Needed: A Guide to the Perplexed for the Iran Negotiations

If the IAEA has limited access to Iranian nuclear sites, what legitimacy is there to negotiations with US and the P5 over Iran's nuclear program?

Larry Domnitch

OpEds Larry Domnitch
Larry Domnitch

Lynne Bursky Tammam co-authored this article.

One can easily be perplexed by the Obama Administration’s lack of accountability in their ongoing negotiations with Iran to curb their nuclear program.

 Marie Harf, the newly appointed State Department spokesperson for the Iran negotiating team, was asked at a press conference on May 21 about a recent New York Times report that Iran had increased its stockpile of enriched uranium by 20 percent over the past eighteen months. Harf replied that “our team read that story this morning and was quite frankly perplexed because the main contentions of it are totally inaccurate.”

Harf, who called the report a “manufactured controversy,” also stated that “under the JPA (Joint Plan of Action) Iran can fluctuate its numbers in terms of its stockpiles. They can go up and down as long as at the end of the fixed date they are back down below a number.”

What is perplexing is that the Obama Administration continues to negotiate with an entity which violates its word even as it negotiates...
This statement contradicts White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest who stated on March 2 that the Administration has not only halted progress in the Iranian nuclear program but is “actually rolling it back in several key areas, including reducing and eliminating their stockpile of highly enriched uranium.”

This is as much about reckless abandonment of the facts as it is doubletalk. Since 2003, Iran has reneged on all the nuclear agreements it has signed.

According to Ernest Moniz, the nuclear scientist who is playing a key role in the international negotiations,  “The world failed to follow through on a tough agreement with Tehran a decade ago when Iran had less than 200 centrifuges and virtually no enriched uranium.” Added Moniz, “Iran now has nearly 20,000 centrifuges and 10,000 kilograms of enriched uranium” (Christian Science Monitor, 4/27/15).  

What is perplexing is the Obama Administration continues to negotiate with an entity which violates its word even as it negotiates. What is even more perplexing is that  the U.S. Administration is racing toward signing an agreement on June 30 when it has no means of verification as to what Iran possesses.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly acknowledged that it does not have access to military sites, technology, and research in Iran that are critical to its development of nuclear weapons. The IAEA published a February 19 report documenting the still unresolved concerns about Iran's alleged nuclear weapons activity and possible military dimensions of the country's nuclear activities.

According to the report, Iran has conducted clandestine operations at its Parchin Military Complex, southeast of Tehran, and at other military sites which have never been accessible to its inspectors. This was even as the P5+1 group – the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany – continued to approach the late March deadline for a proposed nuclear agreement that would allow Iran to keep much of its nuclear infrastructure intact.

Most disturbingly, it was reported on June 14 that the U.S. will drop its demand for information about the past military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program before signing an agreement. (Algemeiner 6/14/15)

Recently, IAEA Director Yukiya Amano said Iran had responded to just one of a dozen inquiries related to the twelve technologies it is developing related to nuclear weapons. The IAEA “further corroborated” information indicating that Iran “has carried out activities that are relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device”  Washington Post (3/24/15). Amano also stated the IAEA has information that Iran conducted experiments in a high explosive chamber at the Parchin Military Complex to which their inspectors have no access. 

On two occasions, according to Amano, they had been given access to a small portion of the complex. The IAEA "thinks" they have identified the rest of the "area." Iran has declared 18 nuclear facilities and nine other locations where nuclear material is used and that the IAEA cannot provide credible assurance about undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran and therefore cannot conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is involved in peaceful activities. 

If the IAEA has limited access to Iranian nuclear sites, what legitimacy is there to negotiations with US and the P5 over Iran's nuclear program?

Iran's "Supreme Leader," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reiterated that Iran will not allow the inspection of its military sites or the interviewing of its nuclear scientists as part of any potential deal on its nuclear program (NYT, 5/21/15).     

An agreement with a nation that has demonstrated no credibility whatsoever is soon to be finalized.  It is perplexing that the Administration continues to place its trust in its lead negotiator Wendy Sherman, whose failed efforts with North Korea allowed a rogue nation to develop nuclear weapons.    

Most members of Congress see the folly of the current nuclear negotiations, as do the leaders of most Arab nations who all too familiar with the dynamics of Iran and the Middle East. Former American Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, in a recent speech at Great Neck Synagogue phrased the diplomacy in which the Administration is engaged as “delusional”   (5/3/15.) Bolton stated, “The inability of the Americans to confront Iran has resulted in twelve years of ineffective diplomacy that have allowed the Iranians to deepen and broaden their nuclear infrastructure.” 

That is truly perplexing.