Amb. Robert Joseph, former Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security addressed a press conference on March 2, 2021, to elaborate upon the latest disclosures from the International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA) regarding undeclared prior nuclear activities in Iran.
Amb. Robert Joseph, former Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security
You provided today makes an important contribution to the ongoing debate over Iran policy and specifically over the issue of the future of the JCPOA player. As you know, I approach these issues from a policy perspective, so what I’d like to do is provide for policy takeaways. The first is the most obvious and the most basic, and that is that the regime simply can’t be trusted. The regime has a 40-year plus history of denial and deception. Since the covert nuclear program was revealed, incidentally, by the NCRI and MEK in 2002, violations of the NPT, IAEA safeguards and other agreements have continued. And the JCPOA is no exception. I know that everyone has heard that the regime was in compliance with the JCPOA provisions until the Trump administration withdrew from the agreement in 2018. But this was a consequence of the flawed nature of the agreement itself. Yes, the IAEA did find Iran was in compliance with certain aspects of the agreement.
But this compliance was limited to those sites that were monitored by the IAEA. Some of the sites associated with weaponization that you have mentioned in your briefing were off limits and the regime, of course, never, never came clear on the weaponization activities that were identified by the IAEA, most notably in its November 2011 report. And that was also the need to come clean, part of the obligations of the regime under the JCPOA. And the recent findings about the discovery of uranium particles at two suspect sites demonstrates very clearly that the regime continues and has continued to violate the agreement.
Now, I said this was an obvious takeaway. I think that everyone understands that you can’t trust the regime. But the question is, how eager will the Biden administration be in seeking an agreement to rejoin the JCPOA, will they again make sacrifices that undermine the effective verification, the effective monitoring of the obligations of the regime within this agreement? And I say that because you’ll remember that during the Obama administration, prior to the agreement being completed, we were told by secretary Monez and others that we would have anywhere, any time inspections.
Well, of course, that never happened. And we sacrificed effective verification for the sake of getting an agreement, and therefore we got an agreement that was as bad as we wanted. Second. Don’t play the regime’s game. We’ve seen this movie before. The regime openly violates the limits of the JCPOA today to coerce the administration back into the agreement. But here again, I think we see the flaws of the JCPOA. They become very apparent, because if you remember, both the European members of the JCPOA and the United States talked about the agreement denying Iran a path to a nuclear weapon.
Yet the recent steps the regime has taken, enriching uranium beyond the specified limit, the amount of LEU limit, lower enriched uranium that was allowed, the operation of advanced centrifuges, the preparation to produce uranium metal, which has only one purpose, and that’s weaponization. And more recently, the restrictions on IAEA activities bring Iran very close to that threshold. So clearly, the path was there and Iran has moved down that path, but the lesson here, I think, is not to be blackmailed by the regime.
Because if you allow yourselves to be blackmailed, you will only have more blackmail in the future and another fatally flawed agreement. This is a regime that conducts its diplomacy through hostage taking, through intimidation and through terrorist activities. And if you agree and if you give in, you get more of the same. The third takeaway is don’t play the Biden administration’s game. The notion that rejoining the JCPOA is a necessary first step is a dangerous illusion. The Biden administration line that once the JCPOA is put back together, it will be able to negotiate a more comprehensive agreement, an agreement that covers missiles, an agreement that covers Iran’s malign behavior in the region, and the agreement that covers Iran’s support for terrorism. That’s an illusion. If you agree to reestablish the JCPOA, that won’t be the first step, that will be the last step because that’s what the regime wants, because in exchange, it gets relief from the sanctions. And with those resources, it will do what it did in 2015 and will apply those resources to regional aggression and to brutally repressing its own people.
The fourth takeaway, and that is you simply can’t do business with this regime. There’s no way that this regime will reform or become more moderate. And hoping for a change in its behavior is nothing but a false hope. As you pointed out, I worked not in counterproliferation in the Bush 43 administration, both at the White House and at the State Department, and I came to the conclusion a long time ago that the regime will never give up its aspirations for nuclear weapons.
Such weapons are even the prospect for such weapons serve many purposes for the regime. From financing its spread of religious extremism to providing resources to repress its people because remember, the people of Iran are the first and foremost victims of the regime and they are the greatest threat to the regime. And nuclear weapons provide in the minds of the mullahs an insurance policy against a similar fate to that Mr. Gadhafi suffered. The only solution to the regime’s nuclear quest is to have the people of Iran chart a new and different course for a democratic and non-nuclear Iran.