The nuclear deal has not tempered Iran’s defiance.
Iran threatened to trash the nuclear agreement with the P5+1 nations if the International Atomic Energy Agency did not end its examination of the UN nuclear watchdog’s longstanding questions about possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. The IAEA, pressed by the US and the five other P5+1 members – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia – complied on December 15.
Regrettably, the IAEA ignored serious elements of IAEA director Yukiya Amano’s final report on Iran’s nuclear program.
Amano had promised that his report would not be “black and white.” Indeed, it is filled with lots of gray, like a fog. Yet, throughout, an occasional ray of concern burns through the mist, signaling yet again that the long-standing, valid questions about the intent and goals of Iran’s nuclear program linger.
For example, the IAEA found that detonators and other technology “developed by Iran [have] characteristics relevant to a nuclear explosive device.” The agency also concluded that Iran “conducted computer modeling of a nuclear explosive device before 2004, and between 2005 and 2009.”
Regarding Parchin, the site long suspected of being a center for nuclear weapons research and testing, the IAEA concluded that “extensive activities undertaken by Iran since February 2012 at the particular location of interest to the Agency seriously undermined the Agency’s ability to conduct effective verification.”
Most significant, the IAEA still had not secured from Iran answers to several longstanding questions on possible military dimensions of its nuclear program. Until Amano’s report, it was understood that all questions needed to be answered fully, for Iran to cooperate and come clean on all aspects, civil and military, of its nuclear program.
None of these troubling pieces of Amano’s report gave the P5+1 or the rest of the IAEA 35-nation board pause.
Accepting Iran’s word has become the preferred course of action.
Iran, of course, was elated, with deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi telling Reuters that it “confirms that Iran’s program was peaceful.”
However, another Iranian official, Hassan Karimpur, was, shall we say, more honest, proclaiming that finishing a nuclear bomb would be “easy to do, as soon as the spiritual ban on nuclear weapons were lifted,” according to the Times of Israel, citing Iran’s Fars news.
Karimpur is an adviser to Qassem Suleiman, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, which, among other deadly deeds, has led Iran’s activities in Syria to defend the Assad regime and maintain a supply line to Hezbollah, Tehran’s global terrorist proxy based in Lebanon.
With a passing IAEA grade, Iran has concluded that it can simultaneously abide by the agreement, for example by exporting 25,000 pounds of low-enriched uranium to Russia, for which it gets plaudits, and press ahead with military aspects of its nuclear program, such as ballistic missiles tests. Tehran carries on with confidence that only Washington might protest any of its misdeeds.
Thus, the US mustered UN Security Council condemnation of the Iranian missile tests as a violation of a 2010 council resolution. But Washington held back from imposing its promised new sanctions, even after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani instructed his Defense Ministry to continue missile development and testing. Iran had threatened to walk away from the nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), if any new sanctions are imposed.
For Iran, nothing can get in the way of the process to lift sanctions, unfreeze billions of dollars of Iranian assets, open trade and military cooperation and welcome Iran’s leadership in European capitals. Russia, eager to capitalize on the normalization of relations with Iran, already announced that it will build two new nuclear reactors in Iran, and began the delayed delivery of its long-range S-300 surface-to-air missile system.
Normalization with Western Europe continues apace.
French President Francois Hollande will welcome President Rouhani in Paris this month, a visit originally scheduled for last November and postponed after the terrorist attacks in the French capital. He also was slated to visit Rome and will do so after France becomes the first EU nation to host the Iranian president after years of isolating Iran for its defiance regarding its nuclear program’s military dimensions.
Unfortunately, the full extent of Iran’s nuclear weapons program remains a mystery, and thus a continuing danger to regional and world security. IAEA failure to force Iran to provide clear and full answers on its nuclear program, and US hesitancy to follow through on penalizing Iran for violations, leaves the door open to further Iranian mischief.
Only six months into implementing the JCPOA it is clearer than ever that the P5+1 need to reassess their current handling of Iran and seriously consider what actions will be needed over the next 10 to 15 years to ensure that Iran will never produce a nuclear weapon and the capabilities to deliver it.
The nuclear deal may have transformed some perceptions of Iran, paving the way for business as usual, but in no way does it make Iran a trustworthy member of the international community. Proceeding with extreme caution would be the better approach.The writer is the American Jewish Committee’s director of media relations.