When U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley visited Vienna on August 23, it seems that the intent of the trip was to not only increase the understanding of the new administration of what defines Iranian compliance, but also to try to increase the pressure on the regime regarding its ballistic missile program.
As part of her trip, Haley met IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano and technical experts who monitor nuclear activities throughout the world. In a statement released after her meeting with Amano, the U.S. United Nations delegation noted that Haley stressed U.S. concerns about Iran adhering to all of its obligations under the agreement. At the same time, there is the reality that the Trump administration doesn’t believe that Iran is adhering to the agreement. However, to ratchet up the enforcement, the United States needs to convince the international community of Iran’s lack of adherence to the agreement.
The tension between the United States and Iran have continued to increase, as each side responds to the actions of each other. Iran’s President Rouhani has said that they can be refining nuclear material within hours of a violation of the agreement by the United States. At the same time, the U.S. has also been increasing the pressure on Iran through sanctions related to the Iranian ballistic missile program. Yet, it is the recent indications by the Trump administration that they will not recertify the agreement to Congress.
Iran has already issued a complaint to the United Nations, arguing that the United States is violating the agreement. The Trump administration, however, seems focused on enforcing the JCPOA to stop the Iranian ballistic missile program. The issue seems to be how the ballistic missile program impacts the JCPOA and if it could be considered a violation.
In light of Haley’s visit to the IAEA, Iran called for the IAEA not to share information with Haley about its activities, beyond what is shared in the available reports. Iran has accused Haley of trying to influence the IAEA and thus corrupt their inspections. The IAEA has admitted that it can only report on what it has access to within Iran, which is essentially up to the regime.
According to the U.N. Security Council Resolution, the nuclear pact indicates that Iran is not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles that could be designed to carry nuclear weapons.
One of the key issues for the Iranian regime is that if the U.S. is able to reinstitute the sanctions that were lifted under the JCPOA, the financial implications could be huge. Iran has been working hard to increase foreign investment in the country in hopes of building up their infrastructure. At the same time, the regime has used the funds released by the JCPOA, not to address their economic issues domestically, but to fund their military efforts throughout the region.
Haley is trying to get international support for tough actions against Iran, hiding it under the guise of addressing human rights and ballistic missile launches. But the reality is that President Trump believes that the nuclear agreement was a bad deal and wants to find a way out. One of the reasons this is difficult is because the ambiguity written into the agreement regarding the ballistic missile tests.
For Iran, the ambiguity allows them to continue the tests, while claiming not to be in violation of the agreement. The mullahs did not want to give up their nuclear ambitions, but clearly also needed a means to get access to the international marketplace to address the social unrest occurring on a domestic level. Iran has consistently shown that they are not willing to live up to their side of the bargain and will use any loophole available to continue their spread of fundamentalism.
Overall, observers seem to recognize that the Trump administration will find it far easier to criticize the JCPOA, then to be able to craft a viable alternative. The international community is waiting for one of these countries to escalate the war of words into something more. Haley’s visit to the IAEA could be a sign that the Unites States is preparing to do just that.