Iran’s nuclear defiance must be exposed at UN
One of the most critical issues that will likely be discussed at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly is Iran’s nuclear program and the future of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which was first agreed in 2015 between the Islamic Republic and the P5+1 — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany.
Talks aimed at reviving the JCPOA appear to be at a standstill after six rounds of negotiations concluded with no positive results. The US, France, Germany and the UK have all expressed their desire to revive the nuclear deal, even though the Iranian regime is currently violating all restrictions of the JCPOA and continuing to advance its nuclear program. Against this backdrop, profoundly consequential questions arise concerning policy toward Iran and its nuclear program.
The first important issue is that the US and the European countries must focus on pressuring the UNGA and the UNSC to seek answers from the Iranian regime concerning its secret nuclear activities.
To be more specific, the Iranian leaders must come clean about their nuclear activities and respond to the alarming questions raised by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. Rafael Grossi, the director general of the IAEA, reported to a June board meeting in Vienna: “After many months, Iran has not provided the necessary explanation for the presence of the nuclear material particles at any of the three locations where the agency has conducted complementary (assessments). In the absence of such an explanation from Iran, I am deeply concerned that nuclear material has been present at the three undeclared locations in Iran and that the current locations of this nuclear material are not known by the agency.”
Grossi’s statements suggest that the Iranian regime was likely violating the nuclear deal even before the Trump administration pulled the US out of the JCPOA in 2018. The IAEA later reported that it had found anthropogenic uranium particles at two sites in Iran, including Abadeh in Fars province. The Abadeh site had reportedly been the venue for a project known as Marivan. It was built in the mid-1990s by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and managed by the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, or SPND, the main entity in charge of the regime’s nuclear weapons program. The Abadeh site was built specifically for an SPND subsidiary, METFAZ, which specializes in research into and the building of high-explosive detonators.
It is important to point out that one of the most basic requirements of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a party, as well as one of the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, is that the Iranian regime is required to reveal its nuclear activities to the IAEA — a condition it appears to have failed to comply with.
The regime’s clandestine nuclear activities have unfortunately shown that it is untrustworthy
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities have unfortunately shown that the regime is untrustworthy. As a result, the Biden administration and the European powers must make it clear at the UNGA that one of the major conditions for reviving the nuclear deal is that Iran must answer the IAEA’s questions.
Secondly, they must pressure the UNGA and the UNSC to take action as a result of Iran’s increasing nuclear defiance. While negotiations to revive the nuclear deal have been ongoing, the regime has been advancing its nuclear program, including spinning more centrifuges and enriching uranium at a much higher level, as well as producing uranium metal, all of which has brought it dangerously close to obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Even US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in June acknowledged that Iran’s breakout time — the time required to gather enough fissile material for a single nuclear weapon — is becoming worryingly short. He stated that Iran’s nuclear program is “galloping forward... The longer this goes on, the more the breakout time gets down… It’s now down, by public reports, to a few months at best. And if this continues, it will get down to a matter of weeks.”
It must be made clear to the Iranian regime at the UNGA that, if it continues to advance its nuclear program and refuses to rejoin the nuclear agreement, there will be severe consequences, such as a ratcheting up of sanctions.
If the UN fails to show Tehran that its nuclear defiance and malign actions carry serious consequences, then what would stop it further escalating such acts? If Tehran is allowed to act with impunity, it will be emboldened to try to impose itself on the regional and international order.
The objective should not simply be to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons; it should also be to put an end to Tehran’s destabilizing behavior in the region, stop its support for terrorism, and help the Iranian people have a representative, democratic and inclusive government. That is the ultimate strategic solution to the crisis.
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh