Iran: The Verification Trap

The Bush administration may be laying the ground work to sabotage any deal that the EU-3 conclude with Iran regarding the suspension of Tehran’s uranium enrichment program.

The grounds? The deal is unverifiable.

Obviously, we would all like to see as strong a deal as possible and it’s hard to be against verification. But what the administration is now saying regarding verification could form the basis for either

bq. 1. Arguing that no suspension of Iran’s enrichment program is verifiable, or
2. Pushing for a verification regime that is so intrusive that Iran won’t agree to it.

Bush spoke to this more than once before the IAEA Board of Governors adopted its latest Iran resolution.

For instance, “he said November 26”: that “the only good deal is one that’s verifiable. And I look forward to talking to the leaders of those countries, if they can get Iran to agree to a deal, to make sure that it’s verifiable.”

Well, there’s a bit of a problem. Besides the obvious fact that there’s no such thing as a 100% verifiable agreement, the administration has been saying that it is impossible to verify any agreement with Iran.

Take, for example, this idea that the administration was kicking around prior to the IAEA board’s June meeting. A State Department official “told _Arms Control Today_”:”: in June that the United States was thinking about encouraging the board to say it “cannot verify” Iran’s suspension of its centrifuge program because of Tehran’s demonstrated ability to manufacture relevant components at various locations throughout the country.

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei alluded to the verification issue in his June report to the board, “noting”: that “some of the activities subject to suspension, such as component production, are inherently difficult to verify.” ElBaradei added that the IAEA “cannot provide any assurance” that components are not being produced at undeclared Iranian sites.

(_Right, You can hide an enrichment facility just about anywhere_.)

Detecting small, concealed centrifuge facilities is very difficult. And the Bush Administration is “convinced”: that Iran has more concealed nuclear facilities. Can you think of a verification scheme that Iran would sign up to and also satisfy the Bush administration?

It is tempting to argue that the UN Security Council should give the IAEA Iraq-style inspection powers, but those wide-ranging powers did “precisely nothing”: to satisfy this administration.

Getting the most verifiable deal possible obviously ought to be a priority for the EU-3, but watch for the administration to say “Hey, we supported the deal, but the Iranians just wouldn’t agree to verification.”


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