The White House wants UN inspections of Iran's nuclear sites to continue despite President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the 2015 agreement that authorized those inspections, U.S. officials have said.
Days after Trump walked away from the deal and its mandate for rigorous scrutiny of Iranian facilities, senior administration officials said on May 10 that he wants monitoring to continue and will provide the UN nuclear watchdog agency with the money needed to maintain its team of inspectors in Iran.
"The United States will continue to support robust implementation of IAEA inspections in Iran to the full extent of the IAEA's authority," an official at the U.S. mission to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna told dpa.
Known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the deal between Tehran and major world powers forced Iran to open any site to inspectors within 24 days. The pact also instituted 24-hour remote surveillance at some Iranian sites, among other first-ever inspection regimes.
European countries that support the agreement, in seeking to persuade Trump not to abandon the deal, often argued that it provides "the world's most robust" nuclear monitoring regimen.
But Trump and his deputies repeatedly insisted that the inspections authorized in the agreement were not tough enough. They noted, for example, that top Iranian officials have insisted that UN inspectors will never be allowed access to their most sensitive military sites.
"The Americans will take their dream of visiting our military and sensitive sites to their graves.... It will never happen," said Ali Akbar Velayati, an adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in September.
Trump repeated the U.S. demand for tougher inspections on May 10.
"We must be able to go to a site and check that site. We have to be able to go into their military bases to see whether or not they're cheating," Trump said at a rally in Indiana.
In deciding to withdraw from the deal, Trump spurned repeated assurances from the UN watchdog that it has received access from Iran to all the facilities it has sought to inspect, and found those sights free of the uranium enrichment and other kinds of nuclear activity prohibited under the agreement in exchange for sanctions relief.
Despite maintaining that the inspection regime is too weak, AFP reported that U.S. officials nevertheless expect the UN inspections to continue even as the United States moves to reinstitute tough sanctions on Iran.
The U.S. expectation that the inspections will continue appears to be based on pledges from Iran and the five other world powers that signed the accord that they will continue to honor it despite the U.S. withdrawal.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani and the leaders of France, Germany, Britain, Russia, and China, have all said they will keep following the agreement regardless of what the United States does.
The White House also has bluntly warned Iran of unspecified consequences should it resume nuclear activities prohibited under the agreement.
"If the regime continues its nuclear aspirations, it will have bigger problems than it has ever had before," Trump said on May 9.
The expectation by U.S. officials that Iran will continue to follow the agreement may be feeding suspicions among hardliners in Iran who argue against continuing to honor the nuclear deal or making any more agreements with the United States and its allies.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on May 9 said that U.S. actions show it cannot be trusted to honor agreements, and he also questioned whether U.S. allies in Europe can be trusted either.
A top Iranian general on May 10 echoed Khamenei's skepticism, questioning whether European powers France, Germany, and Britain can accomplish their goal of preserving the agreement even after U.S. withdrawal.
Those countries "cannot act independently" from the United States, despite their promises to do so, Iranian Brigadier General Hossein Salami, the deputy head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps was quoted as saying by Iranian news services on May 10.
"Today, we are in an economic war," he said. "Resistance is the only way to confront these enemies, not diplomacy."