The United States has called on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to request access to Iranian military sites, in what is regarded as an attempt by the US to undermine a multilateral nuclear deal with Iran.
Speaking at a news conference in New York on Friday, US Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Nikki Haley said the IAEA had to use every possibility there was under the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six other countries.
“We are encouraging the IAEA to use all the authorities they have and to pursue every angle possible with the JCPOA, and we will continue to support the IAEA in that process,” she said, using an acronym to refer to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the deal is known.
The IAEA is tasked with monitoring Iranian compliance with the deal, a basically technical matter that falls within the agency’s area of expertise. The IAEA has consistently verified that Iran is in compliance since the deal started being implemented in January 2016.
The US is a party to the JCPOA, which was negotiated under former US president Barack Obama. But the administration of US President Donald Trump, which took over in January this year, has been opposed to the accord and is believed to be looking for a way to potentially withdraw from it.
Apparently toward that end, Trump has ordered a “review” of the deal and has assigned a team of his confidantes to provide him with “options” other than certifying Iranian compliance to the Congress, which is a US contractual commitment necessary for the Congress to continue withholding nuclear-related sanctions against Iran.
Haley had earlier traveled to Vienna, where the IAEA is headquartered, as part of the Trump administration’s “review” of the deal. There, she met with IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano.
In her Friday remarks, and attempting to make her case for IAEA access to Iranian military sites, she accused Iran of past covert nuclear work. This is while when the JCPOA was implemented, the international nuclear agency permanently closed a file looking into such allegations against Iran, meaning that any such suspicions had been dispelled.
Undermining the deal
On Tuesday, Haley had claimed she was traveling to the Austrian capital to ask questions, not to push the IAEA to do anything. She openly contradicted herself with her Friday comments.
Her visit has been generally viewed as part of the Trump administration attempts to seek a pretext to potentially withdraw from the deal, which the US president has long disliked.
Iran has complained about such political pressure being exerted by the US on the IAEA, which has purely technical responsibilities with regards to the JCPOA.
In a Wednesday letter to the IAEA chief, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that the objectives of Haley’s visit were “not in conformity with” the terms of the JCPOA and UN Security Resolution 2231 regarding the agency’s independence and the protection of sensitive information that Iran relays to the agency.
Resolution 2231 was adopted on July 20, 2015 to endorse the nuclear deal, itself reached between Iran and the US, Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany on July 14, 2015.
“Regrettably, the international community views this visit and its stated purpose of ‘pressing the Agency,’ as an overt and aggressive attempt by a permanent member of the Security Council — which is openly hostile toward the JCPOA and determined to undermine and destroy it — to put pressure on the Agency,” he wrote.
Such activities, Zarif said, would “undermine the independence and the credibility of the Agency’s work.”
Separately on Wednesday, Zarif said in an interview that the IAEA “should not allow questions to be raised about its independence and status in connection with the JCPOA in the international arena.”
On Thursday, Iran’s Permanent Mission to the IAEA also warned in a statement against any “illegal” pressure on the UN nuclear agency.
The Trump administration has twice certified Iran’s compliance with the deal. US media reports said Trump agreed to those certifications only “reluctantly.”
The Islamic Republic has been in contact with the European and other parties to the JCPOA to prevent US non-performance but has said it is ready for any scenario.
Unlike the US, the European parties to the deal and Russia and China have never raised any complaints about the deal and have stressed full commitment to it.