The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, declared again on Monday, November 13 that Iran is abiding by the nuclear accord it signed with the six world powers in July 2015, the accord that installed an international inspection regime for Iranian nuclear facilities.
This deal, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is a typical example of how various actors, state and non-state, with different and sometimes even conflicting interests and perspectives, give different interpretations to international deals.
US President Donald Trump announced in a speech on October 13 that the US is considering decertifying the JCPOA. One of the main reasons cited by Trump in his speech was Iranian violations of the deal. This announcement clearly reflected the Trump administration’s policy toward Iran, a policy that defines Iran as the main source of violence and instability in the Middle East due to Iran’s ongoing efforts to expand its political influence and military presence in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
Israel sent information in September 2017 to the IAEA that suggested a series of Iranian violations of the JCPOA, violations concerning activities related to nuclear military research taking place in several military installations. Israel demanded the IAEA make inspections on the ground to check this information.
Israel defines Iran as the main threat to its national security and survival, and is especially concerned by the growing Iranian military presence and infrastructure in Syria and the significant military power of Hezbollah, Iran’s Lebanese proxy. The Israeli government has had a systematic negative attitude to the JCPOA and declared many times that in practical terms it gives Iran the golden and immediate opportunity to advance its military nuclear program significantly.
The other signatories of the JCPOA, Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France, accept the position of the IAEA that the Iranians are abiding by the terms of the accord. All these countries have a known and clear interest in widening economic ties and cooperation with Iran, a process that ensures them billions of dollars in revenue.
According to the US and Israel, the Iranian violations are taking place in military installations and bases, sites that under the terms of the JCPOA are not to be inspected or monitored by the IAEA.
The accord specifies that only nuclear installations and sites across Iran known and declared before the signing of the accord in 2015 may be inspected.
the IAEA has been trying (without much success) to maneuver between the hammer and the anvil of state actors with various and conflicting interests.
An IAEA official was quoted as saying that “we are not going to do inspections in military sites in Iran just to send a political message,” but the head of the UN nuclear watchdog, Yukiya Amano, declared: “We have access to all locations without making distinction between military and civilian locations.”
A top adviser to the supreme Iranian leader, Ali Akbar Velayati, vehemently rejected Amano statement and said: “Foreigners are not allowed to visit our military installations, I emphasize that in all the accords that Iran signed with the International Atomic Energy Agency there is no mention of any kind of access to our military bases.”
In summary, Iran is able, as the US and Israel suspect, to make advances in its military nuclear project without being considered to be in formal violation of the JPCOA, and this situation has come about due to the conflicting interests of the six signatories to the accord and the impotence of the IAEA, which has failed to navigate those conflicting interests and ensure full implementation of the accord.
The author is an academic at Haifa University.
Image: Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joint_Comprehensive_Plan_of_Action