Surveillance and the 24 day notice period in the Joint Cooperative Plan of Action (JCPOA)
During a press conference in July 2015, President Obama made the following highly important observations which demand close attention.
He hopes that everyone in Congress evaluates this agreement based on the facts, not on politics, not on posturing, not on lobbying, but on what’s in the national interest of the USA, in part because there are legitimate real concerns here.
He added that the deal is not contingent on Iran suddenly operating like a liberal democracy. We’ll still have problems with Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism; its funding of proxies like Hezbollah that threaten the region; the destabilizing activities that they’re engaging in, including in places like Yemen.
The President added that we gain unprecedented, around-the-clock monitoring of Iran’s key nuclear facilities and the most comprehensive and intrusive inspection and verification regime ever negotiated. (see 3. Below) An unprecedented inspections regime that will remain in place. On the stockpiles it will continue to 15 years and will be subject to an Additional Protocol, a more vigorous inspection regime that lasts in perpetuity.
The President said first of all, that we’ll have 24/7 inspections of declared nuclear facilities. That entire infrastructure that we know about – Fordow, Natanz, Arak, uranium mines; will have sophisticated, 24/7 monitoring. (See 1. Below)
The issue is, what if they try to develop a covert program. The IAEA, will have the ability to say, it wants to inspect that suspicious undeclared site.
If Iran objects, we can override Iran’s objection. And we don’t need Russia or China in order for us to get that override. And if they continue to object, we’re in a position to snap back sanctions and declare that Iran is cheating. (See 6. below)
The President challenged those who object to to read it before commenting and to explain specifically where it is that they think this agreement does not prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
In response to the President’s above invitation, I have read the agreement and below I point to some very real concerns that require clarification about the ability of the P5 to verify that Iran is indeed complying with its obligations.
The firm assurances that the deal is not based on trust but on unprecedented surveillance, 24 hours per day, seven days a week with inspection anywhere, anytime overcame fears of Iran’s dishonesty and led to wide optimistic support. Unfortunately several disturbing aspects appear to weaken the above assurances. There may be a good explanation for each, BUT the free world ignores them at its peril. The following concerns must at the very least be addressed.
- Clarification is needed to reconcile the above statement that surveillance will remain in place on the stockpiles for 15 years, with the statement that it will also be subject to a more vigorous inspection regime that lasts in perpetuity
- Annex IV of the JCPOA establishes a Joint Commission comprised of Iran plus China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the UK, the USA and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.Although the USA is included in the Joint Commission, American citizens will not be permitted to serve on the IAEA inspection team.
- Clauses 74 to 76 of the JCPOA actually permit the oft-quoted 24 day notice period before IAEA can inspect a suspect site to be stretched without limit. If the IAEA has concerns regarding undeclared nuclear activities it must first make a formal request for clarification. Significantly no time limit is set for Iran to provide this clarification.
- If and when a clarification is received that doesn’t resolve the concerns, the IAEA may request (not demand) access to the suspect locations. And Iran may then propose alternative means of resolving the concerns. Even if the two sides are unable to reach satisfactory arrangements after implementing the alternative arrangements access will not yet be granted. Instead of access, (within 14 days of the IAEA’s original request for access) Iran, in consultation with the Joint Commission, must resolve the IAEA’s concerns through means to be agreed between Iran and the IAEA.
- In the light of the lengthy negotiations, with several extensions of due dates, that led to the JCPOA, one can only conjecture about the time required for the above agreement to be reached.
- The above statement that if Iran objects, the USA can override Iran’s objection without the agreement of Russia or China is correct only if an additional four members vote with the USA. The agreement provides that in the absence of agreement by consensus or by a vote of 5 or more of its 8 members, the Joint Commission would [sic] advise on means to resolve the IAEA’s concerns. Strangely, Iran is not required to recuse itself from this vote concerning its compliance with the JCPOA (equivalent to appointing the accused to a jury)
- The process of consultation with, and action by, the Joint Commission would not exceed 7 days, and Iran would implement the necessary means within 3 additional days.
- Analyzing the above, the negotiations before access is permitted could stretch out indefinitely and even if Iran relents say after 50 days it will have gained all the time it needed to sanitize the site before access is granted.
- More disturbing was the acknowledgment by Senator Kerry at the Armed services hearing in July that the IAEA will not be permitted to take samples at some sites. Instead Iran itself will collect and submit the samples to the IAEA. Senator James Risch, a former intelligence analyst, said he found this allegation impossible to believe. He asked if this is what was meant when we were told ‘Don’t worry, we’re going to be watching over their shoulder and we’re going to put in place verifications that are absolutely bullet proof. This revelation makes the whole agreement look like a dangerous farce.
- And most recently more worrying aspects were revealed by the Associated Press report that one of the side deals provides for Iran to carry out its own inspection work at the Parchin facility. Olli Heinonen, a former deputy IAEA director general, told AP he could recall no previous instance where a country being probed for nuclear wrongdoing was allowed to conduct its own investigation.
References: Analysis by the Washington Institute described in part 1. http://www.maurice-ostroff.org/evaluating-the-nuclear-deal-on-its-merits-part-1/