Trump says US will dump Iran deal if watchdog doesn’t bare teeth

Ahead of meeting with Netanyahu, White House says it won’t accept ‘weakly enforced’ pact; IAEA chief defends agency, says no Iranian violations found

Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Yukiya Amano of Japan waits for the start of the IAEA board of governors meeting at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, September 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)
Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Yukiya Amano of Japan waits for the start of the IAEA board of governors meeting at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, September 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

VIENNA, Austria — US President Donald Trump warned Monday that Washington will walk away from a nuclear deal it agreed to with Iran and five other nations if it deems that the International Atomic Energy Agency is not tough enough in monitoring it.

The warning from Trump came in a message to the UN agency’s annual meeting, being held in Vienna, that was read by US Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

The United States asserts that Iran is obligated to open its military sites to IAEA inspection on demand if the agency suspects unreported nuclear activities at any of them. That’s something Tehran stridently rejects, and Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi urged the agency and its head, Yukiya Amano, to “resist such unacceptable demands.”

Asserting that Iran is fully complying with terms of the accord, Salehi said the greatest threat to its survival is “the American administration’s hostile attitude.”

But Trump, as quoted by Perry, suggested the deal could stand or fail on IAEA access to Iranian military sites, declaring “we will not accept a weakly enforced or inadequately monitored deal.”

Amano also has said the IAEA’s policing authority extends to Iranian military sites, if necessary.

But he said Monday that Iran “is fulfilling the commitments it entered into” under the deal, which took effect early last year and offers sanctions relief in exchange for limits on Iranian nuclear programs that could be turned toward making weapons.

“Iran is now subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime,” he said. “The nuclear-related commitments undertaken by Iran under the JCPOA are being implemented.”

The US administration has faced two 90-day certification deadlines to state whether Iran was meeting the conditions needed to continue enjoying sanctions relief under the deal and has both times backed away from a showdown. But Trump more recently has said he does not expect to certify Iran’s compliance with an October deadline looming.

Rick Perry on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 28, 2017 (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Trump’s statement came hours before he is set to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, with the Israeli leader expected to press Trump to dismantle or renegotiate the pact.

Israeli officials have reportedly accused the IAEA of overlooking Iran’s breaking the pact, saying a “Western entity” had reported the violations but they were ignored by the atomic watchdog.

“There is a whole list of suspicious sites where the Iranians do not allow inspectors to visit and no one enforces the supervision mechanisms established in the nuclear agreement,” a report in the Haaretz daily Sunday quoted the officials as saying. “There is simply a demonstration of weakness in the IAEA when it comes to Iran. The sense is that Iran allows what it wants, and does not allow what it does not want.”

In force since January 16, 2016, the JCPOA provides for international monitoring of Tehran’s nuclear program to ensure its purely peaceful, civilian use. In exchange, Tehran was promised the gradual lifting of the international sanctions that have strangled the Iranian economy for years.

But the Israeli officials reportedly said that due to either Iran’s refusal to grant entry or to reluctance to confront the Islamic Republic, the facilities reported to the IAEA went largely unchecked.

US President Donald Trump speaks to the press at the White House in Washington, DC, on September 14, 2017, upon return from Florida following Hurricane Irma. (AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMM)

Last week, Trump slammed Iran for violating “the spirit” of the deal, weeks before he must decide whether to stick by the agreement.

“The Iran deal is one of the worst deals I’ve ever seen, certainly at a minimum the spirit of the deal is atrociously kept,” Trump said aboard Air Force One.

“The Iran deal is not a fair deal to this country. It’s a deal that should not have ever been made,” he added, tearing into the Obama-era accord.

On October 15, Trump is due to decide whether Iran has breached the 2015 nuclear agreement, and critics fear he may abandon an accord they think prevents Tehran from building a nuclear bomb.

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