(CNSNews.com) – Two years after the Obama administration contended that the nuclear deal it reached with Iran had opened the door to international inspection of military sites, a senior military adviser to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared Sunday that it does not.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) “allows no inspection of Iran’s military sites,” the Mehr news agency cited Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi as saying.
“No foreign and domestic official and not even unauthorized officials of the Iranian Armed Forces are allowed to inspect Iran’s military sites without Ayatollah Khamenei's permission.”
Firouzabadi was reacting to questions raised by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley at meetings with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials in Vienna last week, as part of the Trump administration’s review of the JCPOA.
In separate meetings with IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano and experts responsible for safeguards verification in Iran, Haley raised questions of inspectors’ access to suspicious sites.
She and Amano “discussed U.S. concerns about ensuring Iran strictly adheres to its obligations, noting that IAEA reports can only be as good as the access Iran grants to any facility the IAEA suspects of having a nuclear role,” according to a U.S. mission statement.
And at the meeting with the verification experts, she called access to such facilities in Iran “crucial,” if the IAEA was to fulfil its monitoring mandate.
Haley tweeted afterwards, “We came to Vienna with lots of questions about the Iran Deal. We received many good answers but we still have many doubts and concerns.”
Firouzabadi, a former Iranian armed forces chief of staff, said on Sunday the ambassador’s Vienna visit was part of a new “plot” hatched by Washington against Iran, “and she is lying.”
And he took a swipe at President Trump, calling criticism of the JCPOA an attempt to “divert the world’s attention from racist conflicts in America.”
“He will fail in this seditious effort as well,” Firouzabadi added.
Criticism also came from Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi, who was quoted by the IRIB state broadcaster as saying Sunday that Iran “will not succumb to the avarice of specific governments.”
Ghasemi said Tehran has given the necessary warnings to the IAEA, and the agency will not “yield to illogical and unrealistic demands.”
“No permission will be issued by Iran for entering into areas red-lined in the agreements of the JCPOA,” he said, adding that IAEA inspections must be carried out “within the framework of Iran’s domestic policies.”
Tehran’s assertion that the JCPOA “allows no inspection” of military bases touches on one of the most sensitive issues in the nuclear accord championed by the Obama administration.
The 2015 deal states that request for access “will be made in good faith, with due observance of the sovereign rights of Iran, and kept to the minimum necessary to effectively implement the verification responsibilities under this JCPOA”
It also says the requests “will not be aimed at interfering with Iranian military or other national security activities.”
If the IAEA does have concerns about “undeclared nuclear materials or activities … at locations that have not been declared,” it must provide Iran with the basis for those concerns. Iran must then provide clarification, and if that does not satisfy the agency’s concerns, it may request access.
But Iran may then propose alternative ways to satisfy the concerns, and more days are set aside for “consultation” and a vote by the parties to the deal. In the end, the procedure could allow Iran no fewer than 24 days from the time concerns are first raised, to the time it allows inspectors in.
“A lot of things can disappear” in 24 days,” then-French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius observed at the time.
Still, President Obama said in April 2015 that the Iranians had “agreed to the most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated for any nuclear program in history.”
Confidential ‘side deals’
The issue of access to military sites relates in particular to Parchin, a military installation which Iran for more than a decade had forbidden the IAEA to enter.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog suspected that Iran carried out work at Parchin on designs for detonator devices that could be used in a nuclear weapon and could fit in a ballistic missile warhead.
The question of access to Parchin was addressed in controversial “side deals” to the JCPOA, which the Obama administration declined to disclose to lawmakers reviewing the nuclear deal. The administration argued that such agreements between the IAEA and individual countries are kept confidential.
The issue was contentious, because under the JCPOA, the IAEA was obliged to resolve outstanding questions about all Iranian nuclear activities with “possible military dimensions” before sanctions were to be lifted.
It later emerged that the “side deal” arrangements had allowed Iranian officials to supply the IAEA with photos, video and samples from Parchin.
Amano confirmed that Iranian officials had “played a part in the sample-taking process by swiping samples,” but insisted that the arrangement had not compromised the agency’s standards in any way.
For its part, Iran boasted that no IAEA inspectors had been physically present when it collected the samples at Parchin.
Days later, Amano and his deputy paid a brief “courtesy” visit to Parchin – and the Obama administration suggested that visit amounted to Iran having opened up the military site to the IAEA.