Iran snickers at US push to inspect military sites
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Iran snickers at US push to inspect military sites

Tehran calls idea of more robust inspections regime a ‘ridiculous dream that will never come true’

A ballistic missile is seen in what Iran says is an underground base, in an undisclosed location in the country. The base is said to be buried 500 meters below ground. (Screen capture PressTV)
A ballistic missile is seen in what Iran says is an underground base, in an undisclosed location in the country. The base is said to be buried 500 meters below ground. (Screen capture PressTV)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran mocked the US push for inspections of the country’s military sites, calling it a “ridiculous dream that will never come true.”

The comments came after US officials said last month that the Trump administration was pushing for inspections of suspicious Iranian military sites in a bid to test the strength of the nuclear deal that Tehran struck in 2015 with world powers.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bahram Ghasemi, told reporters on Monday in Tehran that this request was “possibly something that a satirist wrote up.”

The inspections are one element of what is designed to be a more aggressive approach to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. While the Trump administration seeks to police the existing deal more strictly, it is also working to fix what US President Donald Trump’s aides have called “serious flaws” in the landmark deal that — if not resolved quickly — will likely lead Trump to pull out.

That effort also includes discussions with European countries to negotiate a followup agreement to prevent Iran from resuming nuclear development after the deal’s restrictions expire in about a decade, the officials said last month. The officials weren’t authorized to discuss the efforts publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi briefs journalists at a press conference in Tehran on August 22, 2016. (screen capture: YouTube)
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi briefs journalists at a press conference in Tehran on August 22, 2016. (screen capture: YouTube)

The inspections requests, which Iran would likely resist, could play heavily into Trump’s much-anticipated decision about whether to stick with a deal he’s long derided.

If Iran refuses inspections, Trump would finally have a solid basis to say Iran is breaching the deal, setting up Tehran to take most of the blame if the agreement collapses. If Iran agrees to inspections, those in Trump’s administration who want to preserve the deal would be emboldened to argue it’s advancing US national security effectively.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced last month that Iran was in compliance of the nuclear deal, despite Trump’s desire to declare Iran in breach of the agreement.

After being talked out of declaring Iran in violation of the deal by his national security aides, Trump agreed to let the issue go, but only for a few more months — and only after last-minute changes to distance Trump further from the deal.

US President Donald Trump listens to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speak during a cabinet meeting at the White House on June 12, 2017. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP)
US President Donald Trump listens to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speak during a cabinet meeting at the White House on June 12, 2017. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP)

Rather than say, as planned, that Iran was living up to its end of the deal, Trump’s aides found a way to let the deal continue for now without technically confirming that Iran is complying. The administration followed up the announcement with new, non-nuclear sanctions on Iranians on Tuesday to show Trump is indeed serious about confronting Tehran.

The compromise, relayed to Congress in the final few hours before the deadline, lets Iran continue enjoying relief — for now — from nuclear sanctions lifted as part of the 2015 deal. It also gives Trump some cover to declare publicly that Iran is violating “the spirit” of the deal, preserving a potent argument should he ultimately decide to exit the pact.

The deadline comes up again in October. Given Trump’s strong reluctance to certify Iran’s compliance, it’s highly unlikely he will agree to do it again, officials and others familiar with Trump’s Iran policy said last month. The individuals weren’t authorized to comment publicly and requested anonymity.

Coupled with the new sanctions, the move raised optimism among critics of the deal that Trump’s broader Iran review, expected to conclude soon, will mark a major shift in the US approach to the Islamic Republic.

While being inaugurated for a second term on Saturday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned the US against tearing up the nuclear deal.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani delivers a speech after being sworn in before parliament in Tehran, on August 5, 2017. (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani delivers a speech after being sworn in before parliament in Tehran, on August 5, 2017. (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)

“Iran will not be the first to violate the nuclear deal… but nor will it stay silent when the United States fails to respect its commitments,” he told the packed parliament hall in Tehran.

“Iran has proved that it will respond to respect with respect, and to sanctions and threats with an appropriate response and with resistance,” he added.

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