U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley blasted Russia on Thursday for trying to shield Iran from United Nations nuclear inspections. She accused Russia of completely undermining the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Haley said in a statement:
If the Iran nuclear deal is to have any meaning, the parties must have a common understanding of its terms. Iranian officials have already said they will refuse to allow inspections at military sites, even though the IAEA says there must be no distinction between military and non-military sites. Now it appears that some countries are attempting to shield Iran from even more inspections. Without inspections, the Iran deal is an empty promise.
Haley’s statement referred to a report from Reuters that Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has asked the JCPOA signatories to clarify whether the section banning “activities which could contribute to the development of a nuclear explosive device” authorizes his inspectors to investigate military sites in Iran.
Haley strongly believes that it does and has encouraged the IAEA to begin inspections, but Russia argues that the relevant portion of the JCPOA is loosely worded and does not specifically mention the IAEA as an instrument of verification. In Russia’s view, this means the IAEA was not given authority to inspect these Iranian military sites.
Critics of the Iran nuclear deal will not be pleased to know that a crucial passage was written so vaguely as to be all but meaningless. Reuters speculates this might become part of President Donald Trump’s case for withdrawing from the nuclear deal, although Director General Amano is on record saying he believes Iran has fulfilled its legally binding commitments. He even suggested that the JCPOA is evidence that “diplomacy worked” with Iran, and might, therefore, inspire a diplomatic resolution to the North Korean crisis, although he conceded the two situations were different in important respects.
On Friday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif urged European nations to defy any sanctions imposed by the United States if the Trump administration withdraws from the JCPOA.
Zarif accused President Trump of being “unpredictable” and “unreliable” and then made the now-standard threat that Iran can swiftly resume weapons-grade uranium enrichment if the JCPOA collapses.
“The deal allowed Iran to continue its research and development. So we have improved our technological base,” Zarif explained. “If we decide to walk away from the deal we would be walking away with better technology. It will always be peaceful because membership of the NPT is not dependent on this deal. But we will not observe the limitations that were agreed on as part of the bargain in this deal.”