A MILITARY truck carrying a missile and a picture of Iran’s leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei drives in a parade marking the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war in Tehran.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Misgivings abound among the American people over the US-led multinational agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. Reinforcing widespread skepticism about Iran’s vow to not produce a nuclear weapon are forthright statements from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and key military leaders threatening the US and calling for Israel’s annihilation, and actions impeding International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to suspect nuclear sites.
Seventy percent of Americans are not confident – 28% not too confident and 42% not confident at all – that Iran’s leaders will abide by their agreement with the P5+1, according to a Pew survey in September. Only 2% have a great deal of confidence, and 18% have a fair amount of confidence, in Iran’s leaders.
An AJC survey of American Jews, also released in September, found pronounced skepticism about the deal’s promise to end Tehran’s nuclear weapons ambitions. Nearly two-thirds are not confident – 30% not so confident and 33% not confident at all – that it will block Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Only 5% are very confident, and 31% somewhat confident.
It is the IAEA’s responsibility to oversee implementation of the agreement and confirm that Iran fulfills its obligations. But here, too, there is a palpable sense of foreboding.
The AJC survey found a pronounced lack of confidence in the ability of the IAEA, and the US, to monitor Iran’s compliance. Only 6% of US Jews are very confident, while 38% are somewhat confident, 28% not so confident and 26% not at all confident.
The same suspicion is evident in the general American population. On the ability of the US and international agencies to monitor Iran’s compliance with the agreement, 27% don’t have too much confidence and 24% have no confidence at all. In contrast, only 12% have a great deal of confidence and 30% a fair amount of confidence.
Statements by IAEA director Yukiya Amano are not easing those concerns. On his most recent trip to Iran, Amano declared, as an example of Iranian compliance, that he was satisfied with how Iranian “experts” collected their own soil samples for the IAEA at Parchin.
Iranian officials said that Amano’s visit to Parchin was purely “ceremonial.” Behrouz Kalmandi, Iran’s atomic energy spokesman, boasted that the collection “was done by Iranian experts, in the absence of IAEA inspectors.”
Amano, however, proclaimed his satisfaction. “The agency can confirm the integrity of the sampling process and the authenticity of these samples which were taken at places of interest to the agency at the particular location in Parchin,” Amano said at a Vienna press conference soon after he returned to IAEA headquarters there from Tehran, The New York Times
Though Iran has banned IAEA inspectors from Parchin since 2005, Amano contends this obstacle has been overcome by using video and GPS tracking to monitor activities at the site. Obtaining definitive answers on Parchin is just one piece of the IAEA mandate to secure answers from Tehran that would clarify longstanding IAEA concerns over the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. Whether the agency will be allowed to interview nuclear scientists and other key Iranian officials, as mandated by the agreement with Iran, is doubtful. Besides, Amano is standing firm that the agreement, the so-called side deal, he signed with Iran in conjunction with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), will remain confidential.
All this may turn out to be immaterial, as governments eager to resume normal relations with Iran have already plunged forward, concluding that the IAEA board, when it meets in December, will give the necessary ratings of Iran’s compliance to clear the way for lifting sanctions.
Within days after the JCPOA was announced on July 14, the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Italy visited Tehran, with business delegations in tow. Britain’s foreign secretary reopened his country’s embassy, trashed by an Iranian mob several years earlier. France opened a trade office. And, following the laudatory words about the nuclear deal from heads of state addressing the UN General Assembly last week, more diplomats and business leaders will come seeking to capitalize on the anticipated return of Iran to normal international dealings.
Ironically, though the US-led the negotiations, Americans will be the last of the P5+1 to return to Iran. The outcry in Iran over Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s handshake with President Barack Obama at the UN indicates that hostility toward the US remains strong.
The clear enmity of Iran’s leaders, coupled with the IAEA’s lack of transparency, should stiffen American concerns about implementing the deal. These problems make the need for rigorous monitoring, inspections and communications about what Iran is doing in the nuclear realm even more important.The writer is the American Jewish Committee’s director of media relations.