VIENNA (Dispatches) -- The head of the UN nuclear agency said on Monday Iran was playing by the rules set out in a nuclear accord it signed with six world powers in 2015, after Washington suggested it was not adhering to the deal.
The State Department must notify Congress every 90 days of Iran's compliance with the deal. The next deadline is October, and President Donald Trump has said he thinks by then the United States will declare Iran non-compliant.
Yukiya Amano, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Iran had not broken any promises and was not receiving special treatment.
"The nuclear-related commitments undertaken by Iran under the (deal) are being implemented," he said in the text of a speech to a quarterly meeting of the IAEA's 35-member Board of Governors.
In April, Trump ordered a review of whether a suspension of sanctions on Iran related to the nuclear deal, negotiated under President Barack Obama, was in the U.S. national security interest. He has called it "the worst deal ever negotiated."
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, travelled to Vienna last month to speak with Amano about Iran and asked if the IAEA planned to inspect Iranian military sites, something she has called for.
Iran dismissed the U.S. demand as "merely a dream".
Iran has been applying an Additional Protocol, which is in force in dozens of nations and gives the IAEA access to nuclear sites to clarify questions or inconsistencies that may arise.
"We will continue to implement the Additional Protocol in Iran ...as we do in other countries," Amano said.
In a speech last week at the American Enterprise Institute, a neoconservative think tank in Washington, Haley said Trump "has grounds” to decertify the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, if he so chooses.
Laying out the Trump administration’s objections to the agreement, Haley claimed that the Islamic Republic of Iran had been "born in an act of international lawbreaking,” and suggested the very nature of the Iranian government itself made any deal undesirable.
EU countries have indicated their continued support for the deal, stating publicly that Iran has been abiding by its commitments. If Trump nonetheless goes against the expert consensus and the views of American allies to declare Iran as non-compliant, it would open the door for an eager Congress to reimpose economic sanctions that likely mean the unraveling of the deal.
Experts on U.S.-Iran relations and nuclear non-proliferation say that a unilateral American attempt to destroy the deal would be a potential disaster, the U.S. online publication The Intercept wrote.
"There is a rather deceptive argument being made by those asking Trump not to certify Iranian compliance — they are trying to deny Iran the benefits of trade and commerce that were offered during the deal, but don’t want to take responsibility for pulling out of the nuclear deal itself,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association. "Failure to certify Iranian compliance opens the door to those in Congress, who, for political reasons or because they have donors pushing them to do so, would like to reimpose nuclear-related sanctions on Iran.”
If the U.S. is perceived as acting in bad faith to destroy the agreement, winning back support from the other P5+1 countries to reimpose extraterritorial sanctions — U.S. sanctions on other countries for doing business with Iran — would be unlikely. In addition to the EU, both Russia and China continue to express support for the deal, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently stating, "It’s a pity that such a successful treaty is now somewhat being cast into doubt.”
Backtracking on the deal for purely political reasons would also send other messages to the international community. Other countries might find that the U.S. is institutionally incapable of implementing difficult diplomatic agreements, at precisely a time when its relationships with allies have already become strained. Such a perception would also make it harder to conduct sensitive diplomacy in other crisis areas, including in the ongoing standoff with North Korea.
"It would be a mess in terms of diplomatic relations if the deal was terminated,” said John Tirman, executive director at the MIT Center for International Studies and an expert on U.S.-Iran relations. "There is so much that could possibly happen, including major reputational costs for the United States or economic costs globally if trade with Iran is disrupted or banned.”