JERUSALEM, Israel – Iranian officials, buoyed by an announcement by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) affirming its compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, reiterated that its military sites remain off limits to inspectors.
At Monday's IAEA Board of Governors meeting in Vienna, Austria, Director General Yukiya Amano said Iran is implementing the terms of the agreement.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has repeatedly dismissed U.S. requests to inspect military sites or any "classified" areas, scoffing at U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley's recent appeal to the IAEA to convince Iran that inspections would affirm its compliance with the deal.
In July, President Donald Trump recertified the deal for a second time – the first was in May – while vowing to strengthen its enforcement. The three-month recertification deadlines determine the status of sanction relief under the agreement. Only signatories to the deal may weigh in on the recertification deadlines, Amano said at Monday's meeting.
During the presidential campaign, Trump labeled the agreement "the worst deal he'd ever seen." There are some indications now that he may not sign the next recertification deadline in mid-October.
Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton says the agreement allows Iran "enormous latitude to continue advancing its nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missiles programs without being even 'technically' in violation."
"Unfortunately, both the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and our national intelligence assets are likely missing significant Iranian facilities (perhaps operated jointly in North Korea) that continue to pursue threatening activities," Bolton wrote in an op-ed entitled "Iran Deal Devotees Try in Vain to Save a Sinking Ship."
Bolton says "trying belatedly to 'strictly enforce' such a deal is like trying to nail jelly to a wall."
Meanwhile, at a National Security Council meeting Friday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, national security advisor H.R. McMaster and other senior security officials presented a draft proposal allowing for a more aggressive response to Iranian noncompliance, Reuters reported.
According to the report, the proposal calls for increased pressure on Iran to curb its ballistic missile program and its support for terror groups. It also addresses cyber espionage, nuclear proliferation, arms shipments and harassment of U.S. naval forces, among its provisions.
But Bolton says "Fixing the deal is out of the question.
"A deliverable nuclear-weapons capability in the hands of Tehran's ayatollahs and the Revolutionary Guards, religious extremists supported by a fascist military, could make another 9/11 far deadlier than the first. This is not the time to light candles to Obama's Iran nuclear deal, but to snuff them out," he concluded.