There is a new round of negotiations underway about Iran’s nuclear weapons program. This effort is in response to President Trump’s statements in January about major flaws in the deal which must be addressed before the next certification and sanctions waiver deadline on May 12. These negotiations are not to amend the JCPOA deal itself, but to create new follow on agreements with Britain, France and Germany (E3).
The areas President Trump noted as fatal deficiencies are:
• Sunset clauses that remove restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programs in less than two decades
• Inability to gain timely, or any access, to inspect facilities where Iran is suspected of illicit activities
• A lack of restrictions on ballistic missiles
The requirement the President gave to the State Department and NSC is to secure signed agreements from the E3 that these standards will be enforced by them in conjunction with the U.S. Also, that nuclear sanctions lifted by the Iran Deal will be immediately put back in place if this agreement is violated. This is a heavy lift for the Europeans as they are quite invested in both the Iran Deal and the business opportunities with Iran it allows.
The Senate has been working on fixing the INARA legislation to address these same dangers, with no luck so far. It is not necessary for Congress to actually do this since President Obama sidestepped any real Congressional involvement by pretending the Iran Deal wasn’t a treaty. But it would be helpful if Congress did actually step up to the plate and acknowledge the unacceptable failures in the existing deal.
These talks have been underway for a while and it will be a major feat to get them done by the May 12 deadline. President Trump has said he will not accept anything less than this and if it doesn’t happen, he will happily walk away from what he rightly calls one of the worst deals (for us) ever. That has put a damper on a number of major business opportunities by European countries as those could go up in smoke along with the charred remnants of Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement. So, they have that as motivation to get something done.
One of the biggest potential pitfalls of even agreements which satisfy these requirements is the need for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to actually conduct inspections. Their track record is abysmal and their ability to drag their feet about even asking for permission to conduct inspections makes them the weak link in any potential “fix”.
They have not inspected any of the Iranian military sites where it is most likely that malign activities are underway. And they have even caved to Iranian demands that some “inspections” simply allow Iran to send them samples from suspect sites for the IAEA to test. That is an embarrassingly bad capitulation akin to Olympic athletes mailing in their doping tests.
These follow-on deals must include a clause which states failure by the IAEA to conduct tests in a timely fashion when requested will be considered a material breach. This is necessary to incent the IAEA to serve a useful purpose or become irrelevant. Even if they are whipped into shape, it seems highly unlikely Iran will allow access to their dirty tricks locations.
This is truly that last chance for the Iran Deal to survive. And we should at least give all of this a legitimate effort before assigning the Iran Deal to its well-deserved spot on the ash heap of history.