Iran's Ayatollah: Nuke Inspectors Will Not Have Access to Military Sites, Scientists

By Patrick Goodenough | May 20, 2015 | 4:44 AM EDT

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif prepares for closed-door nuclear talks at the U.N. in Geneva Switzerland on Nov. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Keystone, Martial Trezzini, File)

( – As the Iran nuclear talks were due to resume in Vienna on Wednesday, Iran's spiritual leader and its main nuclear negotiator both doubled down on rejecting a core element of any deal – the right of international inspectors to access military sites.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told military commanders Wednesday he will not allow international inspection of Iran's military sites or access to Iranian scientists under any nuclear agreement with world powers. He said Iran will resist "coercion and excessive demands," the Associated Press reported.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif insisted that International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials would not be allowed to inspect the facilities, and also charged that Western claims to the contrary were merely designed to placate pressure groups at home.

The Obama administration says that Iran agreed to such inspections in an interim “framework” agreement reached on April 2. A White House fact sheet at the time said it was agreed Iran must allow IAEA inspectors “regular access to all” declared nuclear facilities, as well as access to any locations of suspected illicit nuclear activity, “anywhere in the country.”

That nuclear verification regime, described by President Obama as “the most robust and intrusive” ever negotiated,” goes beyond the requirements of the “additional protocols” to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which apply to the nuclear programs of more than 130 countries.

But Zarif, speaking alongside his Hungarian counterpart in Tehran, stated that Iran’s additional protocol implementation – which he emphasized was voluntary – would never entail “excessive and unreasonable” access to its facilities, since “military and even economic secrets” were not covered by the protocol.

The Tehran Times quoted him as saying that certain Western officials’ “sensational” remarks about access to Iran’s facilities were simply intended merely to “pacify” pressure groups.

Zarif also chided the U.S. for what he suggested was its disregard for what had been agreed upon in the framework agreement.

“Excessive demands would only prolong talks and would bring no result for the side that seeks excessive demands,” he said.

The comments put him at odds not just with the U.S. but also with IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano, who told the Associated Press last week that the agreement being negotiated by the P5+1 would give his agency the right to push for access to military facilities.

“In many other countries [that have ratified NPT additional protocols] from time to time we request access to military sites when we have the reason to, so why not Iran?” Amano asked.

“If we have a reason to request access, we will do so, and in principle Iran has to accept it.”

In a weekend interview with the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, Zarif scoffed at the notion that Iran would allow inspectors into any location, saying, “no country provides open access to its secret facilities.”

He also took issue with the White House fact sheet on the framework agreement, implying that its efforts to present its own narrative of what had been agreed upon had failed.

“In the past, you could present your version of reality, your narrative to your audience, and the other side could have presented their narrative to their audience,” he said. “But today in the age of the Internet and social media, narratives become global – and that’s where the problem comes. So you need to be able to present the final, complete package.”

Zarif also told the magazine that even if a final agreement is achieved, Iran and the U.S. would still have major differences.

“The United States and Iran have different world views,” he said. “We will not abandon ours. It’s a part of our identity, but that identity does not require conflict. We have a single issue that we are addressing with the United States, and that is the nuclear issue. If we can successfully address this, then that will provide a basis to consider whether we can deal with other issues.”

Asked whether Iran would reconsider its position towards the country it calls the “great Satan,” Zarif turned the question around.

“This deal is a litmus test of the degree to which the United States is willing to abandon the illusion of regime change in Iran, the illusion of animosity and antagonism towards the Iranian people and Iran’s revolution,” he said.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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