US Has No JCPOA Verification Authority

Iran has a number of options, which include walking away from the deal and going back with greater speed with its nuclear program, if the US reneges on the nuclear agreement
Mohammad Javad ZarifMohammad Javad Zarif

The US is in no position to verify Tehran's compliance with the nuclear agreement, Iran's top diplomat said, responding to speculations about the outcome of the US administration's upcoming quarterly review of the deal.

A Congressional law requires the administration of President Donald Trump to notify the legislature of its assessment of Iran's deal commitments.

The next review is due on October 15, and Trump, who has been outspoken in criticizing the deal negotiated by his predecessor Barack Obama, is trying to avoid certifying Iran's compliance, despite having done so twice so far. This review is an internal mandate stipulated by the Americans and creates no obligation for the other signatories.

"Certification is not part of the deal. It's the US internal procedure. It doesn't absolve President Trump and the [US] administration of the responsibility because the only authority that has been recognized in the nuclear deal to verify is [the International Atomic Energy Agency]," Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a talk with CNN, published on Sunday.

Trump, 71, has branded the deal many things.  In his Thursday address to the UN General Assembly's General Debate in New York, the Republican hawk called the UN-buttressed deal "an embarrassment to the United States" and "one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into".

"I don't think you have heard the last of it, believe me," he warned.

The warning added to the signs that Trump is seeking pretexts to pull out of the deal, despite the full verification of Iran's commitments by the IAEA, the UN watchdog body.

The Islamic Republic maintains that the Vienna-based agency is the only authority with a legitimate mandate awarded under the pact to oversee its implementation and has threatened to revert to the pre-deal nuclear activities that were curtailed by the deal in return for the removal of international sanctions.

  Various Options

"Iran will look at the outcome of this process and will consider its options. Iran has a number of options, which include walking away from the deal and going back with greater speed with its nuclear program, which will remain peaceful but which will not address and accept the limitations that we voluntarily accepted over our nuclear program," Zarif said.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said the agreement must be changed if the United States is to remain part of it.

Tillerson, in an interview on Fox News, said the so-called sunset clauses, under which some of the deal's restrictions on Iran's nuclear program expire over time, were of particular concern.

"If we're going to stick with the Iran deal there has to be changes made to it. The sunset provisions simply is not a sensible way forward," Tillerson said. "It's just simply ... kicking the can down the road again for someone in the future to have to deal with."

Under the deal, some provisions expire after 10 years while others are in force longer and some are permanent. Zarif denied there is a sunset clause in the deal, calling the claim a myth.  

"Let me stress one thing that has been a myth here in the United States and we need to dispel that myth. They say there is a sunset clause in the deal. There is no sunset clause. Iran has committed itself never to develop nuclear weapons both as a member of the NPT and the deal itself," he said.

Zarif on Thursday rejected any new negotiation with the United States over extending the length or conditions of the action plan, saying that Iran would talk about changing the accord only if every commitment it made—including on its stocks of nuclear fuel—were reconsidered.

He said that would mean Iran would retake possession of the stockpile of nuclear fuel it shipped to Russia when the accord took effect.

"Are you prepared to return to us 10 tons of enriched uranium?" Zarif said of the stockpile Iran agreed to relinquish to comply with a limit set out in the deal that bans any amount of the material in Iran's possession beyond 300 kg and the fissile purity of 3.67%.

If Trump decertifies Iran's compliance in its mid-October notification to the Congress, the US Congress would have 60 days to decide whether to re-impose sanctions eased under the accord.

Trump told reporters he had made a decision on what to do about the agreement, but would not say what he had decided.


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