritus at Tel Aviv University, who was involved in Israel’s nuclear research.

“That puts on hold what I consider the major threat to Israel,” he said, observing that plutonium from an active Arak facility could be more quickly installed into a missile, than a uranium effort.

On the other hand, Suzanne Maloney, a senior fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at The Brookings Institution in Washington, said the Arak freeze is “not insignificant, but I think it perhaps took on outsize importance.”

She said she doubted Iran could have finished construction on its own.


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