A nuclear deal that is good for Iran only

Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State told the media a few days ago that the United States is working on a plan “to fix” the Iran nuclear deal as speculation continues on whether President Donald Trump will scrap the agreement.

“The president said he is either going to fix it or cancel it,” Tillerson was quoted as saying. “We are in the process of trying to deliver on the promise he made to fix it.”
It’s unclear what Trump’s decision on Iran will be by January 12 when he must decide again whether to certify Tehran’s compliance with the nuclear pact – as he’s required to do every three months.

In this article, I examine the background, the issues, the flaws, the gaps and the short-comings of the deal signed in the summer of 2015. The deal needs to be re-examined and re-negotiated.

The Iran nuclear deal in the spotlight again:

Critics of the Iran Nuclear Deal are now blaming ex-President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry.

The Iran nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was an international agreement hammered out over many months. China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK, the US, the EU, and Iran reached a deal in July 2015 and it was implemented in January 2016.

Under the 2015 agreement with six nations (5+1) Iran agreed to restrict its nuclear programme for at least 10 years in exchange for the easing of economic sanctions that had crippled the Iranian economy.

Writing in the National Review on 28th August 2017 John R. Bolton a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said: “Trump can and should free America from this execrable deal at the earliest opportunity”.

The Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had dismissed US demands for the UN’s nuclear watchdog to inspect Iran’s military sites, saying in a televised interview that “we will not accept anything by force.”

His comments last August were a response to demands by US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect military as well as non-military sites in Iran, to check the country’s compliance with a deal that curbs Iran’s nuclear weapons program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.

Haley’s demand for increased access for IAEA inspectors in Iran came after she met in August 2017 with IAEA experts in Vienna, Austria.

Haley tweeted: “If Iran rejects a valid request for inspections, then the nuclear deal is as they say ‘merely a dream.”

The IAEA was supposed to have regular access to nuclear sites inside Iran and verifies that it is implementing its side of the deal; in exchange, the US, United Nations, and the European Union lifted nuclear-related sanctions. Every 90 days, the US President must certify that Iran is keeping up its end of the deal. Iran remains under multiple sanctions for terrorism-related activities. That was the theory but things are not going smoothly.

The deal was said to allow U.N. inspectors to press for visits to Iran’s military sites as part of their monitoring duties – a compromise between Washington and Tehran. Iranian media rejected such a demand at the time.

But access at will to any site would not necessarily be granted and even if so, could be delayed, a condition that critics of the deal are sure to seize on as possibly giving Tehran time to cover any sign of non-compliance.

Obama and Kerry were desperate to sign a deal:

During the negotiations in 2015, the US negotiating team had been the weakest link giving away more and more concessions whilst the Iranian team remained stubbornly firm. The Iranians were aware of the fact that both the then President Obama and his secretary of State John Kerry were desperate to sign a deal. In June 2015 news leaked that Obama had written letters to Iranian President Rouhani virtually begging him to sign a deal. Both Obama and Kerry were desperately seeking some kind of foreign policy success.

The Iranian leaders celebrated by announcing to their people that the world superpowers had acknowledged Iran’s right to become a nuclear power.

Obama’s weakness was starkly reflected in his refusal to take a tough stance against the Assad regime which is Iran’s ally and client. According to Washington sources, Obama was afraid any action against the Syrian regime would alienate Iran and derail the nuclear talks.

Many issues still remain unresolved:

The Iranians had failed to provide satisfactory answers to several questions:

In March 2015 the IAEA asked about the possible military dimensions (PMDs) of their nuclear program. Iran refused to answer. No clear answer had been given during the June/July 2015 talks either.

According to reports the week after the agreement was announced, Iran had NOT agreed to allow unfettered, unlimited access and intrusive inspection of suspected sites military and non-military without prior consultations.

The Economist (Tuesday, July 14th, 2015) referred to “worrying differences between the detailed American account of what had been agreed and the far vaguer public interpretation of the accord by the Iranians.

However, the Financial Times cautiously welcomed the deal: “Iran has accepted unprecedented international control and surveillance over its nuclear programme as well as cuts in its uranium stocks and in the number of centrifuges.”

Many in the Middle East think that Iran will at some point in future become a nuclear threshold state, as a result of the P5+1 agreement.

The New York Times reported on 25 March 2015, “Iran has increasingly resisted any kind of formal “framework” agreement at this stage in the negotiations, preferring a more general statement of “understanding” followed by a final accord in June, according to Western diplomats involved in the talks”.

Iran has been dodging hard questions from day one. The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in early March 2015 that they had only achieved very little progress in investigating Iran’s nuclear program, and had not yet been able to determine if all of Tehran’s nuclear material was intended for civilian use.

“Iran has yet to provide explanations that enable the agency to clarify two outstanding practical measures,” IAEA chief, Yukiya Amano told the board meeting early March 2015. Under an interim deal agreed between Iran and the world’s major countries in November 2013, Tehran suspended certain nuclear activities in return for the limited easing of sanctions, as all sides continue working towards a comprehensive deal.

According to Time Magazine (March 30, 2015) “the US negotiating team presented to the Iranian team excerpts from highly classified Iranian documents that U.S Intelligence had obtained from Tehran’s top secret nuclear program. The Iranians dismissed the evidence out of hand calling the documents “a fabrication”. It was baffling that the US negotiators failed to probe this and insist on a further investigation. Why did the US team not refuse to engage further until a satisfactory answer was received? Observers are puzzled that Obama and Kerry kept quiet about this and pushed for a deal regardless?

Furthermore, Iran has failed to provide convincing answers to several questions: Had Iran not agreed specifically to allow unfettered and unlimited access to Fordow and Natanz plants by IAEA inspectors? Iran had not agreed to allow an unannounced intrusive inspection to take place and without delay or notice to any site it chooses?

The Orchid Office:

One other important issue Iran has been dodging and had failed to provide satisfactory answers for was the “Orchid Office” activities. The IAEA discovered that the Fakhrizadeh’s “Orchid Office” was responsible for developing mechanisms for generating nuclear explosions with the uranium. The Shahab 3 rocket was modified to carry nuclear weapons with 1200 mile reach. The IAEA wanted to know more about Mr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh who established the Orchid Office where weapons research was carried out. Iran refused to answer.

No matter what kind of nuclear deal was reached, good, bad or indifferent, the Iranians claimed victory. Iranian opposition figures I interviewed are amazed at the Obama administration’s naivety in adopting the Iranian perspective on the Middle East.

President Trump has recently issued a broadside to the Iranian regime, warning that Washington’s patience is running out. He has garnered some support and much criticism. Has Trump a hope of unraveling the Iranian and North Korean nuclear threats? Many believe the Iran nuclear deal is the more dangerous.

I wrote three years ago that the deal was good only for Iran. Obama was in a terrible hurry to sign this messy deal and now the chickens are coming home to roost.

President Donald Trump campaigned against the nuclear deal and continues to criticise the deal but is still reluctant to take the next bold step.

The Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has dismissed US demands for the UN’s nuclear watchdog to inspect Iran’s military sites, saying in a televised interview that “we will not accept anything by force.”

As far as the Middle East was concerned Obama’s speech celebrating the deal had not impressed or reassured the allies. Obama just repeated what he had been saying since 2013.

Iranian opposition figures are amazed at the Obama administration’s naivety in adopting the Iranian perspective on the Middle East. They insist that Iran is part of the problem, and has never been part of any solution.

Nehad Ismail

Nehad Ismail is a journalist based in the United Kingdom. He writes on the economic issues particularly oil and gas. He has a special interest in the Middle East. He worked 15 years in the oil industry and 6 years in the media. He worked in a newspaper and in a TV channel presenting a political program between 2005 and 2010 (Arab News Network). His articles appeared in many esteemed media. He reviewed more than 12 books.
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