The administration has characterized the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection regime to be put in place under a final Iran agreement as the most intrusive and comprehensive ever devised.
Not only must Iran allow IAEA inspectors to “have regular access to all of Iran’s [declared] nuclear facilities,” according to an official U.S. fact sheet of “parameters” of the framework agreement, it must moreover “grant access to the IAEA to investigate suspicious sites or allegations of a covert enrichment facility, conversion facility, centrifuge production facility, or yellowcake production facility anywhere in the country.”
But that Iran agreed to such a provision – admitting inspectors on demand to any suspicious site anywhere in the country – is now under dispute. In his speech Khamenei called the fact sheet an example of White House “lying”.
“One must absolutely not allow infiltration of the security and defense realm of the state on the pretext of inspection[s],” he declared. “The military authorities of the state are not – under any circumstance – allowed to let in foreigners to this realm under the pretext of inspection, or stop the country’s defense development.”
“Any unconventional inspection or monitoring which would make Iran into a special case, would not be acceptable, and the monitoring must only be as monitoring regimes taking place all over the world and nothing more,” Khamenei added.
(A translation of the speech was provided by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.)
The administration has highlighted the supposed Iranian agreement to a tough system of inspections as a crucial element of the framework deal ostensibly agreed upon last Thursday.
“Iran has also agreed to the most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated for any nuclear program in history,” President Obama said in his initial response to the framework understanding. “So this deal is not based on trust, it’s based on unprecedented verification.”
The framework agreement announced in the Swiss city of Lausanne lasts for three months while negotiators finalize the details, ahead of an end of June deadline for a final comprehensive deal on Iran’s nuclear program.
‘Instant annulment of all sanctions’
Khamenei also challenged other points in the U.S. version of what had been agreed to at the talks in Lausanne, including the timing of the lifting of sanctions – both those measures imposed under U.N. Security Council resolutions as well as U.S. and European Union nuclear-related sanctions.
The administration’s “parameters” document ties sanctions relief to Iran “verifiably” abiding to its commitments. But the supreme leader demanded that they be lifted immediately the final deal is signed.
“Instant annulment of all sanctions is one of the demands of our officials,” he said. “This issue is very important, and the sanctions must all be completely removed on the day of the agreement.”
If sanctions relief was made contingent on other “processes” taking place, the negotiations would be have pointless, since Iran’s goal in going into the talks in the first place was to have them removed, Khamenei said.
State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke declined to respond to Khamenei’s specific comments, telling a daily briefing “we’re not negotiating in public.” But on the question of sanctions he reiterated the administration’s position.
“Under the agreed-upon parameters, sanctions will be suspended in a phased manner upon verification that Iran has met specific commitments” contained in the final agreement, he said.
On the issue of IAEA inspections, Rathke also confirmed that “verification and transparency” make up “an essential part of the agreement.”
Asked about the “parameters” fact sheet, which Iran is disputing in multiple areas, Rathke said the administration stood by it as a reflection of the understandings that were agreed to in Lausanne.
Iran put out a nuclear framework agreement fact sheet of its own late last week, which refers only indirectly and vaguely to inspections.
“Iran will implement the Additional Protocol on a voluntary and temporary basis for the sake of transparency and confidence building,” it states.
Under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the “additional protocol” to a country’s safeguards agreement widens the IAEA’s rights of access to its nuclear sites.
In his speech Thursday Khamenei was effectively saying Iran would not agree to inspections that go beyond what other countries are subjected to under the additional protocol.
Furthermore, in stark contrast to the Iranian fact sheet’s reference to implementation of the protocol on a “temporary basis,” the U.S. fact sheet states that “Iran’s adherence to the Additional Protocol of the IAEA is permanent.”
In a weekend interview with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman Obama said that under the final deal the IAEA inspectors would be able to go anywhere in Iran “that we suspect.”
And if Iran objected to a visit to a particular suspect site, he said, “what we have done is to try to design a mechanism whereby once those objections are heard, that it is not a final veto that Iran has, but in fact some sort of international mechanism will be in place that makes a fair assessment as to whether there should be an inspection, and if they determine it should be, that’s the tiebreaker, not Iran saying, ‘No, you can’t come here.’”
How such a mechanism would work, and how long it would take to make an assessment, remains unclear. But critics have raised concerns that any delays could provide the Iranians with the time to move or hide suspect equipment or suspend illicit activities.