Panel on Iran: Nuclear Agreement, Challenges, Verification & Policy Options

National Council of Resistance of Iran, 8 July 2015

In an online question and answer session, the issue of the Iran nuclear agreement was discussed. The panel, moderated by R. Bruce McColm, President of the Institute for Democratic Strategies, included Ambassador Robert G. Joseph, Ph.D, former US Undersecretary of State for Arms Control &International Security, Professor Raymond Tanter, former White House National Security Council senior staffer and Alireza Jafarzadeh, Deputy Director of the National Council of Resistance of Iran US Representative Office.

Ambassador Joseph opened the session by saying he wanted to see a negotiated outcome and a “good agreement” at the end of the nuclear talks. However, he stated that there have been too many concessions, one being the fact that the talks are not preventing Iran from having nuclear weapon capability – a goal that has now been abandoned, meaning that Iran will one day have a large-scale enrichment capability.

Iran’s poor track record was extensively discussed with Ambassador Joseph reminding us how unreliable they have been when faced with questions about their nuclear capability. This means that there is no baseline knowledge for understanding if 12 months is a meaningful deadline – America has no idea how far Iran has advanced. The IAEA has been struggling to make progress in their investigations for years after constant stonewalling from the regime.

Ambassador Joseph also highlighted the unknowns surrounding the excess of enriched uranium that Iran possesses. Will it be sent out of the country? What will Iran do to make it secure? These are questions that we do not have answers to. It is unknown how long it could take for Iran to break out.

Access at any time, to any site and any person affiliated with the site is crucial according to Ambassador Joseph. However, he said that Iran wants to manage access, in other words, they want the right to deny access. This, in his opinion, is one of the many faults that Obama’s administration and the P5+1 have made in the nuclear talks. They have given too many concessions to Iran.

In fact, Ambassador Joseph went on to say that the Obama administration has made a series of serious errors in the negotiations. They have:

  • relieved sanctions to “keep Iran on the negotiating table”
  • demonstrated that they are desperate for a deal – something that Iran has exploited to the fullest
  • made concession after concession (i.e. deadlines)

He concludes that the above makes it “almost embarrassing to watch” and that the U.S. is explaining away Iran’s violations.

Ambassador Joseph concluded his opening remarks with a warning that Iran will become the prominent country in the region – its presence in Middle Eastern countries is becoming more and more prominent. He warned that Iran will think it is immune to external pressure when they have nuclear capability and will therefore continue to repress their people.

Professor Raymond Tanter opened by discussing North Korea – a country that possesses extensive ballistic missile knowledge. This knowledge, Prof. Tanter believes, will eventually be passed to Iran, allowing Iran to militarize their nuclear weapons.

The disconnect between the nuclear talks on one hand and Iran’s support for terrorism, their missile delivery research, the repression of its people, etc. is of concern to Prof. Tanter. He stated that this should all be factored into the nuclear deal.

He believes that there is an increasing likelihood that America will accept any deal in order to avoid having to use force. The regime is therefore increasing their demands for concessions and America keeps granting them in return.

Prof. Tanter predicted that Iran will become more active in its support for terrorism, more active in its support for activities in Yemen and more active in its support for Shiite rebellion. He believes that Iran will be very comfortable behind its “nuclear umbrella” and will therefore be able to extend its reach far beyond its current reach.

Alireza Jafarzadeh discussed the inspections of nuclear sites. A major problem is that the joint plan has continued to allow Iran to ban inspectors from visiting nuclear sites. Another problem is Iran’s continual “cheating”. He explained that the regime have many different methods for cheating. They provoke delays, tamper with evidence, lie until they are eventually exposed, distract authorities and promise cooperation that they do not follow through with.

One major example of the above cheating and deception is the case of “Kala Electric” – a site that was exposed by NCRI in February 2003. The IAEA went to visit immediately after the site was exposed but noticed discrepancies only a month later. They took samples and noted that there had been considerable modifications to the premises. The regime said this was because the space was previously used as a storage facility, then changed to a laboratory, hence the major changes. However this was a lie – it was just an attempt to hide evidence and conceal the truth. The regime also lied about discrepancies in uranium quantities and hid evidence and centrifuges in other facilities.

Jafarzadeh said that the lesson we can pull from Kala Electric is that having access any time to any suspect site is crucial in the negotiations. Iran’s strategy of controlled access to already known nuclear sites is to not answer questions. This is why we can’t let this continue. He said that it is unacceptable that Iran can deny requests from IAEA. Obama should make sure this doesn’t continue. He claimed that there are at least a dozen suspect sites and questioned why they are not being looked at. How can future problems be resolved if they can’t even resolve the current and existing ones? The negotiations have not addressed the issue of suspect nuclear activity and Jafarzadeh said this needs to be resolved before a deal can be reached.

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