Iran Has Stopped Dismantling its Centrifuges

Shortly after announcing that it had begun the process of dismantling centrifuges at its Fordow and Nantez nuclear facilities, the Iranian government has reversed itself and says it is no longer dismantling anything.  Under intense criticism from hard-line members of Iran’s Parliament, Iranian president Rouhani called for the dismantling process to stop.

The cessation put an end to what was largely a symbolic process in any case.  Iran was not disassembling working centrifuges, but only decommissioned ones.  It has approximately ten thousand older centrifuges that are no longer in operation.  Dismantling these was an easy way for the regime to show some signs of compliance with the international community during the IAEA review of its program.  This review is due to be released by mid-December.

Some Iranian cover for the IAEA would be helpful to the embattled agency.  Sources within the Iranian government accidentally released an interview with deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi in which he explained to regime insiders that the IAEA report’s outlines had been agreed upon before any inspections had taken place.

As far as the deal is concerned, these issues have been resolved, but there remain issues between us and the IAEA before it can finalize its report.That report will be gray. It will neither be black nor white. With regards to this issue, a roadmap has been signed by Mr. Salehi and Mr. Amano based on which, for example,we will present some of our own assessments on PMD by Aug. 15 and the IAEA will review them by Oct. 15, and that will conclude the task of the IAEA. We have no further problems as far as the deal is concerned, but by Dec. 15, Amano will present the final assessment and we have made some precautionary arrangements to hold off on certain things we need to do until the IAEA presents its final report. Meaning this will cause the Westerners themselves to pressure the IAEA to wrap up the case as soon as possible so that the deal could be implemented.

The IAEA has come under fire from critics of the Iran deal because of its failure to apply reasonable standards to the Iranian government, most famously in allowing Iran to collect its own samples at the Parchin military facility with no IAEA supervision.  Critics suggest that the IAEA is allowing Iran to run roughshod over any semblance of legitimate compliance with the spirit or the letter of the JCPOA deal, even conspiring to help Iran appear to be in compliance when it is not.  Being able to point to Iran’s dismantling of even nonfunctional centrifuges would have been a much-needed fig leaf for IAEA officials when their report is released next month.

However, 20 parliamentarians rallied around the instructions of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who instructed that no sort of compliance with the deal should occur before the IAEA had certified that Iran was in the clear on the possible military dimensions of its program.  President Rouhani, whose powers are constitutionally quite limited and who must adhere to the will of the Supreme Leader, gave way before this protest.

Criticism of his government by hard line parliamentarians has been very intense in the wake of the Iran deal’s negotiation.  Parliament stopped short of actually endorsing the deal or committing Iran to any non-voluntary standards of compliance.  Supreme Leader Khamenei further weakened the parliament’s decision with his guidelines for enforcement, which represent a substantial alteration of the deal versus the one that President Obama actually signed.  Iran has substantially rewritten the deal for itself, but so far the Obama administration has remained “alarmingly passive” in accepting any alterations the Iranians enact.  So far there are no signs that the administration intends to react to this change either.  Instead, the Obama administration is moving forward with plans for another major concession to Iran, de-listing the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization.