Iranian Supreme Ruler Ali Khamenei
Sources: Supreme Ruler website/AFP/Getty Images
Country and Western Icon, Hank Williams wrote a ballad back in the 1950’s, “Your Cheatin’ Heart”. Perhaps there is a new version in the international arena, “Iran’s Cheating Heart”. Iran’s track record of evading inspections by the IAEA under prior Additional Protocols has been, shall we say, less than fulsome. Add to that the Islamic Regime’s non compliance with requests by the IAEA for information on so-called previous military developments (PMD). Especially the barring of inspections at the military explosives test site of Parchin, where there appears to have been concealment of tests of nuclear triggers. We raise this because President Obama in his announcement of the framework for a final agreement to be negotiated by June 30th had talked about “robust intrusive inspections.” Moreover, he said, “ If Iran cheats, the world will know about it”. Further, Secretary Kerry when asked during an NPR interview on April 8th about Iran’s PMD said that would be part of the negotiations.
Yesterday, Ayatollah Khamenei in his first public statement on the P5+1 Political Framework stirred up a hornet’s nest of controversy about major differences between the State Department Fact Sheet and Iran’s “understanding”. Khamenei said that all sanctions would be lifted immediately upon signing of a definitive agreement, adding that PMD was off the table. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) in its report on these latest disagreements over the political framework announced April 2nd drew attention to what Khamenei said:
It must absolutely not be allowed for them to infiltrate into the country’s defense and security domain under the pretext of inspections. Military officials must not allow strangers into this private domain under the pretext of supervision and inspection, or stop the defensive development of the country.
The WSJ noted this myopic comment of the eponymous senior administration official:
We see the Iranians working to build support for the deal back home, which is a positive signal of their intent to complete the final agreement.
The Wall Street Journal cited the usually clear-eyed Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) ,chief Congressional critic of the P5+1 framework, saying:
As each new day reveals a new disagreement, it’s increasingly clear that Iran, in fact, failed to reach agreement with the United States and its partners on a political framework.
Michael Makovsky, executive director of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) in the current edition of The Weekly Standard dissected the reality of those ‘robust intrusive inspections’ under Additional Protocols between Iran and the IAEA in an article, “Iran’s Cheating: Can’t Trust, Can’t Verify”. First off, Makovsky notes there is “no Additional Protocol”:
There is a model Additional Protocol that the IAEA uses as a basis for negotiating a specific agreement with each individual country tailored to its situation. Indeed, this provision opens the door to yet another round of haggling with Iran, making it impossible to know what exact measures Iran will end up being bound by.
But we do know, and this is the second concern, that no Additional Protocol contains the sort of “anytime, anywhere” inspections that UNSCOM provided for and that experts agree is necessary to police Iran’s program. What an Additional Protocol would likely contain, according to the framework agreement, is an expansion of the number of facilities subject to inspections—to include Iran’s uranium mines and centrifuge factories—and stricter requirements for advance notice of any nuclear facilities Iran plans to construct.
On why the Military test site at Parchin is important:
If Iran decides to sprint for a nuke, however, it won’t do so in a uranium mine; it will do it at one of its enrichment plants, most likely a clandestine plant, potentially hidden on a military base. It is precisely such sites that the IAEA has been trying, unsuccessfully, to get access to for years. Of particular concern has been the Parchin military complex, where the IAEA suspects Iran tested high-explosives for a nuclear weapon. Yet inspectors have never been allowed to set foot on the site, watching instead as satellite imagery showed Iran demolishing the suspected site and paving it over to conceal any evidence of its cheating.
Then there is Iran’s track record on ‘implementing “ Additional Protocols:
Third, there is the ambiguity of the term “implement.” Iran has previously “implemented” an Additional Protocol. In 2003, about the same time it was cheating on its agreement with the Europeans, Iranian leaders signed an Additional Protocol with the IAEA. Indeed, for the next two years they actually observed it. But in early 2006, Iran announced that it would no longer abide by the Additional Protocol and curtailed inspectors’ access. They could well try to pull the same stunt again. And according to a “fact sheet” released by the Iranian foreign ministry, Iran believes it has only committed “to implement the Additional Protocol on a voluntary and temporary basis for the sake of transparency and confidence building.”
Not only our intelligence but even Israel’s is deficient when it comes to detecting Iran’s covert nuclear program:
U.S. intelligence services have a dismal track record of detecting clandestine nuclear efforts and predicting breakout—in North Korea, Pakistan, and India, for example. Israeli security officials have admitted in private that they too have significant gaps in their knowledge about Iran’s facilities. This is not an indictment of American or Israeli intelligence capabilities; it is simply very challenging to detect covert nuclear activities. Permitting Iran to keep its vast nuclear infrastructure largely intact, as the JCPOA does, only compounds the challenges the United States and the world will have in detecting Iranian cheating.
If Iran has been engaged in cooperative nuclear weapons development with North Korea, as we have written, that compounds the difficulty of detecting covert sites for storage of fissile material and research on nuclear warheads for those ICBMs it is developing.
An intrusive inspections and verification regime is the sine qua non of any arms agreement, especially with a congenital cheater like the Islamic Republic of Iran. Unfortunately, the JCPOA fails on this crucial issue, by not demanding complete information about the extent of Iran’s past nuclear weapons research and eschewing “anytime, anywhere” inspections of all facilities. In other words, it is currently worth no more than the paper it might have been written on.
There’s an old Southern phrase in the US that appears apt in the current controversy over what was intended in the P5+1 Political Framework for a nuclear agreement with Iran: “this dog won’t hunt”.