Published March 29, 2015
Last month, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) exposed a secret Iranian facility used to conduct research and enrichment with advanced centrifuge machines for the nuclear weapons program. The revelation of this secret site, named Lavizan-3 in northeast Tehran, was met with panic and hysteria by the Mullahs in Iran, and was taken seriously by Members of Congress. But what have the nuclear negotiators done?
Following the NCRI’s revelation, the Iranian regime attempted to sidestep addressing the merits of the claim by demonizing the Iranian opposition instead of offering to make the site available for inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), showing that the Iranian regime remains as cynical as ever in its nuclear ambitions.
Congress has an important role to play to prevent a bad deal with the regime.
A day after the revelation of Lavizan-3, Secretary of State John Kerry appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and said that the P5+1 intended to close off Iran’s four pathways to the nuclear bomb, i.e., any weapons development activity at Iran’s Natanz, Arak and Fordow nuclear facilities, plus Iran’s covert activities. “Covert, of course, is the hardest,” Mr. Kerry said. “You need to have verification and intrusive inspection to be able to find covert facilities”, he emphasized.
Needless to say, the first three pathways mentioned by Mr. Kerry were exposed by the NCRI: the nuclear sites in Natanz and Arak in August 2002, and the underground facility in Fordow, near Qom, in December 2005. And now the hardest pathway, the covert activities of the Iranian regime in Lavizan-3 is to be dealt with.
Four bipartisan members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., the Middle East subcommittee chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., ranking member of the terrorism, non-proliferation, and trade subcommittee Brad Sherman, D-Calif., and subcommittee chair Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif. asked for explanation about Lavizan-3 and what the administrations has done to address it when Secretary of State John Kerry appeared before a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. “These things are obviously going to have to be resolved as we go forward,” Mr. Kerry said. “I’m not going to go into greater detail,” he added.
But instead of calling on the IAEA to immediately inspect the site before Iran is able to clean up and modify the place, as has been the case in several occasions since 2003, there are disturbing indications that the U.S. negotiating team may have already given up key concessions.
Reports based on leaks by administration officials indicate that U.S. may have yielded on several fronts including the demands for Iran to clarify the outstanding questions raised by the IAEA related to weaponization, “intrusive” inspections, the demand from Iran to provide access to key nuclear sites and research and development activities including the military sites, and closing the underground uranium enrichment facility in Fordo, to name a few.
Senator Robert Menendez, D-N.J., the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the recent concessions leaping “with both feet” toward Iranian regime’s demands.
The NCRI’s continuous revelations shows that there are many Iranians who do not wish to live under a regime which leads the world in per capita executions.
As the Iranian regime gets increasingly defiant, it is time that the Iranian people are viewed as stakeholders in these nuclear negotiations. This includes considering new policy options, which would take into account the aspirations of the Iranian people, as was evident in summer 2009 uprising, who wish to see nothing less than a democratic, secular, and non-nuclear Iran.
Congress has an important role to play to prevent a bad deal with the regime, which could make an undesirable military conflict more likely. The Iranian regime must not be allowed to maintain an enrichment program, much less an underground one; it must not be afforded a pathway to plutonium. And finally, snap inspections at any time, any place are a must.
The bottom line is this: There can be no long-term peace with Iran so long as an elite that thrives on terror, violence and export of Islamic fundamentalism rules it.
Alireza Jafarzadeh, the deputy director of the Washington office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, is credited with exposing Iranian nuclear sites in Natanz and Arak in 2002, triggering International Atomic Energy Agency inspections. He is the author of “The Iran Threat” (Palgrave MacMillan: 2008). His email is Jafarzadeh@ncrius.org.