Peter Brookes: Iran may be violating spirit of nuke accord


The controversial Iran nuclear deal is developing cracks.

Just a year after the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (aka the Iran nuclear deal) between Iran and six world powers (the United States, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany) comes news of trouble.

Specifically, Iran may be cheating – or at least trying to.

While the reporting isn’t entirely consistent on the matter, it appears that after signing the deal in Vienna last July, Iran continued to try to procure materials for its restricted nuclear program.

The German domestic intelligence agency, the BfV, recently filed a report that reportedly claims Iranian entities tried to secretly obtain nuclear technology from German companies, some after the nuclear agreement was inked.

The BfV also states “it is safe to expect that Iran will continue its intensive procurement activities in Germany using clandestine methods to achieve its objectives,” according to a Fox News article on the report.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that these furtive efforts to obtain banned nuclear items in Germany continued into 2016, but “at a significantly lower level,” according to German (intelligence) officials.

This sort of sneaky activity runs counter to the nuclear deal.

Indeed, Iran is required to get permission from a U.N. Security Council working group to procure “nuclear dual-use” goods, according to the Institute for Science and International Security, a nuclear non-proliferation think tank.

More specifically, the institute asserts in a recent report that it believes Tehran tried to get access to carbon fiber “from a [unspecified] country,” which could be used in building advanced centrifuges for producing highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons.

The institute also assesses that this attempted buy could be a sign that Iran may not be fully wedded to the nuclear deal; it could be duping us, be planning to exit the deal or hedging its bets should the deal fall apart.

The U.S. State Department doesn’t agree, saying: “We have no information to indicate that Iran has procured any materials in violation of the JCPOA .. We understand that Germany shares this view and is not suggesting that Iran has violated its JCPOA commitments.”

So it appears – from what we know – that Iran may have been unsuccessful in buying materials or equipment that would have clearly violated the nuclear agreement.

But isn’t attempting to procure prohibited materials, if not a breach of the atomic agreement per se, at least a violation of the spirt of the accord? Intent is important here.

Since Iran appears to be playing fast and loose (at a minimum) with the nuclear deal – as it did with its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations for years – you have to wonder what we don’t know at this point.

For Team Obama, this news is embarrassing, since it touts the Iran nuclear deal as a signature foreign policy achievement. Worse than tarnishing President Obama’s legacy is the potential effect on our national security.

Of course, this is how concerns started over the Clinton-era North Korean nuclear deal back in the late 1990s. Pyongyang was accused of scouring the planet in search of dual-use technologies for their “frozen” nuclear program.

Unfortunately, we all know how that nuclear deal turned out.

This article first appeared in the Boston Herald.  Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and a Fort Valley resident. Follow him on Twitter @Brookes_Peter. Email: BrookesOutdoors@gmail.com.