Commentary: Flaws Of The Iran Nuclear Deal
The DJN recently published commentaries by a political scientist and a journalist discussing President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal. Neither piece discussed the serious procedural and technical flaws of the JCPOA that make it a failure in preventing Iran from developing and delivering nuclear weapons. The agreement is so fundamentally flawed that any attempt to fix it to accomplish those objectives would be tantamount to rewriting the whole agreement.
In the rush to obtain a deal, the U.S. and its partners did not press Iran to divulge all its past work regarding nuclear weapons development and the sites where the work was being done. Without that knowledge, our negotiators were in the dark about how advanced Iran was in its weapon development. Thanks to the recent Israeli intelligence coup, we may now know how close Iran had come to building a nuclear weapon and, therefore, what the break-out time can be, with and without cheating.
Now the U.S. and its willing partners must proceed with severe sanctions until Iran is ready to agree to a cessation of its nuclear weapons and ICBM programs.
There are many failings in the agreement. A critical one is the lack of stringent inspection and monitoring procedures. Without them, verification is impossible. The widely proclaimed “Any place — any time” inspections by IAEA is a myth. Inspection is permitted only at sites where Iran has declared nuclear work is taking place, thus excluding the Parchin military site, where nuclear weapons research has been known to take place.
Worse yet, IAEA inspectors are forbidden to inspect any military facilities. This was confirmed in September 2017 by Iran Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s senior foreign affairs adviser, Ali Akbar Velayati, who said, “We have never agreed with anybody to let inspectors visit our military sites.”
To compound the inspection failures, only “declared” sites are candidates for inspection — not undeclared sites. “Undeclared sites” are sites where nuclear weapons work is suspected but had not been declared by Iran prior to the JCPOA.
Supporters of the deal claimed Iran could only delay inspection of an undeclared site for 24 days. Not withstanding the fact that a lot of evidence could be removed or covered up during that time, the claim is misleading. According to the text of the agreement, the protocol for inspection is much more complicated. Iran has 24 days to decide to allow inspection. If Iran refuses, there is then a 50-day period during which the joint committee of eight parties to the agreement (including Iran) meets and decides if there is a violation. During that time, Iran can recant and allow inspection — so 24 days has stretched to 74 days.
Let’s look at other serious technical flaws. Centrifuges are the modern machines used to enrich uranium to the level required for use in a weapon. The original call was for Iran to keep only 500 to 1,500 centrifuges. But the JCPOA now permits Iran to keep a staggering 6,104 centrifuges enriching uranium and to continue to test a number of much more advanced centrifuges. Iran also is allowed to keep operating its massive Fordow underground enrichment facility.
The agreement is flawed with respect to production of plutonium. Plutonium is an alternative to uranium for constructing a nuclear weapon and is produced in heavy-water reactors. JCPOA allows Iran to keep its Plutonium-producing ARAK heavy-water reactor. The only requirement was to remove the core and fill it with concrete, but the extensive infrastructure was left intact. Iran is permitted to redesign the ARAK heavy-water reactor so that it produces less plutonium — but it still can produce plutonium.
Outrageously, the agreement obligates the U.S. and its partners to help Iran (the major funder of terrorism) develop finance, trade and technology. And, the U.S. with its partners must “strengthen Iran’s ability to protect and respond” to threats against its nuclear program, including sabotage (like Stuxnet).
The requirement to restrict Iran from developing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles was dropped and put into U.N. Resolution 2231, which Iran has ignored. The result has been that Iran has proceeded apace without suffering any consequences.
In conclusion, JCPOA is a lemon. There are so many failures that trying to patch it would be impractical even if all the parties involved are willing. Withdrawing from the JCPOA was the right thing to do. Now the U.S. and its willing partners must proceed with severe sanctions until Iran is ready to agree to a cessation of its nuclear weapons and ICBM programs.
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Irving W. Ginsberg, Ph.D., is the retired chief scientist at the Department of Energy Remote Sensing Laboratory in Las Vegas, Nev., and a former member of the U.S. Nuclear Emergency Response Team (NEST). He lives in Farmington Hills.