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What Is Wrong With JCPOA? Former IAEA Official Explains

Former deputy head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Olli Heinonen (L) during a meeting with the deputy secretary of the Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Javad Vaeidi (not pictured) in Tehran, 11 July 2007.

A former senior official of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) believes that the problem with JCPOA is that it does not call for inspection of Iran’s military facilities. It ignores the possibility of a military side in Iran’s nuclear program, and IAEA as the agency that oversees Iran’s commitments has made the tone of its reports on Iran less transparent.

In an interview with Radio Farda, former Deputy Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and head of its Department of Safeguards, Dr. Olli Heinonen, who is currently a Senior Advisor on Science and Non-proliferation at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies elaborated on the difference between the IAEA and US government’s views about Iran’s commitment to the nuclear deal.

“In its latest report released on February 22, IAEA said that it has been verifying and overseeing Iran’s commitment to the JCPOA,” said Heinonen, although he did not explain how does IAEA evaluate Iran’s commitment now.

He said, “such an elaboration should be made by IAEA,” however, Iran has said repeatedly that it will not allow IAEA to inspect its military establishments, which according to Heinonen is against the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement Iran has signed with the IAEA separately.

Major Nuclear Facilities In Iran
Major Nuclear Facilities In Iran

Without the United States as a party to the Iran nuclear accords or JCPOA, it can hardly survive as a viable international agreement, particularly after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced May 21 that Washington will to impose “the strongest sanctions in history” if Iran does not change course.

In a speech at the Heritage Foundation, Pompeo set 12 conditions for a new nuclear deal with Iran. Three of those conditions were directly linked to Iran’s nuclear program, including total stoppage of Uranium enrichment, allowing IAEA to inspect all Iranian establishments and to examine all of Iran’s past actions to reach nuclear weapons capability.

None of these conditions were stipulated in the JCPOA, based on which Iran may do limited enrichment and may prevent inspection of its military establishments.

The JCPOA focused on Iran’s current actions and was not about its past or future behaviour.

In the meantime, Heinonen points out that “Iran continues enrichment while there are no markets for Iran’s enriched Uranium abroad, and there is no need for the product inside the country at the time being.”

Heinonen also says that the agency’s tone in its evaluation of Iran’s nuclear program was more transparent before JCPOA was signed.

“The IAEA cannot keep Iran away from nuclear weapons completely and forever,” says the former IAEA official.

In the meantime, Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi has threatened that Iran would resume enrichment at the 20% level if Europe fails to secure Iran’s interest based on JCPOA.

“At the same time,” says Heinonen, “If Iran violates the JCPOA it will lose Europe’s support.”

IAEA Inforgraphic About The Verification And Monitoring Process
IAEA Inforgraphic About The Verification And Monitoring Process

He added that if Iran does not answer IAEA’s questions about evidences that point to a nuclear weapons plan, its commitment to JCPOA would be doubted and such a thing gives rise to concerns about violating the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Heinonen suggests that the best way ahead for Iran would be to address these questions transparently and to put an end to this aspect of its nuclear case forever in a provable way.

Iran usually denies reports accusing it of having a nuclear weapons program.