These understandings are a credit to all who were involved in their negotiation. They are practical, far-sighted, and fair – although personally I believe greater sanctions relief would have been justified by the temporary derogations to the Nuclear-Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) rights that Iran has volunteered.
The quality of this Joint Plan of Action is particularly apparent in the enhanced monitoring provisions which Iran has offered.
Iran has agreed to:
1) allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) daily access to the two enrichment plants that have been at the centre of Western and Israeli concern about Iran’s nuclear program. Daily access is more than enough to ensure that detection of any Iranian move towards using these facilities to produce weapons-grade enriched uranium would be so timely that the UN Security Council could interrupt and put an end to the process.
2) give the IAEA access to the workshops that produce centrifuge components and where centrifuges are assembled. This is not a legal obligation that flows from Iran’s comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA. It is a voluntary, confidence-building measure. It will enable the IAEA to provide the E3+3 with assurances that Iran is implementing its commitment in the Plan of Action to limit the production of centrifuges to what is needed for the replacement of any of its currently operating machines that break down.
3) provide the IAEA with detailed information about the purpose of each building on its nuclear sites, as well as about its uranium mines and mills and unprocessed nuclear material stocks. This will help the IAEA towards providing the international community with a credible assurance that there are no undeclared nuclear activities or material on Iranian soil – an assurance that ought, in principle, to open the way to treating the Iranian nuclear program in the same manner as that of any non-nuclear-weapon state party to the NPT, as envisaged in the last paragraph of the Joint Plan of Action.
4) furnish up-to-date design information for the reactor under construction at Arak. This well help the IAEA to design, in collaboration with Iran, a plan for applying safeguards to the plant, with the aim of maximising the possibility of timely detection of any diversion of nuclear fuel from the reactor to non-peaceful purposes.
A very interesting innovation in the Plan of Action is the agreement to establish a Joint Iran/E3+3 Commission to address plan implementation issues and to work with the IAEA to facilitate resolution of past and present issues of concern. Iran has long argued that some of the demands for cooperation made of it by the IAEA Director General and his subordinates fall outside the IAEA’s legal authority and are unreasonable. This new Commission will provide Iran with a forum in which it can set out such cases, confident that at least two other members of the Commission, Russia and China, will be ready to give impartial consideration to its arguments.
This Commission is also likely to facilitate resolution of questions relating to possible research by Iran into the technology of nuclear devices. Such research is believed to have taken place during the years when Saddam Hussein either ran a nuclear weapons program or was suspected of wanting to resurrect that program after its dismantlement by the UN and IAEA.
Together these provisions in the action plan amount to a very promising package. They make possible state-of-the-art verification of the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program. Such high-quality verification was never available in the only state that has developed nuclear weapons while adhering to the NPT, North Korea — nor in Iraq prior to 1991 and between 1998 and 2003.
Peter Jenkins was a British career diplomat for 33 years.