Iran’s Nuclear Export Agreement

Sanctions may be the best and only weapon left to the West.

Baruch Stein,

OpEds Baruch Stein
Baruch Stein
INN: Stein
While 2015 is shaping up to be the year of Iran “deadlines,” or the year of watching how any agreement it signs is kept, Tehran’s involvement in off-shore nuclear projects has not been sufficiently addressed.

With the framework agreement from April focused mainly on Iran’s domestic nuclear program, and the supply chain that supports it, the question becomes whether Iran would use international proliferation as an alternative to their domestic program once the final agreement, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), comes into force?

As part of its sanctions relief package, the framework (which, as negotiations continue, remains the best indication of what a final agreement would look like) calls for the repeal of previous UN resolutions relating to the Iranian Nuclear program. It also specifies that “…core provisions in the UN Security Council resolutions – those that deal with transfers of sensitive technologies and activities – will be re-established by a new UN Security
Would Iran use international proliferation as an alternative to their domestic program once the final agreement, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), comes into force?
Council resolution that will endorse the JCPOA and urge its full implementation.”

The framework does not specify which language from which UN resolutions will be reinstituted. It does, however, mandate that, “Even after the period of the most stringent limitations on Iran’s nuclear program, Iran will remain a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which prohibits Iran’s development or acquisition of nuclear weapons and requires IAEA safeguards on its nuclear program.”

The NPT, though, has already shown itself to be vulnerable to violations by signatories that have found it inconvenient. It does not itself sufficiently guarantee that Iran will not export nuclear technology. Additionally, while the framework specifies the establishment of a dispute resolution process to address accusations of non-compliance of any final agreement, and snap-back sanctions should Iran be found to be significantly and unresolvably non-compliant, it does not specify whether that process may be used to enforce provisions of the NPT or of UN resolutions that are not explicitly reiterated within the JCPOA.

If in fact the enforcement of pertinent UN resolutions will be left up to the UN itself, UN enforcement of nuclear regulations against Iran has shown itself to be an inefficient and unreliable process.

Even the Iranian nuclear program was built using the help of partners like A. Q. KhanNorth Korean involvement has also been reported. The international nuclear black market has already developed into a major industry in which both Khan and the North Koreans have operated.
Iran is known for their use of both satellite states such as Syria, and non-state actors such as Hezballah, Hamas, and the Houthis, as central pillars of their global operations, so it is not hard to imagine them setting up a nuclear program in a Houthi controlled Yemen or more likely, in a country like Sudan.

In fact, documents recently released by WikiLeaks suggest that Iran has previously sent advanced nuclear equipment to Sudan, and their involvement in covert Syrian nuclear projects has already been exposed.

While round the clock inspection of the entire world is clearly impossible, my position is achievable. The United States must ensure that a final agreement provide for the application of the snap-back sanctions Obama has championed, not only if Iran is found to be cheating on the agreement with regard to their domestic program, but also if they are ever found to be involved in any covert nuclear-related projects off-shore, regardless of the extent of their involvement.

Due to the murky nature of international proliferation, it is unlikely that any intelligence agency would be able to discover, document, and know beyond a reasonable doubt, that a given project anywhere in the world had been intended to yield a nuclear weapon, and then head it off before its use.

Snap-back sanctions, therefore, cannot depend on concrete evidence of a nuclear weapons program, but rather must be triggered by the discovery of any uncoordinated nuclear-related activity anywhere in the world, including any transactions involving Uranium, Plutonium, or parts used by nuclear-related facilities.

Sanctions must apply, not only to the Iranians themselves, but also to any other actors found to be working with the Iranians on nuclear-related projects outside of Iran.    

Baruch Stein holds a BA in Political Science from Penn State University with minors in Middle Eastern Studies, and Philosophy. After growing up in Pennsylvania, he has lived in Jerusalem for seven years.