This is pretty far down in the weeds, but it may help you to understand what is going on with the Trump administration and Iran.
Julian Borger summarizes Nikki Haley’s visit to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna. The article is a good jumping-off place for what I’m going to say.
The first part of the article discusses US government intelligence analysts’ unease at the demands being put on them to find violations by Iran of the nuclear agreement (JCPOA). It’s déjà vu of what was done to justify the 2003 Iraq war. The reality is that Iran is complying with the agreement, to the satisfaction of the IAEA inspectors and, apparently, the US intelligence community.
So, for the opponents of the deal, it’s necessary to find another way to wreck the agreement. One approach is to demand more than the agreement allows, or to do it in such a way as to make the Iranians irritated enough to withdraw. According to the head of the Iranian atomic energy agency, that isn’t going to happen.
— Alireza Karimi (@AlirezaKarimi12) August 27, 2017
There is something of a game of chicken in progress: neither the US nor Iran wants to be the one to spoil the deal, but Trump wants it ended. The other parties have said they will stick with the deal.
But the search for an irritant continues, and the opponents have gotten to Haley. That’s what her questions are about.
“Having said that, as good as the IAEA is, it can only be as good as what they are permitted to see,” Haley told reporters on her return to New York. “Iran has publicly declared that it will not allow access to military sites but the JCPOA makes no distinction between military and non-military sites. There are also numerous undeclared sites that have not been inspected yet. That’s a problem.”
Getting into the weeds, the argument by opponents is that Iran carried out experiments in the past that are now prohibited by the JCPOA. Therefore, one known site, Parchin, a military reservation, must be inspected. There is a process for this, if there is evidence that Iran is now violating the agreement. But the opponents have none. Their argument is that we must know all about Iran’s past activities in order to be sure they are complying now.
It is true that Iran and the IAEA are working toward what the IAEA calls a Broader Conclusion, that all Iran’s fissile material is under control and not being used for weapons, and that for that Broader Conclusion, it is possible that Iran will have to provide more information on Parchin’s history. It does look like they did nuclear-weapons-related tests in a building there back in the 2000s. But nobody expects a Broader Conclusion for maybe ten years. We don’t have to have that inspection right now. And by establishing trust with Iran that the IAEA inspectors are not looking to frame them, it becomes more likely that Iran will come clean on this. It is that trust that the opponents hope to break.
In any case, unless there is evidence that Iran is now doing those sorts of tests, it’s not an imminent danger. And there is no evidence that I’m aware of.
A subsidiary approach that the opponents are working on is to claim that one part of the JCPOA, Section T, mandates these inspections. So far they have made only a sketchy argument on Twitter which has mostly holes in it. But talk influences politicians.
Those of you who follow me on Twitter may see some of my skirmishes with those generating the arguments.
Borger is a good reporter to follow on these issues. But news articles can present only so much detail.
Cross-posted at Balloon Juice.