Is Iran Already Violating the Nuclear Deal?

Yigal Carmon, the president and founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute, is a former Israeli civil servant, a counterterrorism adviser to prime ministers Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin, and a participant in Israel’s peace negotiations with Syria in the early 1990s. He is, to the best of my knowledge, a reliable observer of Middle Eastern events.

At MEMRI, Carmon makes two points. First, Iran has not actually ratified the nuclear agreement:

What is mistakenly perceived as an agreement under the title of “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” (JCPOA), that was concluded on July 14 in Vienna, and celebrated by the White House as an “historic agreement,” is neither a contract nor even a real agreement between Iran and the P5+1. It is a set of understandings and disputes compiled into a single document. …

[Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei has not approved the JCPOA. … Stepping in in the final act, Khamenei, deus-ex-machina style, dictated, in a letter to President Rohani, nine new conditions for the JCPOA, and declared that if these were not met Iran would stop the agreement.

Khamenei’s letter to Rohani with his conditions for the execution of the JCPOA…was explicitly termed “conditional approval.” It was labeled thus in red letters, as posted on Khamenei’s website in Persian, tweeted from his Twitter account and posted on his Facebook page in English, and also published in English by the official Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting authority IRIB.


Khomeini’s nine conditions are set forth here. One of his requirements is that all sanctions (not just nuclear sanctions) be not only suspended, but lifted, before Iran begins any compliance with the JCPOA.

Carmon’s second point is that Iran is not proceeding to comply with the JCPOA’s requirements by December 15, and shows no intention of doing so:

What are these obligations that Iran has to fulfill between Adoption Day and December 15 in order to merit this sanctions relief? The Arms Control Association, which supports Iran and the JCPOA, listed them on its website:

*reducing the centrifuges at Natanz from over 16,000 to 5,060 IR-1 machines, which will enrich uranium to 3.67 percent, and removing the associated infrastructure;

*reducing the number of IR-1 machines centrifuges at Fordow to 1,000 (328 will operate) and converting the facility for radioisotope production;

*wrapping up testing on advanced centrifuges machines and removing all advanced centrifuges except one IR-4, IR-5, IR-6, and IR-8 machine for testing with uranium;

*storing all dismantled centrifuges under IAEA seal;

*reducing the stockpile of enriched uranium to less than 300 kilograms;

*removing the core of the Arak reactor and disabling it; and

*instituting the necessary transparency and monitoring mechanisms to implement Iran’s additional protocol and the continuous surveillance of key facilities.

Did Iran hasten to meet these obligations? No!

In fact, Carmon says, Iran is making it clear that these actions will not be taken by the date prescribed in the JCPOA, now only 43 days away:

At this stage, events have taken an absurd turn. Iran has started dragging its feet. Instead of rushing to carry out all the steps to meet its obligations under the JCPOA, it is idling in neutral. It has little time and much to do by December 15. It must dismantle thousands of centrifuges and transfer them to storage monitored by IAEA cameras. It must ship out 9,000 kg of its enriched uranium to a third country, retaining only 300 kg. It must dismantle and pour cement into the core of the Arak plutonium reactor, and transform the facility into a heavy water reactor. It must notify the IAEA of its voluntary acceptance of the NPT Additional Protocol. And more.

But senior Iranian officials are shifting responsibility for initiating fulfillment of these obligations to one another, sometimes with comical effect. For example, President Hassan Rohani sent a letter to Iranian Atomic Energy Organization head Ali Akbar Salehi instructing him to begin to take the appropriate steps. Salehi confirmed that he had received Rohani’s message, but said that it had not stated when he should start doing so. No one wanted to budge without explicit permission from Supreme Leader Khamenei.

In a little over a month, it will become apparent whether Iran has discharged its post-Adoption Day obligations. Carmon says that at that point, it will no longer be possible to pretend that a real agreement with Iran has been reached. What will the Obama administration do then?

[I]t appears that President Obama’s only option, shameful as it is, is to restart the negotiations with the Iranians and talk with them about their leaders’ new conditions. As is well-known, this administration advocates diplomacy – guaranteeing that there will be no breakthrough any time soon.

This is precisely what will serve President Obama best. All he needs to do is play for time and reach the end of his term with an agreement in hand – albeit virtual – and negotiations in progress – albeit unending. He will pass this situation on to the next administration.

Is Carmon right about how matters are proceeding in Iran? I don’t know, but it won’t be long before we find out.