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Iran Remains Defiant Overall, Despite Current Compliance with Nuclear Deal

The IAEA recently declared that the Islamic Republic of Iran remains in compliance with its obligations under the nuclear deal nearly two months after it was full implemented. Amano reaffirmed this conclusion on Monday but also made an apparent effort to assuage some of the concerns of those who feel that the international community is being too soft on Iran. He emphasized that Iran will have to remain in compliance for many years to come for the JCPOA to be successful. The clear implication is that the IAEA intends to continue vigorously monitoring the deal throughout that period, on the understanding that Iran might elect to cheat.

Indeed, this danger of cheating has been repeatedly brought back to the attention of Iran’s critics, largely through the Islamic theocracy’s publicly-declared unwillingness to comply with other international standards, including some that are closely associated with the text of the JCPOA.

The implementation of that deal on the European side was accomplished by a document that “called upon” Tehran to avoid expanding its stockpile of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, as well as to avoid testing them. But Iranian officials including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani quickly announced that they would not abide by such “impositions.” And this was underscored by two tests of those weapons – one in October and one in November – both of which were in violation of a UN Security Council resolution that was then still in effect.

For the first several years of the deal – assuming it remains in effect and unbroken – embargoes remain in place on the sale of ballistic missiles and certain conventions weapons to Iran. Sanctions also remain in effect where they are based on Iran’s support of terrorism and its human rights violations instead of its nuclear program.

But Iranian officials and their allies have repeatedly shown an interest in defying these restrictions as well. Since the July 14 conclusion of nuclear negotiations, this has opened up a number of individuals and business to new sanctions enforcement, with the latest such instances targeting China’s ZTE Corp, according to Reuters. The penalties relate to the sale of telecommunications technology to Iran in absence of licenses for American components.

This violation may seem minor and technical, and it may also seem possible that it took place independent of Iran’s knowledge. But it is only one of several examples. Other recent violations have involved dual-use technologies that could have an impact on Iran’s further development of ballistic missiles – something that Iranian officials have promised to aggressively pursue. Furthermore, recent talks between Tehran and Moscow over possible arms purchases have been criticized for apparently including references to categories of weapons that cannot be sold to Iran for approximately five more years.

Moscow itself has reportedly stepped back from imminent plans to transfer advanced S-300 missiles to Iran, because recent intelligence has demonstrated that advanced Iranian weaponry is still being channeled into the hands of terrorists. The report that apparently motivated Moscow’s change of plan was related to the shipment of arms to Hezbollah forces fighting alongside the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in Syria. But it is understood that this is only a portion of Iran’s arms-trafficking activities.

The Houthi rebels in Yemen remain a common destination for illicit Iranian arms shipments, as was reiterated on Monday by the Associated Press. That report finds that Australian naval vessels in the Arabian Sea intercepted a fishing vessel which was found to be carrying nearly 2,000 AK-47 assault rifles and 100 rocket-propelled grenades. The cache was believed to have originated in Iran and to have been on its way to Yemen.

Alongside these naval shipments, airborne deliveries of arms have also apparently been leaving Iran on a fairly regular basis in recent months, mostly heading for Syria. Reports of these shipments have prompted US Senators and other critics of current Western foreign policy to urge even more enforcement measures, including but by no means limited to sanctions against Iran’s Mahan Air, the commercial airliner that has long been known to be used by the Revolutionary Guards as a front for arms shipments.

On Saturday, the National Council of Resistance of Iran reported that a group of Senators including South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham and Delaware Democrat Chris Coons had written a letter to the White House urging immediate sanctions on companies aiding Mahan Air. “Strong and swift sanctions enforcement is vital to hold Iran to account for its ongoing support of terrorism, ballistic missile development, and human rights violations,” the document concluded.