A Nuclear Deal That Leaves Many Questions Unanswered

Iranians poured onto the streets in the capital Tehran early Friday to celebrate a landmark agreement between Iran and world powers, that could bring an end to the country’s 12-year-long nuclear crisis.

The latest round of talks in Lausanne Switzerland were aimed at agreeing the outlines of a major deal to be finalized by June 30 to ease concerns that Iran might develop nuclear weapons under the guise of civilian programme, an aim it denies.

The negotiations between Iran and the six nations US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China should have ended 31st March but have now gone two days past that deadline for reaching a preliminary framework of a deal aimed at blocking Tehran from making a bomb, in return for lifting UN sanctions.

Obama loves Iran

President Obama is rushing to sign a nuclear deal with Iran at any price. Iran’s negotiators have won generous concessions from the Obama administration, they will happily sign a deal that will inevitably enable Iran to develop nuclear weapons at some point in future. Some Arab countries notably Saudi Arabia, Egypt and UAE will seek to have their own nuclear programmes. Cynics believe that Iran has not offered any tangible concessions apart from agreeing to slow down or postpone its nuclear enrichment programme.

To Jeffrey Goldberg writing in the Atlantic 29 March stated that the biggest concern is: “how long it would take Iran to make a deliverable weapon once it decides to go nuclear?”

Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization announced in a statement last week that the Iranian regime will not implement the “Additional Protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” which would allow international inspectors the ability to go anywhere at any time to examine sites suspected of harbouring secret nuclear weapons development.

According to New York Times 25 March, “Iran has increasingly resisted any kind of formal ‘framework’ agreement at this stage in the negotiations, preferring a more general statement of ‘understanding’ followed by a final accord in June, according to Western diplomats involved in the talks.”

Iran has been dodging hard questions from day one.

U.S. Negotiators Ignore Stonewalling

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported early March that they have only achieved a small amount of progress in investigating Iran’s nuclear program, and has not yet been able to determine if all of Tehran’s nuclear material is intended for civilian use.

IAEA chief, Yukiya Amano was quoted as saying: “the IAEA is ready to accelerate clarification of outstanding issues over Iran’s nuclear plans. The question is whether Iran will answer IAEA’s questions,” he added.

IAEA said the verification process is stalled as Iran failed to provide key information to the agency.

“Iran has yet to provide explanations that enable the agency to clarify two outstanding practical measures,” Amano told the board meeting early March.

Under an interim deal agreed between Iran and the world’s major countries in November 2013, Tehran suspended certain nuclear activities in return for limited easing of sanctions, as all sides continue working towards a comprehensive deal.

According to Time Magazine (March 30) “the US negotiating team presented to the Iranian teams excerpts from highly classified Iranian documents that U.S Intelligence had obtained from Tehran’s top secret nuclear program. The Iranians dismissed the evidence out of hand calling the documents a fabrication.”

It is baffling that the US negotiators failed to probe into this and insist on further investigation. Why did the US team not refuse to engage further until a satisfactory answer is received?

The Iranians have failed to provide satisfactory answers to several questions and the US negotiators seemed happy with the stonewalling by Iran.

The IAEA asked about the possible military dimensions – the so-called PMDs – of their nuclear program. Iran is still refusing to provide satisfactory answers

Iran has failed to explain why it purchased materials needed to build many thousands of high speed centrifuges to refine the gas into weapon-grade uranium. And why Natanz and Fordow nuclear facilities which house the centrifuges were built secretly.

Jeffrey Goldberg suggested that the Fordow plant should be crippled and sealed with cement.

Answers Needed

We don’t have clear and convincing answers to the following:

Has Iran agreed specifically to allow unfettered and unlimited access to Fordow and Natnz by IAEA inspectors?

Has Iran agreed to allow unannounced intrusive inspection to take place and without delay or notice to any site it chooses?

Do IAEA monitors have access to every part of the program without obstructions (centrifuges, uranium machinery etc.)?

Has Iran agreed to get rid of all the enriched uranium and how?

Are the verification procedures and mechanisms adequate to detect any deviation or cheating by ran?

In an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times recently, John R. Bolton, former US Ambassador to the UN said this “We cannot verify and must not trust Iran’s promises on nuclear weapons. Ignore the ‘moderate’ smokescreen. Sanctions have failed, so our choice is stark: use military force or let Tehran get the bomb.”


One other important issue Iran has been dodging and has failed to provide satisfactory answers for is the “Orchid Office” activities. The IAEA discovered that the Fakhrizadeh’s Orchid Office was responsible for developing mechanisms for generating nuclear explosions with the uranium. The Shahab 3 rocket was modified to carry nuclear weapons with 1200 mile reach. The IAEA wanted to know more about Mr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh who established the Orchid Office where weapons research was carried out.

Iran refused to answer.

Obama and Kerry Are Naive

President Obama himself revealed some 6 years ago (Sept 2009) the existence of the Fordow facility for uranium enrichment. Why don’t the USA negotiators insist that this plant is closed and dismantled as Jeffrey Goldberg suggested?

The Iranians are fully aware of Obama’s desperate concessions to induce them to engage in these futile negotiations. Both Obama and Kerry are desperate to achieve a foreign policy success of some sort after the debacle in Syria and Iraq. Obama and Kerry are apparently oblivious to Iran’s subversive influence on Iraq, Syria Lebanon and Yemen.

Iran is also very keen to get the economic sanctions lifted. It badly needs the money to fund the Assad regime, Hezbollah, the Houthis in Yemen and Shi’ite militia operations in Syria and Iraq.

No matter what kind of nuclear deal is reached, good, bad or indifferent, the Iranians will claim victory.

Iranian opposition figures I interviewed are amazed at the Obama administration’s naivete in adopting the Iranian perspective on the Middle East. Iran is part of the problem, and has never been part of any solution.

Barely hours after the signing of an interim agreement in Geneva (24th November 2013) to temporarily freeze Iran’s nuclear enrichment programme, President Rouhani said the interim deal recognised Iran’s nuclear “rights.”

In March 2014, President Rouhani insisted that Iran would not abandon its enrichment of uranium, after US senators called for it to be denied any such right under a long-term nuclear deal.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on 9th April 2014 that Iran will never give up its nuclear programme. He said Iran had agreed to the talks to “break the hostile atmosphere” with the international community.

It would be unwise to lift sanctions before Iran comes clean on all aspects of its nuclear program.

Nehad Ismail
Nehad Ismail is a writer and broadcaster, who writes about issues related to the Middle East from his home in London.