Iran defense chief forbids international inspections of military sites

Despite nuclear deal’s terms, Hossein Dehqan says IAEA won’t be allowed to probe ‘defensive and missile capabilities’

Iranian technicians working at a facility producing uranium fuel for a planned heavy water nuclear reactor, outside Isfahan, in 2009. (AP/Vahid Salemi)
Iranian technicians working at a facility producing uranium fuel for a planned heavy water nuclear reactor, outside Isfahan, in 2009. (AP/Vahid Salemi)

Iran’s defense minister on Monday said Tehran would not allow international inspectors to enter the Islamic Republic’s military sites, in comments that appear at odds with the terms of a landmark nuclear deal struck with world powers last week.

Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan also said the nuclear deal does not limit Iran’s missile development, which he maintained Tehran would “resolutely” pursue.

The comments came on the heels of Iran’s Foreign Ministry saying the UN could not ban Iranian ballistic missile development under the deal and a top military commander rejecting the UN’s adoption of the groundbreaking accord earlier in the day.

Taken together, the comments shed doubt on Tehran’s willingness to keep to some of the concessions agreed to in the pact, which has been touted in the West as the best way to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and was endorsed unanimously in the United Nations Security Council Monday.

Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan (YouTube screen capture)
Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan (YouTube screen capture)

Dehghan “underlined that Tehran will not allow any foreigner to discover Iran’s defensive and missile capabilities by inspecting the country’s military sites,” according to a report by the semi-official Fars News Agency.

Under the Iran agreement, the International Atomic Energy Agency can request access to any sites, should they produce evidence of a violation of the nuclear deal. Inspectors must “provide Iran the basis for such concerns and request clarification,” according to the Vienna agreement.

If Iran’s explanations do not adequately assuage the IAEA’s concerns, the agency “may request access to such locations” to make sure no illicit activity has occurred there. “The IAEA will provide Iran the reasons for access in writing and will make available relevant information,” the deal stipulates.

Should the Iranians and the inspectors prove unable to “reach satisfactory arrangements,” Tehran will resolve any concerns “through necessary means agreed between Iran and the IAEA,” the deal reads. If there is still no agreement two weeks after the initial inquiry is filed, a so-called Joint Commission — consisting of the six world powers and Iran itself — will vote on how to resolve the crisis. Altogether, the process could take up to 24 days.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State John Kerry defended the delay, saying the idea of “anytime,anywhere inspections” were a fantasy.

“It’s called ‘managed access.’ It’s under the IAEA. Everyone understands it and the intelligence community has made it clear to us, as they did before we signed on to this deal, that we would be able to know what they are doing during that intervening time,” he said.

Dehghan also stressed that Iran’s missile activity was not bound by the nuclear deal, which lifts punishing economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on enrichment and increased access to nuclear sites by atomic inspectors.

“Missile-related issues have never been on agenda of the nuclear talks and the Islamic system will resolutely implement its programs in this field,” Dehghan said in a meeting with defense ministry officials.

The defense minister slammed the US for its “boastful remarks” surrounding the accord, and said Washington lacked insight on Iran.

“The US officials make boastful remarks and imagine that they can impose anything on the Iranian nation because they lack a proper knowledge of the Iranian nation,” he stated.

Earlier Monday, Iran said its ballistic missile program was not connected to the UN Security Council resolution adopted Monday, which endorses its July 14 nuclear accord with world powers and calls for a phased lifting of sanctions.

Among the embargoes to be lifted are a ban on arms sales in five years and ballistic missile sales in eight years.

A statement from the Iranian Foreign Ministry also said that it was “certain” the International Atomic Energy Agency will not request to inspect its military sites.

Under the terms of the nuclear deal, Iran is barred from developing ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

Iran says it has built ballistic missiles with a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles), capable of striking its arch-foe Israel.

A military exhibition displays the Shahab-3 missile under a picture of the Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in Tehran, in 2008 (photo credit: AP/Hasan Sarbakhshian)
A military exhibition displays the Shehab-3 missile under a picture of the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in Tehran, in 2008. (AP/Hasan Sarbakhshian)

But the Foreign Ministry said the UN’s resolution endorsing the deal did not have jurisdiction over its missile development.

“Iran’s military capacities, especially ballistic missiles, are strictly defensive and, as they have not been conceived to carry nuclear weapons, they are outside the scope and competence of the Security Council resolution,” the ministry wrote in a statement.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran is committed to implementing its commitments… so long as world powers keep their side of the agreement to lift sanctions in exchange for guarantees that Tehran will not develop a nuclear program,” the statement went on.

It said Iran would, in any case, never seek a nuclear bomb, “in line with the historic fatwa [religious decree] of supreme guide Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who has banned the use of weapons of mass destruction.”

Referring to the intrusive inspections permitted under the accord, the ministry claimed the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, would have no reason to request inspections.

“Since there has never been nuclear activity at any military site, Iran is certain there will not be any request to inspect such sites,” the statement read.

Also on Monday, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, head of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, said the UN resolution adopting the pact was unacceptable and “clearly in contradiction” of the Islamic Republic’s red lines.

“Some parts of the draft have clearly crossed the Islamic Republic’s red lines, especially in Iran’s military capabilities. We will never accept it,” Jafari told Iranian news agency Tasnim.

There was no immediate reaction from the US or the other five world powers that reached the agreement with Iran in Vienna last week.

Provided Iran respects the agreement to the letter, seven UN resolutions — passed since 2006 to sanction Iran — will be gradually terminated, the text of the resolution says.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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