The worth of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action depends on the ability of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to carry out inspections in order to verify that the Islamic Republic is not violating its terms. Olli Heinonen, the former deputy director-general of the IAEA, explains what’s wrong with the current system:
Central to a strong verification regime is the proper resolution of the issue concerning the possible military dimensions (PMDs) of Tehran’s nuclear research. . . . In order to ensure that Iran cannot reconstitute a weapons program in the future, it is important to understand how far the Islamic Republic has progressed in weaponization. Without a complete understanding of the PMDs of Iran’s research, it will not be possible to design verification protocols that effectively allow for early detection.
However, the agreement leaves the resolution of PMDs to the IAEA. . . . The IAEA’s reports on the inspection of the Parchin military complex still do not mitigate concerns about the verification and sample-taking process. The IAEA-Iran agreement regarding Parchin deviates significantly from well-established safeguards [and] practices, which involve the full physical presence of inspectors on location, the integrity of the samples they take themselves, and the ability of the IAEA to draw definitive conclusions with the requisite level of assurances. . . .
It is important to remember that what led to the international community’s concern about the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program was not “just” uranium enrichment. Rather, it was because Iran has consistently tried to hide its nuclear program, failed to address concerns about PMD activities, and obfuscated verification efforts. To this day, Iran remains a country where the IAEA is unable to provide assurances that all nuclear activities are accounted for and in peaceful use.