Posted tagged ‘Iranian military sites’

EXCLUSIVE – Former IAEA Deputy Director: Agency Has ‘Credibility’ Issue on Iran Nuclear Inspections

September 19, 2017

EXCLUSIVE – Former IAEA Deputy Director: Agency Has ‘Credibility’ Issue on Iran Nuclear Inspections, Breitbart, Aaron
Klein
, September 18, 2017

NEW YORK — A former deputy director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) raised questions about the credibility of that agency’s inspection and verification system for Iran’s nuclear program as required under the U.S.-brokered international nuclear accord with Tehran.

Speaking in a radio interview with this reporter, Dr. Olli Heinonen, former deputy director general of the IAEA and head of its Department of Safeguards, questioned how the IAEA can credibly inspect Iran’s nuclear program without gaining access to Iranian military bases.

Heinonen made the comments last night on his talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio,” broadcast on New York’s AM 970 The Answer and NewsTalk 990 AM in Philadelphia.

The IAEA, headquartered in Vienna, is an international body that reports to the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council. It is the agency charged with ensuring Iran is complying with the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Heinonen said he was “concerned” about the lack of IAEA access to Iran’s military bases.

He continued:

Military bases should not be sanctuaries. There is a special provision in the deal which asks the IAEA to monitor certain activities, so-called dual-use activities which can also be used for nuclear weapons purposes. IAEA has assessed that it has now verified that undertaking from Iran.

So it is hard for me to understand how you can verify that undertaking without visiting a military site and this is the most puzzling thing. And it goes to the credibility of the verification system.

How can the IAEA conclude that there have been no undeclared activities highlighted in JCPOA in those locations? This needs to be clarified and explained by the IAEA.

Last month, the IAEA declared that Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal. However, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki R. Haley and other administration officials have argued that the IAEA should have access to Iran’s nuclear bases.

Last week, Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, ruled out any possibility of international access to Iran’s military bases, declaring the issue an “unnecessary and closed case.”

Also last week, Haaretz cited Israeli officials revealing that a “Western entity” provided the IAEA last year with information regarding sites that Iran did not officially report as part of its nuclear program and where Tehran is suspected of carrying out activities related to nuclear capabilities, including research and development.

While one such alleged site was a civilian facility, the report stated that Iran did not allow access to other sites, claiming they were military bases.

Haaretz reported:

Iranians refused to allow inspectors to visit a series of other suspicious sites, claiming they were military bases and, therefore, not covered by the nuclear accord and that they were not required to allow access to inspectors.

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.

Nikki Haley: Trump Has Grounds to Declare Iran in Violation of Nuclear Deal

September 5, 2017

Nikki Haley: Trump Has Grounds to Declare Iran in Violation of Nuclear Deal, Washington Free Beacon, , September 5, 2017

Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley / Getty Images

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Tuesday said President Donald Trump would be justified if he denied Iranian compliance to the nuclear accord when it comes up for a quarterly review next month, though she said she does not know what Trump will decide.

In a speech at the American Enterprise Institute think tank in Washington, D.C., Haley detailed a strong case for Trump to declare Iran in violation of the agreement, warning the United States will be “dealing with the next North Korea” if the regime is left unchecked.

“We’re allowing them to have behavior that’s in violation of the resolution right in front of us,” she said. “We’re allowing them to sit there and actually tell the [International Atomic Energy Agency] that they’re not going to let them inspect military sites where we know they have had covert nuclear operations in the past. What I want the country to understand is we need to wake up.”

Haley said if Trump chooses to declare Iran in violation, it would not automatically trigger a U.S. withdrawal from the accord. Instead, she said the decision to leave the accord would be tossed to Congress, leaving room for lawmakers to keep in place U.S. sanctions relief.

The Trump administration has been weighing since April whether to scrap the deal, despite disagreement from U.S. allies in Europe who helped implement the agreement two years ago. Haley acknowledged European objections, but added: “This is about U.S. national security. This is not about European security.”

She said the international community’s unwillingness to challenge regime behavior “for fear of damaging the nuclear agreement” typifies the threat the deal poses to American national security, describing it as “too big to fail.”

U.S. law requires the president to notify Congress every 90 days on whether Iran is adhering to the accord, which aimed to limit Tehran’s nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of sanctions related to the program. The Trump administration has twice recertified the agreement, though Trump warnedin July he would not continue to do so indefinitely. The next recertification deadline is in October.

Haley said she would not predict the president’s decision, but suggested repercussions if Iran continues to deny the IAEA access to its military sites to ensure Tehran’s compliance to the accord.

“If the president finds that he cannot certify Iranian compliance, it would be a message to Congress that the administration believes either that Iran is in violation of the deal, or that the lifting of sanctions against Iran is not appropriate and proportional to the regime’s behavior, or that the lifting of sanctions is not in the U.S. national security interest, or any combination of the three,” she said.

Haley traveled to Vienna last week to pressure UN atomic watchdogs to check Iran’s undeclared military sites to verify it is not concealing activities barred by the deal.

Discussion Of Iranian Violations Of JCPOA Is Futile; The Inspection Procedure Designed By The Obama Administration Precludes Actual Inspection And Proof Of Violations

August 22, 2017

Discussion Of Iranian Violations Of JCPOA Is Futile; The Inspection Procedure Designed By The Obama Administration Precludes Actual Inspection And Proof Of Violations, MEMRI, August 18, 2017

(Obama’s Iran scam was, and continues to be, contrary to the security interests of America and much of the rest of the world. Even if Iranian violations of the JCPOA can not be proven under its terms, we need to exit. — DM)

This ridiculous inspection procedure obviously does not enable any real investigation of Iran’s continuing military nuclear activity, even when there is intelligence information about it. This situation is in direct contradiction with President Obama’s commitment when the JCPAO was announced on July 14, 2015: “Inspectors will also be able to access any suspicious location. Put simply, the organization responsible for the inspections, the IAEA, will have access where necessary, when necessary.”[2]

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The JCPOA’s Inspection Procedure Precludes Actual Inspection And Proof Of Violations

The public debate in the U.S. over the future of the JCPOA, amid media reports that President Trump has demanded that his national security team provide evidence of Iranian violations of the agreement by October 2017,[1] is a futile debate.

It will not be possible, neither in October nor at any other time, to prove that Iran is in violation of the JCPOA – even if the U.S. has intelligence that proves that it is. This is because the inspection procedure designed by the Obama administration precludes actual inspection – at Iran’s military sites and at any other suspect site, with the exclusion of Iran’s declared nuclear sites.

Accordingly, the demand that intelligence information on Iranian violations be presented as a condition for taking steps against the JCPOA is based on inadequate knowledge of what the JCPOA stipulates. This is because under the agreement, the obtaining of such intelligence information is only the beginning of a detailed and binding process, which delays and in actuality does not enable inspection of a suspected site at all. Instead of an inspection of a site being immediately triggered when such information is obtained, the JCPOA requires a series of preliminary steps before any such inspection will be permitted – if it is permitted at all. That is, under the JCPOA, the U.S. must:

a) Hand over the intelligence information and information on its sources to Iran for the purpose of clarifying “concerns,” both in discussions between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran, and in discussions with the Joint Commission of the JCPOA – which in addition to the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, and the IAEA includes Iran, Russia, and China – with the aim of clearing up the concerns via alternative ways that will not involve inspection of the site. The demand to reveal this information and its sources to Iran, Russia, and China is ridiculous and the U.S. cannot agree to it; since these are the conditions of the JCPOA, no further action is actually possible.

b) If no agreement on alternative ways not involving inspection of the site can be reached, there will be an additional discussion in the Joint Commission, where decisions on this matter are to be made by majority vote within seven days. Iran must comply with the decision within three additional days.

This ridiculous inspection procedure obviously does not enable any real investigation of Iran’s continuing military nuclear activity, even when there is intelligence information about it. This situation is in direct contradiction with President Obama’s commitment when the JCPAO was announced on July 14, 2015: “Inspectors will also be able to access any suspicious location. Put simply, the organization responsible for the inspections, the IAEA, will have access where necessary, when necessary.”[2]

It should be clarified that the heart of the JCPOA lies in the lifting of the nuclear sanctions on Iran, in exchange for Iran’s temporary and targeted suspension of some of its nuclear activity. The inspection procedure is not the heart of the agreement; this procedure is a section of the JCPOA aimed at ensuring that the JCPOA’s conditions are met. Additionally, it should also be mentioned that Iran and the IAEA Iran had, in July 2015, reached a “road map” agreement to resolve the military aspects of Iran’s nuclear program – the content of which is secret.[3] Accordingly, every demand by the U.S. administration aimed at changing the inspection procedure, if such a demand is made, will not constitute a demand to change the heart of the JCPOA itself – and in fact will even reinforce the JCPOA by reinforcing its inspection procedure.However, without any change to the inspection procedure itself, Iran will be able to covertly advance its military nuclear development, and there will be no real way of overseeing that development. Even if intelligence information from outside the inspection procedure is obtained, the JCPOA’s provisions make it worthless (see Appendix).

Iranian Regime: We Will Never Allow IAEA Inspectors Access To Military Sites

As soon as the JCPOA was announced, on July 14, 2015, Iranian regime officials, headed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and top Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commanders, stressed that IAEA inspectors would not be given access to Iran’s military sites for inspection purposes.

Khamenei, July 25, 2015: “[The foreigners] shouldn’t be allowed at all to penetrate into the country’s security and defensive boundaries under the pretext of supervision, and the country’s military officials are not permitted at all to allow the foreigners to cross these boundaries or stop the country’s defensive development under the pretext of supervision and inspection.”[4]

Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, July 22, 2015: Inspections of this kind cross “the red lines” and in the [JCPOA] negotiations Iran had “succeeded in fully ensuring” that the agreement would not allow such inspections.[5]

Khamenei’s top adviser for international affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati, July 2015 to the Arabic service of Al-Jazeera TV: “Access of inspectors from the IAEA or from any other body to Iran’s military centers is forbidden.”[6]

More recently, IRGC Aerospace Force commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh, August 7, 2017: “In the matter of the Westerners’ request to inspect our military centers, the answer is clear. We will not allow them to do such a thing.”[7]

IRGC deputy commander Hossein Salami, August 12, 2017: “I say to the dear Iranian nation, to America, and to the entire world: If in all of history and in the world, there is [only] one request that will not be complied with and will receive a negative answer, it is this request. And if there is one wish that will be buried with those wishing it, it is the wish that they will visit our military centers.”[8]

Appendix: What The JCPOA Says About The Inspection Procedure

The JCPOA’s “Q. Access” section, paragraphs 74-78, dealing with the inspection procedure:

The agreement specifies that requests for access for inspection “will not be aimed at interfering with Iranian military or other national security activities.” Furthermore, if the IAEA obtains secret intelligence information, it “will provide Iran the basis for such concerns and request clarification.”

Further: “If Iran’s explanations do not resolve the IAEA’s concerns, the Agency may request access to such locations for the sole reason to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear materials and activities or activities inconsistent with the JCPOA at such locations. The IAEA will provide Iran the reasons for access in writing and will make available relevant information.”

It continues: “Iran may propose to the IAEA alternative means of resolving the IAEA’s concerns that enable the IAEA to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear materials and activities or activities inconsistent with the JCPOA at the location in question, which should be given due and prompt consideration.

“If the absence of undeclared nuclear materials and activities or activities inconsistent with the JCPOA cannot be verified after the implementation of the alternative arrangements agreed by Iran and the IAEA, or if the two sides are unable to reach satisfactory arrangements to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear materials and activities or activities inconsistent with the JCPOA at the specified locations within 14 days of the IAEA’s original request for access, Iran, in consultation with the members of the Joint Commission, would resolve the IAEA’s concerns through necessary means agreed between Iran and the IAEA. In the absence of an agreement, the members of the Joint Commission, by consensus or by a vote of 5 or more of its 8 members, would advise on the necessary means to resolve the IAEA’s concerns. The process of consultation with, and any action by, the members of the Joint Commission would not exceed 7 days, and Iran would implement the necessary means within 3 additional days.”[9]

 

*Y. Carmon is President of MEMRI; A. Savyon is Director of MEMRI’s Iran Studies Project.

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[1] October 2017 is the deadline for the U.S. administration to notify Congress whether or not Iran is complying with the JCPOA.

[2] Statement by the President on Iran, July 14, 2015,
Obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2015/07/14/statement-president-iran.

[4] English.farsnews.com, July 25, 2015. See also MEMRI Daily Brief No. 57, What Iran Is Permitted To Do Under The JCPOA, September 17, 2015.

[5] Latimes.com, July 22, 2015. See also MEMRI Daily Brief No. 57, What Iran Is Permitted To Do Under The JCPOA, September 17, 2015.

[6] English.farsnews.com, July 25 and August 1, 2015.

[7] Tasnim (Iran), August 7, 2017.

[8] Asr-e Iran (Iran), August 13, 2017.

[9] Apps.washingtonpost.com/g/documents/world/full-text-of-the-iran-nuclear-deal/1651.

Nikki Haley Increasing Scrutiny of Iran Amid Nuclear Deal Review

August 17, 2017

Nikki Haley Increasing Scrutiny of Iran Amid Nuclear Deal Review, Washington Free Beacon, August 17, 2017

(Please see also, President [of Iran]: Iran Could Swiftly Return to Pre-JCPOA Conditions. Will Ambassador Haley discuss — or be permitted to review — the limitations imposed on the IAEA under the “secret agreements” between it and the Iranian regime?– DM)

Nikki Haley / Getty Images

Haley will meet next week with members of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is tasked with monitoring Iran’s compliance with the deal, as part of a fact-finding mission to investigate the extent of Tehran’s nuclear activities.

The trip is part of a policy review ordered by President Donald Trump in April to evaluate Iran’s adherence to the 2015 agreement. The administration said the review will be completed before the deal is up for recertification in October.

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U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has ramped up pressure on Iran ahead of a trip to Vienna next week, where she will meet with international atomic watchdog officials concerning Tehran’s nuclear activities.

Haley on Tuesday rejected threats from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who warned the country could walk away from its nuclear agreement with world powers “within hours” if the United States continued to impose new sanctions.

Rouhani said recently enacted sanctions targeting Iran’s ballistic missile program violated its pact with the United States and five other world powers, which aimed to limit Tehran’s nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of sanctions related to the program.

Haley said the sanctions were separate from the deal and were instead imposed “to hold Iran responsible for its missile launches, support for terrorism, disregard for human rights, and violations of UN Security Council resolutions.”

“Iran cannot be allowed to use the nuclear deal to hold the world hostage,” Haley said in a statement directed at Rouhani. “The nuclear deal must not become ‘too big to fail.'”

Earlier this month, the United States, backed by Britain, France, and Germany, demanded the UN Security Council take action against Iran after the Islamic Republic launched a rocket carrying a satellite into space in late July.

The group, spearheaded by Haley, warned in a letter to the council that the Iranian missile was “inherently capable of delivering a nuclear warhead” and therefore violated an international resolution.

Under UN Security Council resolution 2231, Iran is “called upon” to refrain from conducting “any activity” related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, “including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”

The Trump administration, which previously accused Rouhani’s government of failing to comply with the “spirit” of the nuclear deal, swiftly imposed sanctions on six Iranian companies for their role in the country’s ballistic missile program in response to the rocket launch.

Haley will meet next week with members of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is tasked with monitoring Iran’s compliance with the deal, as part of a fact-finding mission to investigate the extent of Tehran’s nuclear activities.

The trip is part of a policy review ordered by President Donald Trump in April to evaluate Iran’s adherence to the 2015 agreement. The administration said the review will be completed before the deal is up for recertification in October.

If Trump rejects certification, his administration can reapply sanctions that were suspended under the pact.

Similar to Trump, Haley has repeatedly criticized the deal for empowering Iran and Russia while handicapping U.S. leverage over the Rouhani regime.

US seeks to test Iran deal with its new inspections

July 27, 2017

US seeks to test Iran deal with its new inspections, Times of IsraelJosh Lederman and Matthew Lee, July 27, 2017

(It may be significant that Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon, rather than Secretary of State Tillerson, was sent to discuss the proposal with European members of the European Commission monitoring the “deal.” — DM)

US President Donald Trump speaks during an event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, July 26, 2017. (AFP/SAUL LOEB)

Trump faces another certification deadline in three months, and it’s far from clear that either new inspections or any “fixes” to address whether his concerns will be in place by then. Trump told the Wall Street Journal this week he expects to say Iran isn’t complying, setting a high bar for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other aides to persuade him otherwise.

“If it was up to me, I would have had them noncompliant 180 days ago,” Trump said.

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A refusal by Tehran to allow monitors in military sites could give Trump the excuse he wants to cancel the nuclear agreement.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is pushing for inspections of suspicious Iranian military sites in a bid to test the strength of the nuclear deal that US President Donald Trump desperately wants to cancel, senior US officials said.

The inspections are one element of what is designed to be a more aggressive approach to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. While the Trump administration seeks to police the existing deal more strictly, it is also working to fix what Trump’s aides have called “serious flaws” in the landmark deal that — if not resolved quickly — will likely lead Trump to pull out.

That effort also includes discussions with European countries to negotiate a follow-up agreement to prevent Iran from resuming nuclear development after the deal’s restrictions expire in about a decade, the officials said. The officials weren’t authorized to discuss the efforts publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The inspections requests, which Iran would likely resist, could play heavily into Trump’s much-anticipated decision about whether to stick with the deal he’s long derided.

If Iran refuses inspections, Trump would finally have a solid basis to say Iran is breaching the deal, setting up Tehran to take most of the blame if the agreement collapses. If Iran agrees to inspections, those in Trump’s administration who want to preserve the deal would be emboldened to argue it’s advancing US national security effectively.

The campaign gained fresh urgency this month following a dramatic clash within the administration about whether to certify Iran’s compliance, as is required every 90 days.

Trump was eager to declare Tehran in violation, even though the International Atomic Energy Agency that monitors compliance says its infractions are minor. At the urging of top Cabinet members, Trump begrudgingly agreed at the last-minute to avoid a showdown for another three months — but only with assurances the US would increase pressure on Iran to test whether the deal is truly capable of addressing its nuclear ambitions and other troublesome activities.

Trump faces another certification deadline in three months, and it’s far from clear that either new inspections or any “fixes” to address whether his concerns will be in place by then. Trump told the Wall Street Journal this week he expects to say Iran isn’t complying, setting a high bar for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other aides to persuade him otherwise.

“If it was up to me, I would have had them noncompliant 180 days ago,” Trump said.

Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) heads into the Senate Chamber at the US Capitol, in Washington DC, July 26, 2017. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)

To that end, the administration is seeking to force Iran to let in IAEA inspectors to military sites where the US intelligence community believes the Islamic Republic may be cheating on the deal, several officials said.

Access to Iran’s military sites was one of the most contentious issues in the 2015 deal, in which Tehran agreed to roll back its nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in sanctions relief.

Last week in Vienna, where the International Atomic Energy Agency is based, Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon floated the proposal to the European members of the Joint Commission that oversees the deal, one official said. Britain, France and Germany joined the US, Russia, China and the European Union two years ago in brokering the deal with Iran.

To force inspections of new sites in Iran, the US would need to enlist the support of the IAEA and a majority of the countries in the deal. But the US has run into early resistance over concerns it has yet to produce a “smoking gun” — compelling evidence of illicit activity at a military site that the IAEA could use to justify inspections, officials said.

Among the concerns about a rush toward inspections is that if they fail to uncover evidence of violations, it would undermine the IAEA’s credibility and its ability to demand future inspections. So the US is working to produce foolproof intelligence about illicit activity, officials said. The officials declined to describe the intelligence activities or the Iranian sites the US believes are involved.

Senator Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, alluded to the strategy during an event hosted Wednesday by The Washington Post. Corker said the US was trying to “radically enforce” the deal by asking for access to “various facilities” in Iran.

“If they don’t let us in, boom,” Corker said. “You want the breakup of this deal to be about Iran. You don’t want it to be about the US, because we want our allies with us.”

As a candidate, Trump threatened to rip up the deal that US President Barack Obama brokered. As president, Trump has yet to take that step, as his administration finishes a broader Iran policy review expected to conclude in August.

Satellite image of the Parchin facility, April 2012 (AP/Institute for Science and International Security)

The other major step to try and address what Trump has deemed flaws in the deal involves ensuring that Iran can’t revert to old behavior once the limitations on its program “sunset” over the next decade-plus. The US State Department said Trump has directed his administration to “work with allies to explore options” for dealing with that and other shortcomings. Talks are under way with the European countries about a supplemental deal, though it’s unclear how Iran could be persuaded to sign on.

The deal’s provisions for inspections of military facilities, or “undeclared sites,” involve a complex process with plenty of opportunities for Iran to stall. Tehran can propose alternatives to on-site inspections, or reject the request, which would trigger a 24-day process for the Joint Commission countries to override the rejection.

That could drag on for months. And under ambiguities built into the deal, it’s unclear whether Iran must allow IAEA inspectors into military sites, or whether the Iranians can take their own environmental samples and send them to the IAEA for testing, as was allowed under a 2015 side agreement that let Iran use its own experts to inspect the Parchin military site.

Even if Trump declares Iran in violation of the deal — a move that would invigorate his conservative base — he could still leave Iran’s sanctions relief in place.

American businesses are eager for the deal to survive so they can pursue lucrative opportunities in Iran. The aviation industry recently signed billions of dollars of contracts to sell passenger plans to Iranian airlines, including a $16.6 billion deal for Boeing.