Words matter. Because of this, I tend not to blindly accept what others say (especially those with political ambitions) but choose to verify and often do so by reading source documents. This week, there has been much travail with regards to a deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran, its nuclear program and the potential lifting of sanctions levied against it for compliance with a United Nations plan ("Bargaining with Tehran," July 14).
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action tops out at 159 pages. After reviewing the document for key words, interestingly, "inspection," appears only three times. What's more is that this word is not once used in the context of nuclear energy, nuclear material or anything else with regard to Iran's nuclear program, not once. Moreover, the term "unrestricted" (as in unrestricted access) appears not at all.
Further dissection is warranted. The first concern actually appears in the preamble on page 3 where the JCPOA seems predicated on the notion of "good faith," "constructive atmosphere" and "mutual respect." Subsequently, these terms are neither substantiated nor defined leaving open the possibility of loose interpretation fostering ambiguity and uncertainty especially when one considers the level of importance of this document.
After further reading, more perilous words emerge. When reviewing paragraph 15 on page 10, the document references that Iran should allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor and implement by way of "voluntary measures." Obviously, the operative word "voluntary" was inserted for a reason (unbeknownst to us laymen); a concern is just what happens if Iran doesn't allow for "voluntary" measures.
Interestingly, the document outlines the lifting of the U.N. and European Union sanctions soon after implementation without consideration for compliance. This can occur as early as 90 days after U.N. adoption of the JCPOA. What is more troubling is that the reintroduction of sanctions would have to go through a process that would afford Iran considerable due process which could further stall the measures that took years to put in place (as stated on page 15). The only recourse found was listed on page 14. U.S. measures would remain in effect for eight years after the adoption day but this might not be enough to adequately cajole Iran to compliance should it revert back to putting its nuclear program back on track — trade restoration, banking, and access to raw materials with Europe would already be back in place.
The most provocative issue appears well into the document. The IAEA is extremely restricted in sites that it can visit. Specifically, only ones listed in the JCPOA will allow IAEA access, and more specifically, only to "relevant" buildings. If the IAEA wants to access what they consider a "relevant" building, but Iran doesn't see it as germane, the agency can request an exception from Iran, but it is not a foregone conclusion that it will permit admittance. The JCPOA dedicates four additional paragraphs to how the IAEA can "appeal" this but at no time does it address what will happen if Iran fails to comply.
It is apparent to me that Iran clearly out negotiated the rest of the world on this issue. At stake is regional security and more generally, the threat it can exert to the world writ large. Members of Congress should carefully consider this proposal and should proceed with trepidation before accepting the deal and the pernicious possibilities that can emanate from it. After all, words matter.
John Weaver, Fort Meade