(CNSNews.com) – Former Secretary of State John Kerry says President Trump relied on “no science, no fact” to justify his decision not to certify Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal.
Speaking at the Chatham House think tank in London, Kerry – one of the architects of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – said that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has certified eight times that Iran was “fully compliant” with the deal.
“So there is no science, no fact, not any evidence whatsoever that would merit a, quote, ‘decertification,’” he said. “This is just … pulled out of the sky, bold and blue, if you will.”
Trump on October 13 decertified Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA, saying that “Iran is not living up to the spirit of the deal.”
The decision did not annul the agreement but paved the way for congressional action, including possible restoration of nuclear-related sanctions.
Trump said his administration would work closely with Congress and U.S. allies “to address the deal’s many serious flaws” – which he said included its “sunset” clauses, “insufficient enforcement and near total silence on Iran’s missile programs.”
Kerry disputed Trump’s assertions.
“I’ve heard some people, including the president of the United States say, ‘there’s a violation, it’s a violation of the spirit of the deal,’” he said.
“As one of the principal negotiators of that agreement let me just say to you, there was no ‘spirit’ of the deal. There is no ‘spirit’ of the deal. The deal is contained within the four corners of the agreement itself, period.”
Kerry said the U.S. – including the U.S. Congress – and other participants had all agreed that the approach would be not to tackle other – “legitimate” – problems, including missiles, arms sales, and support for terrorism.
“Those have to be managed, but they have to be managed separately.”
Kerry also alluded to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s purported “fatwa” outlawing nuclear weapons.
In reaching the agreement Iran, he said, “stepped up to the plate, yes to get rid of sanctions, but also because the ayatollah, the supreme leader, made a decision that they were not going to pursue it.”
Kerry asserted in his Chatham House appearance that the IAEA has certified on eight separate occasions that Iran is “fully compliant” with the deal.
In fact the quarterly IAEA reports do not say Iran has complied with the JCPOA. They report on Iran’s nuclear-related actions and leave it to a “joint commission” – basically Iran and the negotiating partners – to decide whether or not those actions constitute compliance.
Military sites still unvisited
In his Oct. 13 announcement, Trump accused the Iranian regime of committing “multiple violations of the agreement.”
Among those, he focused on Iran’s refusal to allow IAEA inspectors access to military bases.
He said the regime has “intimidated international inspectors into not using the full inspection authorities that the agreement calls for.”
“Iranian officials and military leaders have repeatedly claimed they will not allow inspectors onto military sites, even though the international community suspects some of those sites were part of Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program.”
The IAEA reports do not raise the issue of access to military sites. At the end of August, however, IAEA officials told Reuters the watchdog has not asked for access to military sites since the deal was implemented, since it has felt no need to do so.
In an expert analysis of the IAEA’s most recent Iran report, the Institute for Science and International Security noted the absence of any discussion on visits to military sites.
“Once again, the issue of the IAEA’s visits to military sites in Iran is not discussed in this quarterly report,” it said. “This lack of access undermines any statement that the IAEA is able to verify the JCPOA.”
The institute says access to military sites is necessary for the IAEA to verify limits on Iran’s centrifuge production, assess whether it is adhering to nuclear weaponization development bans, obtain answers about alleged past and possibly present nuclear weapons work, and establish whether Iran is meeting JCPOA conditions relating to the unauthorized use of dual-use equipment suitable for developing and testing nuclear explosive devices.
“Overall, Iran has shown a willingness to cooperate with the IAEA at declared sites, even
allowing unprecedented monitoring, but it has demonstrated an unwillingness to cooperate with regards to military sites,” Institute for Science and International Security president David Albright told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on October 11.
He compared that behavior to that of North Korea in its approach to international nuclear agreements.
In a second appearance this week, Kerry reiterated his view that the JCPOA “is working.”
“The Iran nuclear agreement is working,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “That’s the important thing. The world needs to embrace the fact that the region is safer. The world is safer, because Iran agreed to live by certain standards.”
“Why would the United States be the moving party to try to break apart something that prevents them from having a nuclear weapon?”