Mike Fitzpatrick of the International Institute of Strategic Studies pointed out that the Saghand and and Ardakan sites are not especially suspicious, and are therefore easy for the Iran to give up to Western inspectors. The Parchin site, which Iran considers off limits, is of greater concern. The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran asserted that it is a military site, and that they have no responsibility to grant access to it, since they are not following the Additional Protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Statements like these stoke concerns about Iran designating other potential nuclear facilities as state secrets and keeping inspectors out, while announcing permission of access to other sites. It is the same tactic that Iran utilized in previous efforts to maintain its nuclear weapons program while mitigating Western concerns.
Iran is boldly asserting its authority to designate which sites inspectors may see and what activities should be permitted within them. The official INSA news service reports that Reza Najafi, Iranian envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency at the current round of nuclear talks in New York, insisted upon the elimination of “restrictions and discriminatory policies towards the uses of Iran’s peaceful nuclear facilities.”
US Congress Seeks Authority
In light of such non-conciliatory positions coming from Iranian officials, many members of the United States Congress are reportedly upset at the progress and transparency of the nuclear talks. According to the Washington Free Beacon, legislators in the House or Representatives are drafting legislation aimed at forcing President Obama to immediately report to them about the interim agreements, and to come before congress with any final deal that happens to be reached by the July deadline.
Draftees of this bill reportedly feel that the president has shut Congress out of the process, and has been obsessed with securing a deal despite offering no assurances that it is a good deal for the United States or an effective means of reigning in Iranian nuclear ambitions.
One senior House aid was quoted as saying: “Little if any evidence has been provided to members of Congress, let alone the American public, to suggest that Iran is complying with the deal. There is, however, a great deal of proof that sanctions relief has put Iran’s economy on an unmistakable road to recovery.”
And as that recovery takes root, Iran is still expanding its ties with non-Western partners, and particularly with other nations that have strained diplomatic relationships with the United States. In recent weeks, Iran and Russia have met to discuss energy exchange agreements that would help both countries to circumvent Western sanctions even if they returned to full force.
Now, the Iranian ambassador to Moscow has met with the Russian Deputy Finance Minister in order to discuss an expansion of their nation’s shared economic efforts, including the establishment of a joint Russian-Iranian finance firm, which would further facilitate direct trade exchanges, especially in the face of sanctions. Indeed, the Russian official specifically anticipated that Russian would benefit from Iran’s experience nullifying sanctions, according to the Mehr news service.
Meetings in Pakistan
Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli spent the first two days of this week visiting Pakistan to meet with General Raheel Sharif, the Chief of Staff of the Pakistani Army. After having formerly signaled an expansion of economic ties between the two countries, this meeting signals efforts for greater military unity between them, as well.
Shared border security was on the agenda for meetings, according to the Fars news agency. This potential for military exchange between Iran and Pakistan comes shortly after the Chinese Defense Minister announced China’s interest in sharing military resources with Iran. It also comes at around the same time that Iranian officials have made bellicose gestures towards the West and towards Saudi Arabia, while reaching out to other regional partners.
Writing in the Gulf News, Joseph Kechichian claims that Iran is committed to expanding the edges of its own defensive line all the way to the Mediterranean coast.