The Trump administration is pushing to re-open a special investigation into the military dimensions of Iran’s past nuclear work. But it’s not gaining traction among the international officials who can make it happen.
American officials have been ratcheting up pressure at the International Atomic Energy Agency in recent weeks, threatening new sanctions and advocating for more aggressive inspections, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg and interviews with diplomats.
However, the efforts are falling flat, say three diplomats who participated in a meeting convened next to the U.S. IAEA embassy last week in Vienna.
It’s a rare pushback for the U.S. at the IAEA, whose inspectors have been instrumental getting past UN sanctions applied against Iran. The episode illustrates the rising difficulty American officials face in convincing allies to follow the U.S. on Iran.
The IAEA is pushing back against the Trump administration on this because the agency has already closed the file on this issue and sees no reason to revisit it. Rehashing what Iran did or didn’t do more than fifteen years ago isn’t relevant to upholding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that the administration reneged on, and it would be a waste of everyone’s time and effort. As long as Iran is complying with the deal and the IAEA is satisfied with their cooperation, there is no point in dredging up previous work Iran may have done on nuclear weapons when they are clearly not doing any of it now and haven’t been doing it for more than a decade. The administration’s request that the IAEA investigate is obviously being made in bad faith as part of their larger effort to promote the fiction that Iran still has “nuclear ambitions.” If they were concerned about the past military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program, they would be enthusiastic supporters of the nuclear deal, but of course they only use the nuclear issue as an excuse for confrontation. The report cites from documents that the U.S. presented to the IAEA:
The revelations require the IAEA to “reinvigorate its investigation of Iran’s past, and possibly on-going, nuclear weapons program,” according to documents distributed at the meeting and obtained by Bloomberg.
It’s that dishonest insertion of “possibly ongoing” that gives away the administration’s intentions. They hope to muddy the waters and make it seem as if Iran hasn’t been fully complying with the JCPOA from the start when the IAEA has confirmed that it has more than a dozen times. The IAEA knows better, and they aren’t going to be used as an instrument in the administration’s pressure campaign. The agency has no reason to indulge the administration in their ongoing efforts to undermine and destroy a successful nonproliferation agreement. If they did so, that would harm the IAEA’s credibility in the eyes of many other governments, including Iran’s, because it would call into question their independence as an institution.