Nuclear Weapons Expert: White House May Have Sandbagged Controversial Iran Deal Report

The United Nations' nuclear watchdog may have delayed releasing a report which revealed that Iran has again violated last summer's landmark nuclear deal amid efforts by the Obama administration to protect the deal, a top nuclear expert told THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

A confidential report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which said that Iran had stockpiled nuclear-related material beyond what the deal allows, came to light the day after the U.S. presidential election last week. The report documented that Iran had amassed more than 130 metric tons of heavy water, a material used in the production of weapons-grade plutonium, breaching a limit set by the deal.

David Albright, founder of the Institute for Science and International Security, told TWS that the IAEA likely pushed back the release of the report until after the election due to political pressure from the Obama administration.

"The IAEA likely delayed the report's release to member states until after the election," Albright said. "[Director General of the IAEA Yukiya] Amano would not have wanted to risk the wrath of the Obama administration by publicizing another non-compliance case (e.g. heavy water) just prior to the U.S. election."

A senior policy analyst who works closely on Iran issues confirmed Albright's assessment.

"Everyone guessed as soon as the report was delayed that there was going to be a violation," said the source. "The Obama administration couldn't have something like that out there just days before the election because it would have shown that the deal was already unraveling."

It is the second time since the implementation of the nuclear deal last January that Iran has violated the agreement by stockpiling excess heavy water. The Obama administration did not treat the last instance as a violation of the nuclear deal, which could have triggered the reimposition of sanctions. Officials arranged in April to purchase 32 metric tons of Iranian heavy water for roughly $10 million dollars, ensuring that the country remained in compliance with the deal.

Albright said that this time, Iran may have counted on the Obama administration to brush off the violation again.

"One has to wonder if Iran simply did not worry about violating the cap. It may have figured (and maybe relished) that the Obama administration would have to publicly downplay and excuse the violation," he told TWS. "Of course, the U.S. spokespersons cannot call it a violation."

After the latest violation was revealed last week, the State Department would not call it a violation.

"I'm not going to use the v-word necessarily in this case," spokesman Mark Toner told reporters Thursday.

"If Iran refused to abide by that limit, or obfuscated or tried to hide the ball…then that would be a major concern, and that could be considered a violation," he said the same day. "But they're not."

Toner also said that the 130 metric ton cap set forth in the deal is not binding.

"If you look at the wording within the [nuclear deal], it actually says that Iran's needs, consistent with parameters ... are estimated to be 130 metric tons," Toner said. "That's not a hard certain figure."

Iran said it was planning on exporting five metric tons of heavy water in coming days. The IAEA report said that Iran was roughly one-tenth of a metric ton over the 130 metric ton limit.

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