The JCPOA nuclear deal with Iran was a big topic during last week’s Democratic debate in Iowa. The candidates praised the agreement, said Iran was following it, and blamed President Trump’s decision to leave the JCPOA for Iran going rogue. They were wrong.
“I was part of that deal to get the nuclear agreement with Iran, bringing together the rest of the world, including some of the folks who aren’t friendly to us. And it was working,” said Vice President Biden. “It was working. It was being held tightly. There was no movement on the part of the Iranian government to get closer to a nuclear weapon.”
It might have been held tightly, but it wasn’t being followed. Before the end of 2019, the IAEA, the U.N. Atomic Energy inspection team, reported that Iran wasn’t following the JCPOA’s requirements.
From her debate platform, Sen. Klobuchar said we had to get back into the deal because it was “something I worked on for a significant period of time.” And Mayor Buttigieg said that withdrawing from JCPOA has “made the region more dangerous and set off the chain of events that we are now dealing with as it escalates even closer to the brink of outright war.” The others chimed in too.
Despite the promise of anytime, anywhere inspections, the Iranian authorities have maintained that its military sites are off-limits to the IAEA. Sadly, the IAEA and the countries remaining in the deal refuse to push the point.
In August 2017, the IAEA announced that it has been unable to verify a vital part of the JCPOA, “Section T,” which outlines “activities which could contribute to the design and development of a nuclear explosive device.” That inability doesn’t mean Iran violated “Section T” — it means that, without inspections, it’s anyone’s guess.
President Obama promised Europe, China and Russia that the U.S. would guarantee that should sanctions be re-imposed because Iran got caught violating the JCPOA, companies from those states that entered into business deals with Iran would have those deals protected. So much for “snapbacks.”
Do you remember when John Kerry insisted the Iran pact was a “forever deal?” That was a lie. Some of the provisions expire after year 10, and the rest after year 15. Based on the agreement, by the end the 15th year, Iran could have in place a nuclear infrastructure that could produce significant quantities of weapon-grade to create a few nuclear weapons within months.
Meanwhile, the JCPOA lifted the ban on the Iranian ballistic missile program. Previously, U.N. Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1929 included mandatory language stating “that Iran shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” The P5+1 resolution passed by the UNSC changed the language. Inside of prohibiting ballistic missile work, UNSC deal merely says that “Iran is called upon not to undertake such activity.”
The issue of the changed language was raised at a July 2015 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing where Secretary of State Kerry was trying to sell the agreement. The conversation that ensued when Senate Menendez questioned Kerry about the change in wording suggests Kerry was lying, totally clueless, or both.
Menendez kept reading out loud from the old and new resolutions, switching from “shall not” to “called upon not to,” while Kerry kept insisting that the different words were precisely the same.
There’s more, of course. Iran had been non-compliant with its obligation to reveal its nuclear history. Under the JCPOA, the rogue nation was supposed to disclose its pre-deal atomic program. When it came time to “fess up,” Iran told the IAEA that it never had a nuclear program. IAEA declined to push back against a blatant lie, so a breach of the accord was published as compliance. In other words, the entire agreement was based on a lie and should never have been implemented.
In its most recent report (November 2019), the IAEA found many Iranian violations of the JCPOA in its latest report. The primary violations, some of which are not fully reversible, include:
•The IAEA found traces of uranium at an undeclared site in Iran (which was first exposed by Israel).
•Iran started uranium enrichment at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant.
•Iran further increased its quantity of low enriched uranium above the JCPOA’s 300-kilogram cap ramping up monthly production significantly.
•Iran continued to produce enriched uranium above the limit of 3.67 percent, producing at a level of up to 4.5 percent.
•Iran initiated the operation of many advanced centrifuges at the Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant to accumulate enriched uranium.
•Iran increased the number and type of centrifuges enriching uranium above the limit of 5,060. The total work involved in uranium enrichment grew from an estimated 4,550 to 6,200 separative work units, a 36 percent increase over the enrichment capacity allowed by the JCPOA.
•Iran withdrew the advanced centrifuges put in storage as part of the deal and started using them installation at Natanz.
•Iran installed and operated several new advanced centrifuge types at the Natanz not allowed by the JCPOA.
•For 12 days, Iran conducted disallowed mechanical testing of three IR-4 centrifuges simultaneously at the Tehran Research Center.
•Iran “prepared a new location,” not listed as being allowed, in the JCPOA for mechanical testing of centrifuges.
•Iran used declared centrifuge manufacturing equipment to produce centrifuges in type or number not permitted by the JCPOA.
•As described by U.S. authorities, Iran may be violating the JCPOA’s procurement restrictions by illicitly importing nuclear dual-use equipment.
At the last week’s Democratic Party debate, candidates demonstrated a lack of knowledge regarding the JCPOA and ignorance of the fact that Iran got caught breaking the terms of the deal. It might be a good idea for them to study the nuclear agreement with Iran and the level of compliance before attacking President Trump for pulling America out of the JCPOA.