According to a secret document accessed by The Wall Street Journal, Iran will not be required to disclose the possible military dimensions (PMDs) of its nuclear program, undermining the verification regime. The secret document stands in contrast to the administration’s previous positions. Last Thursday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest stated that Iran will not receive sanctions relief “until they have complied with the IAEA’s request for access and information to determine the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.” During an interview on PBS in April, when asked whether the US will accept Iran’s refusal to disclose its PMDs, Secretary of State John Kerry responded, "They have to do it… If there’s going to be a deal; it will be done."The US position began to shift in June when Kerry said “we’re not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they [Iran] did at one point in time or another… We have absolute knowledge with respect to the certain military activities they were engaged in.” Experts disputed Kerry’s claim. The former Director of the CIA, General Michael Hayden, argues, “We, of course, do not have total knowledge of how much progress the Iranians had made… I know of no American intelligence officer who would claim that we have ‘absolute knowledge’ of the Iranian weaponization program.” Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence similarly stated, “We clearly don't have the picture that we need of Iran's capabilities.”
Lack of knowledge of Iran’s PMDs will undermine the IAEA’s ability to design an effective verification system, calculate Iran’s breakout time, and ensure that activities related to the development of nuclear weapons have ceased. The president of the Institute for Science and International Security, David Albright, has warned that “ambiguity over Iran’s nuclear weaponization accomplishments and residual capabilities risks rendering an agreement unverifiable by the IAEA.” He also noted that there is no explicit requirement in the deal that Iran cooperate with the IAEA and reveal its PMDs in order to receive sanctions relief.
Lawmakers are frustrated by the administration’s dismissal of the importance of PMDs and some have concluded that Iran will never have to reveal its past efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Last month, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) said he was concerned about the Secretary’s remarks and believes that disclosure “has been a fundamental question to which we need — not just want — a full and verifiable answer.”
A central claim in support of the nuclear deal with Iran has been that the heavy sanctions that have been placed on Iran will, under the terms of the deal, “snap back” in the event of Iranian violations. The White House has been explicit on this point, declaring on multiple occasions that “if at any time Iran fails to fulfill its commitments, these sanctions will snap back into place.”But does the text of the deal actually support this claim? Contrary to claims of the administration, the agreement reached at Vienna (known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) does not include any agreed-upon reimposition of sanctions in the event that Iran fails to meet its commitments. Although such a mechanism is described in the one section of the text, additional sentences indicate that the entire concept is actually not accepted by the Iranians—and to the contrary, any reimposition of sanctions would be viewed by the Iranians as a material breach of the agreement and grounds for its cancellation. So Iran, at that point hundreds of billions richer and able to withstand external pressures it cannot today, would see itself able to engage in whatever nuclear activity it wants without any restriction.
The relevant clauses appear twice: Once in section 26, at the very end of the discussion of the US commitment to refrain from re-imposing lifted sanctions or introducing new ones, and then again in section 37, at the very end of the discussion of how Iranian violations will be addressed by the UN.
The appearance of these clauses in the text raises the following question: If one side states that if the other exercises a described redress in the event of noncompliance, they will see that as “grounds for” pulling out of the deal entirely, isn’t that tantamount to saying they view the reimposition of sanctions as a material breach—and that, in other words, they do not accept, in principle, any reimposition of sanctions under any circumstances?
The suspicion that this is the case, and that the U.S. may even have willingly conceded this point, grows further with a careful reading of the sentences in section 26 that lead up to the clause quoted above. There we learn that the U.S. has made the following explicit commitment:
The U.S. Administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Congress, will refrain from re-introducing or re-imposing the sanctions specified in Annex II that it has ceased applying under this JCPOA, without prejudice to the dispute resolution process provided for under this JCPOA.
After committing to lifting U.S. sanctions, section 26 makes no mention of the possibility of the U.S. re-imposing sanctions at all. Neither does the rest of the document include any such mention. In other words, it would appear the U.S. has agreed under the JCPOA to refrain from re-imposing sanctions even if the Iranians are found to have violated their commitments, so long as such violation is not sufficiently bad to require tearing up the whole agreement. This is noticeably different from section 37, in which it is clear that the P5+1 view the reimposition of UN sanctions as a possible outcome of the dispute resolution process—although there, too, it is made clear that the Iranians would view such reimposition as a material breach and grounds for pulling out of the deal.
Put simply: any reimposition of U.S. sanctions would appear to constitute a basic breach of the agreement, and this has been agreed to by both sides. Reimposition of UN sanctions, on the other hand, is only a violation of the agreement in the eyes of the Iranians—yet it is still not a possibility that can legitimately be seen as part of anything that can be called “the agreement.”
Thus, there is no “snap-back” provision in the agreement whatsoever. We may have been sold the JCPOA as an agreement, but in fact with regard to the whole discussion of reimposing sanctions—one of the most crucial selling points of the deal from the administration’s perspective—the document may be more accurately described as the record of a disagreement. (via TheTower.org)