UN Agency Sees No Need to Check Iran Military Sites

UN Agency Sees No Need to Check Iran Military SitesUN Agency Sees No Need to Check Iran Military Sites

The United States is pushing UN nuclear inspectors to check military sites in Iran to verify it is not breaching its nuclear deal with world powers.

But for this to happen, inspectors must believe such checks are necessary and so far they do not, officials told Reuters.

Last week, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley visited the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is scrutinizing compliance with the 2015 agreement, as part of a review of the pact by the administration of US President Donald Trump. He has called it "the worst deal ever negotiated".

After her talks with officials of the UN nuclear watchdog, Haley claimed: "There are ... numerous undeclared sites that have not been inspected. That is a problem."

Iran dismissed her demands as "merely a dream".

IAEA has the authority to request access to facilities in Iran, including military ones, if there are new and credible indications of banned nuclear activities there, according to officials from the agency and signatories to the deal.

But they said Washington has not provided such indications to back up its pressure on the IAEA to make such a request.

"We're not going to visit a military site like Parchin just to send a political signal," an IAEA official said, mentioning a military site often cited by opponents of the deal, including Iran's arch-adversary Israel and many US Republicans. The deal was reached under Trump's Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano frequently describes his Vienna-based agency as a technical rather than a political one, underscoring the need for its work to be based on facts alone.

The accord restricts Iran's atomic activities with a view to ensuring its peaceful nature in return for sanctions relief.

The deal also allows the IAEA to request access to facilities other than the nuclear installations Iran has already declared if it has concerns about banned materials or activities there. But it must present a basis for those concerns.

Those terms are widely understood by officials from the IAEA and member states to mean there must be credible information that arouses suspicion, and IAEA officials have made clear they will not take it at face value.

"We have to be able to vet this information," a second IAEA official said, asking not to be identified.

***No New Intelligence

Despite Haley's public comments, she neither asked the IAEA to visit specific sites nor offered new intelligence on any site, officials who attended her meetings said. A US State Department spokesman confirmed this.

"She conveyed that the IAEA will need to continue to robustly exercise its authorities to verify Iran's declaration and monitor the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action," the spokesman added, using the deal's official name.

Under US law, the state department must notify the US Congress every 90 days of Iran's compliance with the deal. The next deadline is October. Trump has said he thinks by then, Washington will declare Iran to be non-compliant—a stance at odds with that of other five world powers, including US allies in Europe.

An IAEA report published in 2015 as part of the deal formally drew a line under whether Iran pursued nuclear weapons in the past, which is why new information is needed to trigger a request for access.

IAEA has not visited an Iranian military facility since the agreement was implemented because it has had "no reason to ask" for access, the second agency official said.

The deal's "Access" section lays out a process that begins with an IAEA request and, if the UN watchdog's concerns are not resolved, can lead to a vote by the eight members of the deal's decision-making body, namely the United States, Iran, Russia, China, France, Britain, Germany and the European Union.

Five votes are needed for a majority, which could comprise the United States and its western allies. Such a majority decision "would advise on the necessary means to resolve the IAEA's concerns" and Iran "would implement the necessary means", the deal's "Access" section says.

Iran has reiterated commitment to the terms of the deal despite Trump's stance, but has also said its military sites are off limits, raising the risk of a standoff if a request for access were put to a vote.

"If they want to bring down the deal, they will," the first IAEA official said, referring to the Trump administration. "We just don't want to give them an excuse to."


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