This assessment of the core monitoring provisions of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is necessarily hurried and preliminary. I invite ACW readers to weigh in with their comments. The text of key provisions follows my first-cut assessment.
The agreement’s provisions are extremely complex and detailed. Reading the fine print brings flashbacks of the most detailed nuclear arms reduction provisions negotiated between the Kremlin and the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. All of this is new. At the outset of these negotiations, no one expected constraints this deep or this long.
Detail, complexity and novelty lend themselves to hiccups, even if everyone is acting in good faith. If opponents of this deal decide to legislate their interpretations and preferences of agreed provisions, there will be endless grounds for alleging violations. Even if they do not, there will be repeated charges of Iranian noncompliance, whether warranted or not. Sorting through these issues behind closed doors will not produce prompt rebuttals. If Tehran does not go the extra mile to clarify that concerns over noncompliance are unwarranted, there will be choppy passages ahead. Tehran’s willingness to go the extra mile will depend, in turn, on whether the United States is carrying out the deal’s terms in good faith.
The administration gets high marks for monitoring Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain, from uranium mining and milling to its centrifuge manufacturing and storage facilities for 25 years. The monitoring provisions relating to uranium enrichment, and even more so for plutonium production and reprocessing, are extremely good at declared sites. The monitoring of R&D for Iranian work on better centrifuge designs at declared facilities is also extremely good, but will not assuage critics that oppose any Iranian work on improved centrifuge designs.
The suspect site provisions reflect hard compromises and could involve difficult sledding if put to the test. The White House Fact Sheet on the deal says, that “It ensures both timely and effective International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to any site in Iran necessary in order to verify Iran’s compliance, including military sites such as Parchin.” But implementation won’t be smooth: the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran have been separated at birth, and getting to know one another at suspect sites won’t be easy. Negotiating these provisions was a significant achievement. Making them work will be possible, but even more remarkable.
Challenge inspections were exercised in Iraq and succeeded in large measure, even against Saddam Hussein’s obstruction. But the Iraqi case, as with the constraints placed on another defeated state — Germany after World War I — was exceptional. Challenge inspections (the term is not used in the text) in Iran would traverse new and difficult terrain. The Chemical Weapons Convention’s challenge inspection provisions have never been exercised. This Convention has not stopped outliers, like Bashar al-Assad in Syria, but the CWC’s norms have helped keep the number of outliers limited – even without exercising the right of challenge inspections.
The Iran agreement’s provisions would permit access of suspect sites within 24 days, following voting procedures that are weighted in favor of the United States and its allies. Delays at several stages in the process could allow Tehran to clean up some kinds of activities, but not others.
The key question underlying suspect site provisions — and the agreement as a whole – is whether Tehran has gone to such great lengths to accept severe limits on its bomb-making capabilities for extended periods of time in order to disregard these obligations. Critics assume this to be the case, during or after sanctions’ relief, even as they argue that there is no need for Iran to cheat because the terms are insufficient and time-limited.
A subsidiary question is where Tehran would try to cheat, if it chose to do so. Inspections at military facilities have been a significant point of contention. Iran’s Supreme Leader has weighed in, ruling them out. The provisions of the agreement do not rule them out, while placing hurdles before ruling them in. One of many challenges to the United States and Iran is, in effect, to resolve questions of compliance before feeling obliged to exercise the right of challenge inspections.
Key Monitoring provisions of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action:
Iran will permit the IAEA the use of on-line enrichment measurement and electronic seals which communicate their status within nuclear sites to IAEA inspectors, as well as other IAEA approved and certified modern technologies in line with internationally accepted IAEA practice. Iran will facilitate automated collection of IAEA measurement recordings registered by installed measurement devices and sending to IAEA working space in individual nuclear sites.
Iran will make the necessary arrangements to allow for a long-term IAEA presence, including issuing long-term visas, as well as providing proper working space at nuclear sites and, with best efforts, at locations near nuclear sites in Iran for the designated IAEA inspectors for working and keeping necessary equipment.
Iran will increase the number of designated IAEA inspectors to the range of 130-150 within 9 months from the date of the implementation of the JCPOA and will generally allow the designation of inspectors from nations that have diplomatic relations with Iran, consistent with its laws and regulations.
Iran will permit the IAEA to monitor, through agreed measures that will include containment and surveillance measures, for 25 years, that all uranium ore concentrate produced in Iran or obtained from any other source, is transferred to the uranium conversion facility (UCF) in Esfahan or to any other future uranium conversion facility which Iran might decide to build in Iran within this period.
Iran will permit the IAEA regular access, including daily access as requested by the IAEA, to relevant buildings at Natanz, including all parts of the FEP and PFEP, for 15 years.
Requests for access pursuant to provisions of this JCPOA will be made in good faith, with due observance of the sovereign rights of Iran, and kept to the minimum necessary to effectively implement the verification responsibilities under this JCPOA. In line with normal international safeguards practice, such requests will not be aimed at interfering with Iranian military or other national security activities, but will be exclusively for resolving concerns regarding fulfilment of the JCPOA commitments and Iran’s other non-proliferation and safeguards obligations.
If the IAEA has concerns regarding undeclared nuclear materials or activities, or activities inconsistent with the JCPOA, at locations that have not been declared under the comprehensive safeguards agreement or Additional Protocol, the IAEA will provide Iran the basis for such concerns and request clarification.
If Iran’s explanations do not resolve the IAEA’s concerns, the Agency may request access to such locations for the sole reason to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear materials and activities or activities inconsistent with the JCPOA at such locations. The IAEA will provide Iran the reasons for access in writing and will make available relevant information.
Iran may propose to the IAEA alternative means of resolving the IAEA’s concerns that enable the IAEA to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear materials and activities or activities inconsistent with the JCPOA at the location in question, which should be given due and prompt consideration.
If the absence of undeclared nuclear materials and activities or activities inconsistent with the JCPOA cannot be verified after the implementation of the alternative arrangements agreed by Iran and the IAEA, or if the two sides are unable to reach satisfactory arrangements to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear materials and activities or activities inconsistent with the JCPOA at the specified locations within 14 days of the IAEA’s original request for access, Iran, in consultation with the members of the Joint Commission, would resolve the IAEA’s concerns through necessary means agreed between Iran and the IAEA. In the absence of an agreement, the members of the Joint Commission, by consensus or by a vote of 5 or more of its 8 members, would advise on the necessary means to resolve the IAEA’s concerns. The process of consultation with, and any action by, the members of the Joint Commission would not exceed 7 days, and Iran would implement the necessary means within 3 additional days.
The Joint Commission is comprised of representatives of Iran and the E3/EU+3 (China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy), together, the JCPOA participants.
The Joint Commission may establish Working Groups in particular areas, as appropriate.
The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (‘High
Representative’), or his/her designated representative will serve as the Coordinator of the Joint Commission.
Review and approve in advance, upon request by Iran, the design, development, fabrication, acquisition, or use for non-nuclear purposes of multi-point explosive detonation systems suitable for a nuclear explosive device and explosive diagnostic systems (streak cameras, framing cameras and flash x-ray cameras) suitable for the development of a nuclear explosive device, Review, with a view to resolving, any issue that a JCPOA participant believes constitutes nonperformance by another JCPOA participant of its commitments under the JCPOA, according to the process outlined in the JCPOA…