United Nations watchdog finds Iran is sticking to nuclear deal

The United Nations watchdog responsible for monitoring Iran's nuclear activities certified Thursday that the country remains in compliance with a 2015 accord struck with world powers, even as President Donald Trump's administration has threatened to withdraw from the deal.

The most recent quarterly report came as a surprise to the USA administration which has signaled willingness to declare Iran in breach of the deal.

The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog has rejected a USA request that the agency inspect restricted Iranian military sites suspected by President Donald Trump and his administration of hosting nuclear activity.

The Iranian president referred to the Friday statements by US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley who urged the IAEA to request access to Iranian military sites, in what is regarded as an attempt by the US to undermine the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The IAEA has not visited an Iranian military facility since the agreement was implemented because it has had "no reason to ask" for access, the second agency official said.

The IAEA's Board of Governors voted overwhelmingly in December 2015, months after the nuclear deal was signed, in favor of a resolution that closed the so-called possible military dimensions (PMD) case in Iran's nuclear program.

President Hassan Rouhani has said that Iran can never be bullied into permitting the inspection of its military sites.

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The IAEA is expected to soon release its quarterly report on Iranian compliance with the deal. "If it was up to me, I would have had them noncompliant 180 days ago", Trump told the Wall Street Journal in late July. "The IAEA, US intelligence community and our allies in the P5+1 have all affirmed Iran's compliance".

IAEA officials reported that they would not be going on a "fishing expedition" to find Iran guilty of noncompliance. He noted that "if they [Trump administration] want to bring down the deal, they will", while also stressing that the resort does not want to "give them an excuse" to do that.

Trump has ordered a review of the accord, negotiated under his predecessor Barack Obama, and allies including France fear Washington could renege on the deal in some way and risk Iranian retaliation, escalating instability in the Middle East. The deal saw Iran cap its nuclear activities in return for lifting of crippling sanctions.

Although Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany also signed on to the pact, Iran and the U.S. were the key players.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani later said the United States call was unlikely to be accepted by the IAEA.

"According to the JCPOA, it is up to the IAEA (not one or another party to the accord) to request access and determine if Iran's cooperation is sufficient to resolve concerns", Daryl Kimball, with the Arms Control Association, told Al-Monitor via email.

  • Megan Austin