Iran sticking to nuclear deal, says UN, contradicting Trump
Nuclear watchdog’s report comes as US president threatens to withdraw from agreement
US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley: travelled to the IAEA headquarters last week to press the agency to be more aggressive in its inspections regime, and to focus on Iran’s military sites. Photograph: Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images
The International Atomic Energy Agency said that Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium is 88.4 kg, less than a third of the maximum allowed under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the official name of the 2015 agreement. Under the agreement, Iran accepted limits on its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief. The current stockpile is just over 1 per cent of the pre-agreement level.
The stockpile of heavy water is also below the agreed limits, the IAEA said, according to journalists shown the agency’s latest quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear activities.
The report comes at a critical time, as Mr Trump has threatened to withhold his certification of Iranian compliance when he is next required to report to Congress in mid-October. He has said he expected Iran to be found non-compliant by then and “if it was up to me” would have found them non-compliant months earlier.
Former officials say the Trump White House is putting pressure on intelligence officers and other officials to look for Iranian infractions that could justify the withdrawal of US adherence to the agreement, which is also signed by the UK, France, China, Germany and Russia.
The other signatories have said they will stick to the agreements.
“I cannot speak for the government of the United States of America. The British government, however, is fully committed to the JCPOA and to its successful implementation,” the UK ambassador to Tehran, Nicholas Hopton, said in an interview published on Thursday.
The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, travelled to the IAEA headquarters last week to press the agency to be more aggressive in its inspections regime, and to focus on Iran’s military sites.
However, Ms Haley is not reported to have presented any new evidence about suspicious activity at any Iranian site, nor named any military base she believes should be investigated.
Tehran has been adamant in its insistence it will not allow military inspections. The government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht this week dismissed the campaign for military inspections as “a dream”.
Ms Haley responded in a statement by saying: if “inspections of Iranian military sites are ‘merely a dream’, then Iranian compliance . . . is also a dream.”
The IAEA director, Yukiya Amano, told the Associated Press that the agency has access to all locations “without making distinctions between military and civilian locations”. There is a mechanism in the JCPOA for the IAEA to request access to sensitive sites and even to compel such access with the approval of five of the eight signatories to the agreement, who are represented on a joint commission.
IAEA officials have said they will inspect Iranian military sites if there is credible information that there is suspicious activity under way there, but they are reluctant to conduct a “fishing expedition” without clear intelligence.
“If they want to bring down the deal, they will,” an IAEA official told Reuters, referring to the Trump administration. “We just don’t want to give them an excuse to.”
The issue of inspections is likely to emerge as a key battleground in the struggle over the fate of the nuclear deal. The Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security issued a report on Thursday addressing Section T of the JCPOA, which bans any development activity on nuclear weapons technology and restricts dual-use items that could be used to research warhead design.
The report argues that Section T requires routine verification of sites where suspect activities or equipment might be located. It calls for a verification regimen “that includes access to military sites and the sharing of relevant information”.
Daryl Kimball, the head of the Arms Control Association, argued that the IAEA was already policing Section T.
“It’s up to the IAEA to determine what they need to inspect, and where and when, to acquire the information they need to monitor and verify compliance with Section T, and I believe they have already developed an approach for doing so,” Mr Kimball said. “
At the same time, the United States is pressing the IAEA to demand inspections at sensitive military sites in the hope of provoking a refusal that would justify a finding of noncompliance.”