Monday, May 14, 2018

About Those Great Inspection Provisions

I keep hearing defenders of the Iran deal wailing about the end of those great provisions providing rapid access to Iran's nuclear sites. I don't see what these defenders claim.

Let's go back to my first reading of the Iran nuclear deal (the provisions made public, anyway) for the inspection provisions:

At page 42 we get to access to nuclear facilities. The section starts out by saying access shall be requested "in good faith, with due observation of the sovereign rights of Iran, and kept to the minimum necessary to effectively implement the verification responsibilities" under the deal.

Who decides good faith, what doesn't interfere with sovereign rights, and what the minimum is? These sound like multiple grounds for Iran to halt inspections.

If we think there are unlawful activities or materials or undeclared facilities, the IAEA has to tell Iran the basis for the concerns and request clarification. No time limit is mentioned for getting clarification.

If the clarification doesn't resolve the IAEA's concerns--not our concerns apparently, just the secretive IAEA's--the IAEA may request access to the location and provide Iran with reasons in writing and make available relevant information. May? Not must? What is relevant? The name of whoever provided the information? The type of satellite that spotted something? Doesn't this just give Iran information to refine their ability to avoid detection?

On page 43, Iran can propose an alternative to site visits, which should be given due and prompt consideration! Seriously?

Ah, the first time frame. So that doesn't include the time for clarification of the concerns expressed to Iran. If the absence of unlawful materials or activities cannot be verified within 14 days of the IAEA original request for access, Iran and the IAEA have to agree to a means to resolve the dispute.

And I'll ask whether this will morph into the need for the IAEA to prove there is unlawful materials or acclivities, the way Saddam got the world to reverse his WMD obligations under the 1991 ceasefire.

Anyway, if following that 14-day period, the IAEA and Iran can't agree to means to resolve the dispute, a vote of 5 out of 8 members of the Joint Commission (one each from France, Germany, the United Kingdom, China, Russia, the United States, Iran, and the European Union) would approve advice on means for resolving the IAEA concerns.

China, Russia, and Iran will vote as a bloc, meaning Iran only has to bribe one country to abstain (coughfrancecough).

The commission would have 7 days for this step and the Iranians would have 3 days to implement the means.

So that's the 24 days we keep hearing about for access to nuclear sites. I'm still not confident that clarification efforts won't suspend that time. Lord knows how long that can last. And that is only if the IAEA decides to try to gain access to the site. They don't have to do that and we can't make them try.

Nor am I confident that logistical considerations won't stall the process. What if the Joint Commission needs a week to gather? Does that halt the time periods?

What if the Russian commissioner has an ingrown toe nail and can't make it for 3 weeks? Or if the Chinese commission member resigns and it takes a month for China to appoint a replacement?

What if it is Ramadan and of course the Iranian representative can't make it for weeks?

What if the EU representative is on vacation for the entire month of August and can't be reached?

Clearly, we just wait, right?

And consider that the IAEA has to tell Iran the basis for the concern. So Iran gets to figure out who blew the whistle and kill the leaker and/or figure out a better way to hide their activities. So we will always have to weigh the revelation of our sources against the gains we might make trying to get access to a site.

I see plenty of ways for Iran to delay, deflect, and deny inspections. Just what are the Iranian deal defenders reading, anyway? Certainly not what I read.