Archive for the ‘Iran nuke inspections’ category

U.S. Pursuing Rigorous New Nuclear Inspection Regime in Iran

October 31, 2017

U.S. Pursuing Rigorous New Nuclear Inspection Regime in Iran, Washington Free Beacon, October 30, 2017

International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors and Iranian technicians at a nuclear power plant of Natanz / Getty Images

The United States is pursuing a rigorous new regime for international inspections of Iran’s nuclear program that includes access to off-limits military sites as well as increased transparency on the Islamic Republic’s often obfuscated enrichment of uranium, the key component in a nuclear bomb, according to U.S. officials and congressional leaders spearheading the new inspection effort.

A delegation of 13 leading senators petitioned the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, led by Ambassador Nikki Haley, to implement a series of stricter inspection methods that would give Western countries a deeper look into Iran’s suspected use of military sites to continue contested nuclear work prohibited under the landmark nuclear agreement, according to U.S. officials who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.

The Trump administration is said to be fully on board with these tougher inspection measures, which could address lingering questions about Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal, U.S. officials said. Iran has been found in breach several times since the accord was implemented.

The letter, spearheaded by Sen. David Perdue (R., Ga.) and a delegation of top GOP senators, urges the United States to force the United Nations into accepting a tough new nuclear inspection regime in Iran that could shed sunlight on the country’s hidden nuclear efforts.

Many of Iran’s most contested military sites and uranium enrichment plants have been off-limits to international inspectors or subject to a delayed timeline that gives Iran at least a month to prepare for inspections, a part of the nuclear agreement that has come under particular criticism from those who say it gives the Islamic Republic time to cleanup and hide possible nuclear work falling outside of the accord.

The senators highlight a series of “shortcomings in the inspection and verification regime” led by the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, which has itself admitted in recent months that it does not have a full picture of Iran’s current nuclear program.

A major “deterioration in the amount and quality of the information provided by IAEA inspections [has] prevented the inspection and verification regime of the JCPOA from being as thorough and transparent as possible,” the senators write, referring to the nuclear deal by its official acronym.

The U.S. Mission to the U.N. is said to fully back these tougher inspection requests and is already pushing for a change at Turtle Bay.

“The senators’ letter is completely in sync with Ambassador Haley’s concerns about Iranian nuclear inspections,” a spokesperson for the U.S. Mission told the Free Beacon Monday, several days after the senators first sent their letter.

Haley “will continue to press for the most aggressive implementation of the nuclear deal, while also working to move the U.N. toward stronger measures against dangerous Iranian actions that fall outside of the deal, including their missile testing, arms smuggling, and support for terrorism,” the official said.

A spokesperson for Perdue’s office described the letter as part of a larger bid to crackdown on flaws in the nuclear deal that were originally obfuscated by the Obama administration when it first sold the deal to Congress and the American public.

“It’s very clear President Obama’s dangerous Iran Nuclear Deal doesn’t have the teeth he claimed it would,” the congressional official told the Free Beacon. “President Trump was right to decertify this deal, and now we have to turn up the pressure on the IAEA to get more detailed reporting and ensure all potential nuclear sites—including military installations—are inspected thoroughly.”

“Senator Perdue is encouraged Ambassador Haley has brought these issues to the U.N. and supports her effort to get better information about Iran’s nuclear activities,” the source said.

U.S. officials and those in Congress are seeking to close a series of gaps that have allowed Tehran to receive a month’s notice before inspections and also keep secret its most contested military sites.

The letter highlights flaws in a portion of the nuclear deal known as Section T, which is supposed to provide assurances that Iran is not engaging in any activities that would contribute to the design or development of a nuclear explosive device.

The IAEA has admitted in recent weeks that it is unclear exactly how to interpret this portion of the accord and has been unable to fully verify efforts undertaken by Iran on this front.

Without this information, the United States cannot fully determine “if Iran makes any effort to leave the JCPOA abruptly or gradually,” according to the letter, which was also signed by Sens.Ted Cruz (R., Texas), Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), Mike Lee (R., Utah), John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), Jim Inhofe (R., Okla.), and several others.

Access to Iran’s military sites remains a key outstanding issue for the Trump administration and Congress, according to these officials, who say there is no credibly way to determine Iranian compliance with the nuclear accord without such access.

“We believe that without visits to military sites, the IAEA cannot make a credible conclusion that Iran is meeting its section T obligations,” the senators wrote.

The group is also pushing greater transparency on Iran’s uranium enrichment efforts, including its mining of uranium ore and yellow cake.

Inspection regimes “should include the number of visits to mines and ore concentration plants,” according to the senators, who say that Iran should be forced to inform the West about the amount of yellow cake it produces.

Additional new measures would include disclosures of “the type and amount of uranium fed into [nuclear] cascades at” each of Iran’s facilities. Such information would provide a clearer picture of how much enriched uranium Iran has on hand.

Iran must also provide more information about the number of nuclear centrifuges it is operating in its Natanz plant, as well as other areas, according to the senators, who are pushing for greater inspection of Iran’s storage of advanced nuclear centrifuges.

This would include “an assessment on if the IAEA surveillance measures are conclusive” on this front, or if further inspections are needed.

“With these improvements to inspection and reporting practices, we can better deny Iran’s access to a nuclear weapons capability,” the senators wrote.

A spokesperson for the White House’s National Security Council declined to comment on the letter, saying it does not discuss “correspondence between Congress and government officials,” but the issues highlighted in the missive appear to jibe with the Trump administration’s public criticism of the accord.

One veteran foreign policy insider for works closely with Congress on the Iran portfolio told the Free Beacon that the new U.S. inspection efforts highlight important ways in which the IAEA’s current regime has failed to provide critical information about Tehran’s nuclear progress.

“This letter does a couple of things,” the source said. “It highlights how the IAEA has been spinning its wheels in Iran, and hasn’t visited the sites where Iran is likely to be developing nuclear weapons technology.”

“It also serves notice that Congress knows the IAEA is full of shit when its top officials say they’ve confirmed Iran is complying with the deal,” the source added.

Strategic decisiveness, tactical caution

October 15, 2017

Strategic decisiveness, tactical caution, Israel Hayom, Prof. Abraham Ben-Zvi, October 15, 2017

Iran is now facing a three-pronged American challenge: the steps that stem directly from the newly announced Trump Doctrine; new legislation against it; and unilateral action by Trump should Congress fail to enact new legislation, leading to the U.S. withdrawing from the pact.

In one fell swoop, through a single speech, Trump put the ball squarely in Iran’s court.

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When it comes to North Korea, U.S. President Donald Trump has adopted a policy of containment and deterrence, owing to the fact that it presents a general threat.

But when it comes to Iran, things are different. On Friday, Trump unveiled a new doctrine against this component of the Axis of Evil, a doctrine that is based more on red lines and clear thresholds that would trigger American action should they be crossed.

This approach represents a creative blend of strategic decisiveness and tactical caution. The strategic decisiveness rests on his pledge to counter Iran head-on, should the need arise, over its repeated violations of key parts of the 2015 nuclear deal, and over its conduct in the region (including its ongoing ballistic missile program and its continued support for terrorist groups and destabilization efforts).

The tactical caution part is based on his recognition that a potential Iranian-American clash is not necessarily immediate, forceful or even inevitable. In other words, the White House has articulated a gradual process that gives Iranian President Hassan Rouhani a way out by mending his ways before the moment of truth arrives.

Thus, even though the Trump Doctrine is a break from the way the nuclear deal has been implemented so far, Washington will stay in it in order to improve it, hoping that its threats will have a moderating effect on the ayatollah regime. Therefore, Trump’s decision to decertify the agreement doesn’t mean that he is bent on withdrawing from it. He is still going to play by the rules, but his new doctrine presents several powerful deterrent elements.

The first: He has sent a signal to Tehran of what’s to come. Through the newly announced sanctions on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which complement other steps the Pentagon has taken in the region to curtail Iran’s destabilizing activity, Iran now knows what’s at stake.

The second: He announced what could be a new, comprehensive and structured mechanism to punish Iran. If and when Congress decides to adopt such a mechanism, it will include a host of steps against the regime, including sanctions that are automatically imposed if Iran violates certain provisions characterized as “red lines” (say, regarding its missile program).

The third: If Congress fails to pass new legislation to punish Iran over the next two months, this will lead to the termination of the agreement as far as he is concerned – with all the consequences that this may entail.

Iran is now facing a three-pronged American challenge: the steps that stem directly from the newly announced Trump Doctrine; new legislation against it; and unilateral action by Trump should Congress fail to enact new legislation, leading to the U.S. withdrawing from the pact.

In one fell swoop, through a single speech, Trump put the ball squarely in Iran’s court.

Congress Seeks Deadline on Iran Accepting Tougher Nuclear Deal Standards

October 13, 2017

Congress Seeks Deadline on Iran Accepting Tougher Nuclear Deal Standards, Washington Free Beacon, October 13, 2017

Rep. Peter Roskam / Getty Images

Roskam’s legislation would mandate that Iran permit unfettered, unannounced, and indefinite access to all of Iran’s contested nuclear sites, including military spots that have been completely off-access to international nuclear inspectors.

Iran opposes such proposals, claiming that its military sites will never been opened to the international community.

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Congress is set to consider new legislation that would require Iran to accept tough new conditions on the landmark nuclear deal or face a rash of harsh new economic sanctions aimed at thwarting the Islamic Republic’s continued nuclear buildup, according to a draft of new legislation exclusively viewed by the Washington Free Beacon.

On the heels of President Donald Trump’s announcement that he will decertify Iranian compliance with the nuclear agreement, top GOP lawmakers are already working on legislation that would compliment the White House’s announcement and move forward with efforts to harshly penalize Tehran if it does not accept rigid new standards on its nuclear activities within the next six months, according to a copy of draft legislation circulating in the House of Representatives.

The new legislation, spearheaded by Rep. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.), would reimpose all economic sanctions lifted by the former Obama administration as part of the nuclear agreement if Iran refuses to comply with tough new standards restricting its ballistic missile program, arms buildup, and failure to permit access to a range of military sites suspected of engaging in nuclear work.

The legislation also would effectively kill provisions of the nuclear agreement known as sunset clauses. These are portions of the deal that would rollback restrictions on Iran’s advanced nuclear research and weapons buildup within the next five to six years.

Trump, as well as allies in Congress, maintains the original nuclear accord contains several key flaws that permit Iran to cheat on the deal and receive sweetheart bonuses—such as sanctions relief and other assets—despite evidence of multiple violations of the agreement.

Sources who spoke to the Free Beacon about the effort to tighten the deal said that many in Congress would be willing to reimpose all key sanctions on Iran if it does not agree to abide by the stricter enforcement regulations.

“The days of appeasing the Mullah’s every wish and sitting back and watching as the terrorist state goes nuclear are over,” said one senior congressional official intimately familiar with the new proposal. “Congress overwhelmingly opposed Obama’s disastrous deal with Iran. Now’s the time to assert our constitutional responsibility to defend our nation and use all tools of U.S. power to permanently prevent an nuclear armed Iran.”

This new legislation is similar to the policy approach advocated by senior Trump administration officials, such as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who told reporters late Thursday the administration is looking to create a parallel nuclear deal that gives Congress a larger role in ensuring Iranian compliance.

These would include “trigger points that are specific to the nuclear program itself, but also deals with things like their ballistic missile program,” according to Tillerson.

Roskam’s new legislation, called the JCPOA Improvement Act of 2017, seeks to do precisely this.

In addition to banning Iran from developing, testing, and operating ballistic missile technology—which was never addressed in the original nuclear agreement – the new legislation would impose even stricter regulations on the amount of nuclear enrichment Iran can legally engage in.

It also would stop Iran from installing advanced nuclear centrifuges that can enrich uranium, the key component in a nuclear weapon, much faster than older versions of this equipment. Under the original nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, Iran would have been granted the right to operate advanced centrifuges within the next several years.

Congress also is seeking to address Iran’s development of heavy water nuclear reactors that provide a secondary pathway to a nuclear weapon via the use of plutonium, a by-product of such equipment, according to the draft legislation and sources who spoke to the Free Beacon.

The Obama administration had worked to ensure that, under the agreement, Iran retained its right to operate such reactors, despite opposition in Congress and elsewhere. Iran has already inked several deals with Russia to assist in the construction of new light and heavy water reactors, though this new legislation could complicate that matter.

Another key portion of the original agreement that has been vehemently criticized by Trump and congressional allies surrounds caveats that give Iran more than a month before consenting to inspections of its nuclear sites.

Roskam’s legislation would mandate that Iran permit unfettered, unannounced, and indefinite access to all of Iran’s contested nuclear sites, including military spots that have been completely off-access to international nuclear inspectors.

Iran opposes such proposals, claiming that its military sites will never been opened to the international community.

If Iran does not agree to the new restrictions proposed in the legislation, Congress has the ability to reimpose all sanctions that were lifted as part of the original accord. This represents a major new tool for Congress as it works to thwart Iran’s continued military endeavors across the Middle East and its pursuit of advanced new weaponry.

Under the new legislation, any future attempt to rescind these new restrictions would be subject to a vote in the United Nations Security Council, according to the bill.

ANALYSIS: Certified or decertified, Iran faces tough road ahead

October 10, 2017

ANALYSIS: Certified or decertified, Iran faces tough road ahead, Al Arabiya, Heshmat Alavi, October 9, 2017

Members of Iranian armed forces march during a parade in Tehran, Iran, September 22, 2017. President.ir/Handout via REUTERS.

The new mentality sought by Washington is to address all of Iran’s belligerence and not allow its nuclear program and the JCPOA devour all of the international community’s attention.

The new US response, including blacklisting Iran’s notorious Revolutionary Guards, to be announced by Trump is said to cover missile tests, support for terrorism and proxy groups checkered across the Middle East, hopefully human rights violations at home, and cyberattacks.

Iran has a history of resorting to such measures, including targeting Saudi oil interests. Raising the stakes for Iran, Trump described a meeting with his top military brass on Thursday evening as “the calm before the storm.” Neither the US President nor the White House provided further details, yet rest assured Tehran received the message.

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All eyes are on US President Donald Trump and his upcoming Iran speech later this week to clarify his decision to certify or decertify Tehran’s compliance with a nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), designed to curb the regime’s controversial atomic drive.

This has Iran’s regime on its toes, as senior elite in Tehran understand fully how the US can lead the international community in adopting strong measures against its broad scope of malign activities. Expected to be addressed is also a wide range of concerns over Iran’s dangerous policies in relation to its ballistic missile advances, meddling in Middle East states and supporting terrorist proxy groups as explained in a new video.

‘Iran’s unacceptable behavior’

Iran’s rogue behavior, currently imposing its influence on four major regional capitals of Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus and Sanaa, are the result of the Obama administration’s “overly lenient foreign policy, which sought to promote America’s priorities through consensus, rather than through the frank display of power,” as put by a recent The New Yorker piece.

“Lifting the sanctions as required under the terms of the JCPOA has enabled Iran’s unacceptable behavior,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a late September meeting with his P5+1 counterparts and Iran’s top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The Trump administration is also deeply concerned over Iran’s proxies mining the strategic Bab el-Mandeb Strait waterway, aiming its indigenous missiles from Yemen towards cities in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, and from southern Lebanon towards Israel. This is Tehran in action with the objective of taking advantage of the destruction left behind by ISIS across the region, especially in Syria and Iraq.

“The Iranian regime supports terrorism and exports violence, bloodshed and chaos across the Middle East,” Trump told reporters before a Thursday evening meeting with senior military leaders at the White House. “That is why we must put an end to Iran’s continued aggression and nuclear ambitions,” he said. “They have not lived up to the spirit of their agreement.”

Trump has put Iran “on notice” over charges that Tehran violated a nuclear deal with the West by test-firing a ballistic missile. (Reuters)

Joint effort

Parallel to the White House there are voices on Capitol Hill advocating the new approach weighed by the administration.

“The president should decline to certify, not primarily on grounds related to Iran’s technical compliance, but rather based on the long catalog of the regime’s crimes and perfidy against the United States, as well as the deal’s inherent weakness,” Senator Tom Cotton said last week at a speech in the Council on Foreign Relations.

As the Trump administration seeks to place necessary focus on Iran’s illicit Middle East ambitions and actions, talks are also ongoing as we speak over how to amend the JCPOA’s restrictions.

“Sunset clauses,” Iran’s ballistic missile development and testing, and an inspections regime lacking the bite to gain necessary access into the regime’s controversial military sites. Under the current framework Iran can easily conduct nuclear weapons research and development in military sites and claim such locations do not fall under the JCPOA jurisdiction.

While it is expected of Trump to decertify Iran, he most likely will not go the distance to completely pull America out of the nuclear agreement. Obama refused to send the JCPOA to Congress for discussion and approval. Trump, however, seems set to place the decision to impose further sanctions on Iran upon the shoulders of US lawmakers.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks about the Iran nuclear deal at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, on September 5, 2017. (Reuters)

More than ‘one piece’

The new mentality sought by Washington is to address all of Iran’s belligerence and not allow its nuclear program and the JCPOA devour all of the international community’s attention.

The new US response, including blacklisting Iran’s notorious Revolutionary Guards, to be announced by Trump is said to cover missile tests, support for terrorism and proxy groups checkered across the Middle East, hopefully human rights violations at home, and cyberattacks.

Iran has a history of resorting to such measures, including targeting Saudi oil interests. Raising the stakes for Iran, Trump described a meeting with his top military brass on Thursday evening as “the calm before the storm.” Neither the US President nor the White House provided further details, yet rest assured Tehran received the message.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivering a statement on Iran in the Treaty Room of the State Department in Washington, DC, on April 19, 2017. (AFP)

Fear renders contradiction

Sensing an increasingly escalating tone from Washington, Tehran signaled its first sign of fear by expressing readiness to discuss its ballistic missile program, according to Reuters. And yet less than 24 hours later, Iranian officials said no offers were made to negotiate such restrictions.

“Iran regards defensive missile programs as its absolute right and will definitely continue them within the framework of its defensive, conventional and specified plans and strategies,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said, according state media.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also felt the need to make remarks to save face before the regime’s already depleting social base. “In the nuclear negotiations and agreement we reached issues and benefits that are not reversible. No one can turn that back, not Mr. Trump or anyone else,” Rouhani said at a recent Tehran University ceremony, according to state media.

Of course, we all remember how prior to the JCPOA signing in 2015 senior Iranian officials went the limits in describing any “retreat” regarding their nuclear program as a “red line.” To make a long story short, Tehran is comprehending how the times are changing at a high velocity, endangering its domestic, regional and international interests. And unlike the Obama years, its actions will not go unanswered.

Senator Cotton made this crystal clear at his speech: “Congress and the President, working together, should lay out how the deal must change and, if it doesn’t, the consequences Iran will face.”

Omni Ceren: Decertification Approaches

September 28, 2017

Omni Ceren: Decertification Approaches, Power Line,  Scott Johnson, September 28, 2017

Omri Ceren writes to comment on the Reuters story by Francois Murphy reporting that “IAEA chief calls for clarity on disputed section of Iran nuclear deal.” Omri’s commentary on the story — please check it out — should serve as a preview of coming attractions. He writes:

This is pretty close to game over on certification.

Condition 1 of Corker-Cardin requires the president to certify “Iran is transparently, verifiably, and fully implementing the agreement” [a]. One part of the agreement – Annex 1, Section T – prohibits Iran from conducting certain “activities which could contribute to the design and development of a nuclear explosive device” [b].

The IAEA has not been able to verify Iran is implementing Section T because the relevant activities would be occurring on military sites and Iran has barred the IAEA from inspecting those sites [c][d][e]. IAEA officials say they won’t even ask for access because they know Iran would say no and it would give the Trump administration an “excuse” on the deal [f].

The policy community has known about this failure for months: in August nuclear experts from FDD and ISIS published a report that concluded “it is likely that some of the conditions in Section T are not currently being met and may in fact be violated by Iran” [g].

Yesterday IAEA chief Amano confirmed the IAEA has indeed been unable to verify Iran is implementing Section T….Here are the Amano quotes:

“Our tools are limited,” Amano told Reuters when asked if his agency had the means to verify Section T. “In other sections, for example, Iran has committed to submit declarations, place their activities under safeguards or ensure access by us. But in Section T I don’t see any (such commitment).” Amano said he hoped the parties to the agreement would discuss the issue in the Joint Commission.

Advocates of the Iran deal respond that the IAEA hasn’t found any Iranian violations [h]. 1st, that’s not relevant for certification: condition 1 requires the president to certify Iran has implemented all parts of the agreement, not that Iran hasn’t been caught cheating on the parts they have implemented. 2nd, the IAEA hasn’t caught Iran cheating because they haven’t been able to look where Iran is cheating: last week lawmakers on Senate Intelligence suggested to the Weekly Standard they’ve seen classified reports that Iran is violating the deal [i].

[a] https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/615/text
[b] https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/245318.pdf
[c] https://financialtribune.com/articles/national/69753/us-demand-for-military-inspections-rejected
[d] http://kayhan.ir/en/news/42609
[e] http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=1396052200040
[f] https://ca.reuters.com/article/topNews/idCAKCN1BB1JC-OCATP
[g] http://isis-online.org/isis-reports/detail/verifying-section-t-of-the-iran-nuclear-deal
[h] http://iranprimer.usip.org/blog/2017/sep/14/debate-nuclear-deal-us
[i] http://www.weeklystandard.com/cotton-on-iran-nuclear-deal-i-simply-do-not-see-how-we-can-certify/article/2009716

PM to present Trump with ‘concrete ideas’ on Iran deal

September 18, 2017

PM to present Trump with ‘concrete ideas’ on Iran deal, Israel Hayom, Gideon Allon, September 18, 2017

(Please see also, Trump considers ending Iran deal ahead of key deadline. –DM)

As PM Benjamin Netanyahu prepares to discuss Iranian threat with U.S. President Donald Trump in New York, Israeli media reports that the IAEA failed to investigate undisclosed, suspected nuclear sites in Iran • Netanyahu meets with U.S. Jewish leaders.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomes U.S. President Donald Trump during the latter’s visit to Israel | Photo: GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was busy Monday making final preparations for his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump later in the day, where he was expected to lobby against the Iran nuclear agreement.

Netanyahu was scheduled to meet Trump at 1 p.m. (8 p.m. Israel time), where the Israeli premier is expected to reiterate his call on the American president to amend or scrap the agreement reached between Iran and Western powers in July 2015.

As another deadline to certify that Iran is adhering to the agreement looms – by law, Iran’s compliance must be certified every 90 days – it appears that Trump may be amenable to Netanyahu’s demands. Trump has declared in the past that he did not wish to certify Iran’s compliance next month, putting the future of the deal in question.

Netanyahu’s office said Sunday that the prime minister planned to present Trump with “concrete ideas” as to how to change or reverse the nuclear agreement.

Netanyahu was also preparing for his address to the United Nations General Assembly, scheduled for Tuesday. Efforts have reportedly been made to coordinate the key arguments of Netanyahu’s address, which will also focus on the Iranian threat, with those of the American president’s address, to avoid any obvious contradictions. This effort was a result of the gaps that emerged between the positions expressed by Netanyahu and Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama at last year’s general assembly.

Netanyahu’s address is expected to be shorter than in previous years, and include a direct appeal to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Netanyahu was preparing his address when Israeli paper Haaretz reported Sunday that International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors failed to investigate information regarding a number of undeclared, suspected nuclear sites in Iran. The paper quoted officials as saying that “almost all the suspected sites have not been visited by IAEA inspectors – either because of Iran’s refusal to grant entry or U.N. officials’ reluctance to confront Iran on the issue.”

Besides his strong opposition to the nuclear agreement with Iran, Netanyahu was expected to relay Israel’s concern over Iran’s presence in Syria, close to Israel’s northern border.

Upon landing in New York last week, Netanyahu reiterated the message that “Israel will not tolerate an Iranian presence at our northern border. It is a military presence that poses a threat not only to us, but also to our Arab neighbors and we will be forced to act against it.”

Meanwhile, Netanyahu met on Sunday with leaders of the U.S. Jewish community. Representatives of the Reform and Conservative Jewish movements voiced disappointment at not being granted meetings with Netanyahu, wanting to discuss Jerusalem’s recent decision to scrap plans for an egalitarian prayer plaza at the Western Wall – a decision that drew the ire of many Reform and Conservative Jews in the U.S.

Top Iranian Official Denounces UN Nuclear Watchdog Chief Yukiya Amano, Confirms Tehran Will Not Open Military Sites to International Inspection

September 13, 2017

Top Iranian Official Denounces UN Nuclear Watchdog Chief Yukiya Amano, Confirms Tehran Will Not Open Military Sites to International Inspection, AlgemeinerBen Cohen, September 12, 2017

(How diligently has the IAEA sought evidence to justify inspections of military and other non-declared Iranian sites? The Iranian position appears to be that even with substantial such evidence inspections would not be permitted.– DM)

Amano did not back down on his statement of September 1, delivered in an interview with the Associated Press, that under the provisions of the JCPOA, the IAEA “has access to all locations without making distinctions between military and civilian locations.” In private briefings with journalists, however, IAEA officials have said they are not seeking to inspect Iranian military sites, as they have no evidence to suspect Iran of carrying out banned activities; critics of the JCPOA have depicted such statements as a face-saving device, countering that the IAEA wants to avoid a losing confrontation with Iran, which has made clear that its military sites are off-limits.

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A senior adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader has fiercely denounced Yukiya Amano – the head of the UN’s nuclear monitoring body, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – for his assertion that IAEA inspectors are entitled to access all “relevant locations,” including military sites, inside Iran.

“The claim of such a right is fabricated by Mr. Amano,” Ali Akbar Velayati – a former Iranian foreign minister who now advises Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on international affairs – told the regime’s official news agency, IRNAon Tuesday. “If he was independent, and his decisions were based fully on independence, he would have pressed inspecting the nuclear centers of the Zionist regime, because nuclear arms in the occupied lands set as the biggest danger to the entire Middle East region.”

Velayati’s attack on Amano is notable in that it comes two days after the IAEA chief confirmed that Iran, in the view of the agency, is abiding by the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)  – the official name of the nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers, led by the United States, in July 2015.

“The nuclear-related commitments undertaken by Iran under the deal are being implemented,” Amano told the quarterly meeting of the IAEA’s 35-member Board of Governors in Vienna. Amano also told the meeting that Iran had agreed to a “high number” of short-notice inspections of its nuclear sites, without specifically addressing the concern voiced last month by Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the UN, that the IAEA does not have enough access in Iran.

At the same time, Amano did not back down on his statement of September 1, delivered in an interview with the Associated Press, that under the provisions of the JCPOA, the IAEA “has access to all locations without making distinctions between military and civilian locations.” In private briefings with journalists, however, IAEA officials have said they are not seeking to inspect Iranian military sites, as they have no evidence to suspect Iran of carrying out banned activities; critics of the JCPOA have depicted such statements as a face-saving device, countering that the IAEA wants to avoid a losing confrontation with Iran, which has made clear that its military sites are off-limits.

In his statement on Tuesday, Velayati bluntly confirmed this position. “Neither Mr. Amano, his officers nor any other foreigner is entitled to visit our military centers, because the centers are fully secret security zones for any foreigner and foreign affiliates,” IRNA quoted him as saying.

Velayati’s comments come amid persistent rumors that US President Donald Trump’s Administration is looking to ratchet up pressure on Tehran over its ballistic missile tests and its sponsorship of Shia Islamist organizations like Hezbollah in Lebanon. According to a Reuters news agency report on Tuesday, Trump was presented last Friday with a plan assembled by Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, and other top officials. The plan “could allow more aggressive U.S. responses to Iran’s forces, its Shi‘ite Muslim proxies in Iraq and Syria, and its support for militant groups,” the report said.

Also in question is whether Trump will re-certify the JCPOA in October, as the president is legally required to do every 100 days. While Trump has made no secret of his distaste for the deal, the Iran strategy presented to him on Friday by his advisers reportedly does not advocate a withdrawal from the JCPOA, but rather increased economic sanctions and limited military moves to counter Iran’s growing influence.