THE BLOG

"The West's Iranian Policy" or "Fantasy Land"

07/09/2015 11:00 BST | Updated 06/09/2016 10:59 BST

Last month's agreement with the harsh Tehran regime over its nuclear programme may be touted by proponents as the conclusion to a decade-long dispute. But surely this optimistic assessment it is no more realistic than was the Munich Accord signed 77 years ago this month. Just as betraying an understanding with the Sudetenland was to flatter Hitler's ambitions and precipitate nations into World War II so one must look at both the history of relations with the Mullahs' Regime and the 'small print' in the text. Comparable to 1938 one can see little hindrance to the Regime ambition to actually accelerate Iran's clandestine nuclear weapons work, leaving the country free to enrich uranium for a viable bomb within the next ten to fifteen years.

In the midst of the polarising debate over this agreement, the excessive optimism of its defenders is not even limited to the deal itself. They would have us believe that the negotiating process has also led to the conclusion of yet another years-long dispute, namely the frequently stalled and obstructed probe into the past military dimensions of Iran's nuclear programme.

Tehran, they suggest, has accepted unprecedented inspection of its current nuclear activities when everyone can see that the deal allows Iran to stall some inspections for 24 days, giving it an opportunity to conceal evidence. They would also have us believe that Tehran has agreed to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency's probe when in fact the UN nuclear watchdog has all but abdicated its responsibility to inspect sites where evidence of illicit activity has been spotted in the past.

This latter fact recently became abundantly clear when the Associated Press obtained a draft of one of the "side deals" signed between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran around the same time as the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The AP's transcription reveals that Iran is to be permitted to effectively manage its own inspection of the Parchin military base, where Tehran has been suspected of conducting experiments on such things as nuclear detonators.

The suspicious nature of Parchin has hardly abated in recent years or months. In fact, in July satellite images obtained by U.S. intelligence agencies showed evidence that Iran had been operating machinery in the area, in an apparent effort to sanitise the site ahead of IAEA inspections.

Now it turns out that notwithstanding whatever concealment they have accomplished through these efforts, there will not even be genuine IAEA inspections anytime in the near future. Rather, "separate arrangement II" assigns Iran to the task of taking photographs and video of the site, as well as collecting its own soil samples from areas mutually agreed upon by Iran and the IAEA. Furthermore, the document gives Tehran the power to limit the visual evidence that it provides for off-site analysis by citing "military concerns."

Even in the midst of the P5+1 negotiations, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano repeatedly issued statements indicating that Iran was falling short of required transparency and had provided answers to only one of a dozen key questions that were supposed to be resolved "before the negotiations finished".

Now, instead of enforcing such transparency, the UN agency has handed the Islamic Republic the tools for more effective obfuscation. And the Obama administration has declared that it is "comfortable" with the arrangement and "confident" in the IAEA's ability to settle the issue.

All of this confidence seems to depend upon an inexplicable belief that Iran will reverse a long pattern of deceptive behaviour now that the deal has been signed. In fact, this has been guiding Iran policy since President Obama began on the path to rapprochement. And that appears to be grounded in the mistaken belief that the West is now dealing with a different kind of Iranian leadership.

In actuality, even the so-called moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is an establishment figure and a regime insider who previously served as the lead negotiator on Iran's nuclear programme and later boasted of Tehran's ability to deceive the West and maintain a "calm environment" in order to dramatically expand the country's enrichment capabilities.

If this is not sufficient to undermine confidence in Iran's willingness to cooperate with the existing agreements, the Iranian signatory to the IAEA side deal is even more obviously the wrong sort of person to be dealing with. A day after the AP's report on that document, the Iranian opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), released a profile of that individual, Ali Hosseini-Tash, a Brigadier General in the terrorist-sponsoring Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Putting Hosseini-Tash at the centre of this agreement highlights both the level of importance that Tehran attaches to it and the apparent obliviousness of the IAEA as to what it has agreed. The NCRI points out that Hosseini-Tash, a former deputy Defence Minister and deputy for the Supreme National Security Council, has long played leading roles in Tehran's nuclear programme, as well as being linked to a biological weapons programme.

What is particularly telling is that Hosseini-Tash directly supervised the Organisation for Defensive Innovation and Research, the body that the NCRI has identified as being in charge of armament projects. Furthermore, he did so at the exact time that Iran was known to be carrying out experiments at Parchin with nuclear weapons applications.

What this means is that the person who has been entrusted with an agreement allowing Iran to collect and filter information on one of its most suspicious sites is perhaps the person who is most intimately familiar with the nuclear-related experiments that occurred there, and thus with what aspects of the site Iran most needs to hide.

The Persian saying relevant to the situation might be cited: Someone asked the fox, "who is your alibi," and the fox answered, "my tail," is very appropriate.

Given the background of Ali Hosseini-Tash, we now know that in this case, the fox's tail is adept at covering the fox's tracks. And yet we have accepted that alibi with the same outlandish optimism that has guided so much discussion of the nuclear deal among its supporters, especially the Obama administration.

Nothing has really been settled. There is every reason to believe that Tehran regime is not only committed to cheating, but also that it has now enshrined the means to do so in the 'agreement'. And meanwhile - not a word about the rate of executions of ordinary Iranian citizens. The more policymakers and their constituents understand these facts, the better a chance we will have of taking measures to correct the indefensible mistakes the U.S. and the UN have made in recent months.