By Ali Safavi
The agreement on a framework of political understanding between the P5+1 and the Iranian regime which the Western powers contend will stop Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons hinges on one critical but hardly-mentioned parameter: the International Atomic Energy Agency's probe into the possible military dimensions (PMD) of Iran's nuclear program and unfettered access to, and snap inspection of, all suspect sites, military or otherwise.
The "understanding" struck in Lausanne revealed that the Obama administration has given considerable concessions to the Iranian side, even backpedaling from its own initial demands.
Under the deal, none of the regime's nuclear facilities, including the Fordow site, will be shut down, and none of its 19,000 centrifuges will be dismantled. In other words, the key elements of the regime's nuclear infrastructure, long a major cause for alarm, will remain unscathed.
But that's not all. Iran will also be allowed to enrich uranium using more than 5,000 centrifuges instead of the 1,500 originally demanded by the U.S. And, a sunset period limits the deal to the original Iranian position demanding no more than 10 years of restrictions.
In the meantime, the regime, once free of sanctions, will be able to better fund its destructive regional designs from Iraq to Syria to Yemen. Then, in 10 years’ time, the world's number one human rights violator and sponsor of terrorism - perhaps with an expanded regional reach - will knock on the door of the world's most exclusive club of nuclear states.
During the talks, the Iranian side showed its true colors by agreeing to something one minute and recanting the next - with complete impunity. It reneged on the earlier agreement to ship out its enriched uranium stockpiles to Russia, and is now insisting on much greater levels of research and development with high-end centrifuges.
The U.S. State Department said after announcing the deal that U.S. and EU sanctions will be suspended "after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps."
But, so far at least, the IAEA's decade-old probe has essentially determined that Tehran's intentions cannot adequately be judged if the jury is still out, at best, on the nature of its previous clandestine activities.
The nuclear watchdog agency’s Director General, Yukiya Amano, has repeatedly chastised Tehran for failure to cooperate fully. To date, Iran has provided some but not all requested information regarding one key aspect of the probe. Two other questions have been raised but not discussed in detail. Meanwhile, nine more have yet to be introduced into the process at all.
The tendency to give Iran more than the benefit of the doubt is illustrated by the administration’s neglect of the IAEA probe. The IAEA's consistent dissatisfaction with Iran’s answers strongly suggests that Tehran has something to hide.
The administration seems to think that Iran has been compliant despite IAEA concerns. In March, it declared that Iran’s testing of advanced centrifuge technology during the period of negotiations was probably a misunderstanding by scientists and not a violation of the November 2013 agreement endorsed by Iranian authorities.
That interpretation seems extremely implausible in light of the revelation in February by the National Council of Resistance of Iran that Iran had been concealing a nuclear site called Lavizan-3 at which it had used advanced centrifuges for the enrichment of uranium for years.
But this is only one of several sites that have been kept from the view of the IAEA as Iran continues to stonewall the nuclear probe. The agency’s attention has primarily been focused on the Parchin military base, and Tehran’s steadfast refusal to grant access to it has been a major driver of Amano’s calls for Iran to accept the Additional Protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty and allow inspectors to go where they want, when they want.
The way to stop the mullahs from acquiring nuclear weapons is not to take them at their word in the context of a broad political understanding. This flies in the face of both logic and the regime's past conduct.” Indeed, NCRI’s President-elect Maryam Rajavi cautioned that “a statement of generalities lacking Khamenei's signature and official approval will never block the path to the regime obtaining nuclear weapons nor prevent its intrinsic deception.”
The only way to avoid a nuclear Iran is to demand compliance with UN Security Council resolutions and IAEA probes. Appeasing a deceitful regime, bent on regional domination, would only embolden it and put a dent on America's prestige in the region, alienating allies and allowing Tehran to fill the void.
The international community should once again give the IAEA the support that it was expected to receive when these talks began. It is as crucial as ever that Iranian regime is compelled to demonstrate meaningful transparency about its nuclear program before any deal can go forward. Absent that, the final agreement will not be worth the paper it is printed on.