Last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad displayed his talent in double talk again. He claimed the recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had officially cleared Iran, while in the same breath boasted that his regime has “taken another step in the nuclear progress and launched more than 3,000 centrifuge machines, installing a new cascade every week.” A day later, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei left no doubt that Ahmadinejad indeed speaks for him. He vowed that the theocratic regime would never yield to international demands to stop nuclear enrichment, and that it would outsmart "drunken and arrogant" Western opponents in the standoff.
Despite its many flaws, the IAEA report included some notable passages. For one, it indicated that the U.N. nuclear watchdog “remains unable to verify certain aspects relevant to the scope and nature of Iran’s nuclear program.” It ominously referred to huge gaps in the agency’s information about Iran’s nuclear program because “since early 2006, the agency has not received the type of information ... for example information relevant to ongoing advanced centrifuge research.” The report rebuked Iran for its lack of cooperation and continued secrecy over its nuclear program.
In spite of those facts, the IAEA struck a flawed agreement with Tehran. This agreement not only bestows Tehran with huge breathing room to advance its overt and covert nuclear program, it is effectively a diversion from the main issue at hand: Iran’s cessation of uranium enrichment. The IAEA agreement revolves around critical omissions and new policies that give Iran a wide berth in addressing the unanswered questions about its program.
There are critical flaws in this new agreement. For example, given the Iranian regime’s history of delay-and-cheat, the new timeline for dealing with the outstanding issues would give Iran a built-in system to prolong the investigation process and evade further sanctions. This stipulation is nothing short of giving the ayatollahs a blank check.
The agreement makes no mention of the ability of the IAEA to verify any of Tehran's claims, nor does it mention the need for the agency to have access to sites, nuclear experts, key individuals, and documents. The IAEA may not ask follow-up questions in the future, which is a crucial and integral part of any verification process, especially given Tehran's more than two decades of lies and deception.
The critical issue of the “additional protocol” is also missing from the agreement which makes it virtually impossible for the agency to ensure that Tehran does not cheat or hide its nuclear materials or facilities.
Rather than deal-making with the cunning ayatollahs, the IAEA should forge full speed ahead to investigate critical sites that have not yet been inspected. IAEA inspectors have not seen, for example, the nuclear research and development site known as Lavizan II in Tehran, which was exposed by the main opposition coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in November 2004. The NCRI lifted the curtain on the ayatollahs’ secret nuclear program in Natanz and Arak in 2002.
Another site revealed by the NCRI that has not been opened to inspectors is the laser enrichment section of the Parchin Military Complex near Tehran. The NCRI, which exposed the site in March 2005, also submitted names of Iranian nuclear experts and personnel of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) involved in the nuclear program, many of whom have not yet been interviewed by the IAEA. Another critical clandestine nuclear site, handled by the physics department at the IRGC-run Imam Hossein University and revealed in March 2006 by the NCRI, has not yet been inspected.
While the mullahs in Tehran rub their hands in satisfaction over the new IAEA agreement, Ahmadinejad scoffs at the United States and France, who are stepping up efforts to counter Iran’s defiance of the UNSC resolutions. In his September 2 speech, Ahmadinejad boasted that “They (world powers) thought that by issuing any resolution Iran would back down. But after each resolution the Iranian nation took another step along the path of nuclear development.”
It’s easy to understand why Ahmadinejad waves off U.N. sanctions and their impact on Iran’s nuclear-related exports and financial transactions. The ayatollahs believe that with the Trans-Atlantic proponents of “soft approach” on their side, they have more than enough time to get the A-bomb.
The fact of the matter is that in spite of talks and sanctions, the regime continues to militarize its nuclear program, dig new tunnels for its underground facilities, enrich uranium and make continuous progress at the heavy water nuclear reactor in Arak.
The central question on the table right now is whether or not Tehran has adhered to the demand of the U.N. Security Council as stipulated in the binding resolutions of 1737 and 1747 to halt the uranium enrichment. Buried in all other issues brought up by the IAEA report, the answer to this pivotal question is a big NO. This point should be the focus of all the members of the U.N. Security Council and nothing else. And here is where Washington, Paris and London should show maximum leadership and focus on the adoption of a much tougher U.N. Security Council sanction regime against Tehran’s nuclear weapons program.
Alireza Jafarzadeh is a FOX News Channel Foreign Affairs Analyst and the author of "The Iran Threat: President Ahmadinejad and the Coming Nuclear Crisis" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).
Jafarzadeh has revealed Iran's terrorist network in Iraq and its terror training camps since 2003. He first disclosed the existence of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility and the Arak heavy water facility in August 2002.
Prior to becoming a contributor for FOX, and until August 2003, Jafarzadeh acted for a dozen years as the chief congressional liaison and media spokesman for the U.S. representative office of Iran's parliament in exile, the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
Alireza Jafarzadeh, the deputy director of the Washington office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, is credited with exposing Iranian nuclear sites in Natanz and Arak in 2002, triggering International Atomic Energy Agency inspections. He is the author of "The Iran Threat" (Palgrave MacMillan: 2008). His email is Jafarzadeh@ncrius.org, and is on twitter @A_Jafarzadeh.