Some Additional Observations on the IAEA/Iran Joint StatementPosted: November 12, 2013
I was so glad to see that Pierre had posted some observations about the newly issued joint statement from Iran and the IAEA. I had been meaning to write something about this significant event, but hadn’t yet found time. Now I can just piggyback on Pierre’s piece and add a few of my own observations.
First, I think that this statement was clearly meant to be non-legally-binding, and is most correctly categorized as a memorandum of understanding between the parties, precisely as Pierre mentioned. I actually see it as supplementary to the subsidiary arrangement agreement which Iran already has in place with the IAEA, and which covers precisely these sorts of details regarding access to sites inside Iran, in implementation of Iran’s comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA. I have argued elsewhere, and still maintain, that subsidiary arrangement agreements between the IAEA and NNWS are best understood as non-legally-binding agreements between the parties, stipulating agreed procedures for joint implementation of the rules and procedures contained in the CSA.
The only things in the new joint statement that I see as adding to what has already been agreed between Iran and the IAEA in their subsidiary arrangements agreement, are the specific points in the Annex about access to the Gchine mine and the Arak Heavy Water Production Plant (which I think is a separate facility from the Arak Heavy Water Reactor, still under construction). So these would appear to be steps forward.
I was pleased to see that nowhere in the joint statement was mentioned PMD-related issues generally, or the Parchin facility specifically. It would appear that both in these talks in Tehran, and also in the Geneva talks between Iran and the P5+1, Western powers and the IAEA made the prudent decision not to focus on these issues during negotiations, thereby avoiding the dynamic which seems to have been present so much in recent years of the tail of PMD issues, wagging the dog of a broader agreement on Iran’s nuclear program going forward. I’ve written about the PMD issues and Parchin previously including here. I sincerely hope that further negotiations similarly marginalize these red herring issues.