On Monday, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director general Yukiya Amano explained what had up to this point been a mystery: namely, why its recent reports on Iran’s nuclear program have been so vague and contain such little data. As it turns out, under the Iran nuclear deal or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), there are now limitations on what the IAEA is allowed to report.
According to Amano, due to new U.N. Security Council and IAEA resolutions, the agency will only monitor and verify Iran’s compliance with its JCPOA commitments and will no longer provide broad reporting on its nuclear program. A December 15, 2015, IAEA Board of Governors resolutiondirected the organization to cease reporting on Iran’s compliance with its Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligations and past Security Council resolutions because the Board of Governors is no longer seized of this matter.
This also means that even though a December 2, 2015, IAEA report raised several serious unresolved questions about Iran’s nuclear weapons-related activities, the IAEA will no longer report on this issue because its Board of Governors closed the file on the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.
But it gets worse. Not only are the new IAEA reports much narrower in focus, they also omit important data on how Iran is complying with the nuclear deal itself.
Many experts were concerned at the vagueness of an IAEA report issued on January 16, 2016, which declared Iran had met the JCPOA’s “Implementation Day” requirements, allowing it to receive up to $150 billion in sanctions relief and other benefits. This was an atypical report for the IAEA which the Institute for Science and International Security said provided few details about the steps Iran took to comply with JCPOA requirements. For example, it lacked information on how much enriched uranium Iran allegedly sent to Russia, whether the IAEA monitored this transfer, and how much enriched uranium Iran may have kept in the country by converting it into uranium dioxide powder, a process that can be quickly reversed.
Experts were even more concerned by a February 26 report which left out important data needed to assess Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA such as the size of its enriched-uranium stockpile, how much uranium Iran is enriching, and details on its centrifuge research and development.
In a recent analysis for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, Olli Heinonen, a former senior IAEA official, said the February IAEA report provides “surprisingly scant information on key issues.” According to Heinonen, “without detailed reporting, the international community cannot be sure that Iran is upholding its commitments under the nuclear deal.”
I am one of many critics who have argued that a legitimate nuclear deal with Iran would bar all uranium enrichment and centrifuge development. The fact that the JCPOA permits these activities to continue and also bars the IAEA from releasing public reports on them is very disturbing and will prevent the U.S Congress and outside experts from assessing the implications of these dangerous U.S. concessions to Tehran.
In his recent analysis, Heinonen offered an explanation for the missing data in the recent reports. “For years, Tehran has advocated for less-detailed IAEA safeguards reports, citing concerns ranging from confidentiality matters to IAEA inspection authorities under the comprehensive safeguards agreement.”
It seems clear the West conceded to Iran’s demand for vague IAEA reports during the nuclear talks in yet another secret side deal that the Obama administration failed to disclose to Congress. This is more evidence that the nuclear deal with Iran is a fraud. U.S. officials gave away everything to get this legacy agreement for President Obama that will not stop Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons.
It also appears that by preventing the IAEA from publicly disclosing the full details of Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA, the Obama administration found a way to perpetuate the myth that this is a good agreement and keep Republicans from using reports of Iran’s cheating on the deal against Democrats in the 2016 presidential and congressional campaigns.
The only good news in this story may be that although the U.S., Russia, and China are satisfied with the IAEA’s reporting on Iran, at least two European nations believe the IAEA’s reporting is too superficial and plan to press Amano to provide “the necessary information” in his next quarterly report, according to the Associated Press.
The nuclear deal with Iran is one of the most important reasons to elect a Republican president this November who will tear up this disastrous agreement on his first day in office. Our next White House occupant must exercise the leadership to negotiate a legitimate nuclear deal that actually halts Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and requires Tehran to fully explain all unanswered questions about its past nuclear-weapons work.