New Secretive Iranian Nuclear Sites Spark Concern in Congress

Sen. Risch: Iran flagrantly violating landmark nuclear accord

Jim Risch
Jim Risch / Getty Images
February 10, 2020

Iran is not "complying at all" with the landmark nuclear deal and continues to prevent international nuclear inspectors from accessing key sites suspected of housing the regime's sensitive atomic weapons program, according to the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Sen. Jim Risch (R., Idaho) told the Washington Free Beacon in a wide-ranging interview on the Islamic Republic's continued nuclear subterfuge that he is worried by new reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that there are "possible undeclared Iranian nuclear sites" that remain active in Iran.

Risch, who is also a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, recently met with IAEA head Rafael Grossi to gather more information on Iran's efforts to block access to inspectors and hide undeclared work on the weapons front.

"I don't think they're complying at all" with the nuclear restrictions enshrined in the accord, Risch told the Free Beacon, adding it is now clear Iran intends to continue violating caps on the amount of enriched uranium it can keep in the country.

"They have specifically said they're going to enrich beyond what the agreement said," Risch noted. "And they said they don't care what anybody does about it. You can't say they've been in compliance by any stretch."

Recent reports indicate that particles of uranium, the key component in a nuclear weapon, were found at secretive Iranian sites. Risch said he would not contradict any recent reporting but could not go into specifics for classification reasons. Thus far, Iran has rebuffed IAEA petitions to obtain more information about these undeclared sites.

Tehran's very public breach of the nuclear accord warrants the full imposition of United Nations sanctions that were lifted under the terms of the deal, Risch said.

Under a provision known as "snapback," the United States and European countries can reimpose all sanctions on Iran that were waived when the deal was implemented in 2015. In light of Iran’s moves in late 2019 to exceed caps on uranium and heavy water, a nuclear byproduct that could provide an alternate pathway to a bomb, many have argued that snapback is necessary.

"There's no question about that, and the Europeans know snapback is warranted," Risch said, expressing frustration with efforts by multiple European allies to stand in the way of snapback.

"As always with the Europeans, they drag their feet, they're tolerant when they shouldn't be tolerant. I tell them over and over again, I don't understand this. Why, why, oh why are you guys so tolerant of this? Why are you so dedicated to wanting to deal with the Iranians instead of doing what needs to be done?" Risch asked.

Leading European nations have sought to keep their business interests in Iran alive, despite the Trump administration’s wishes. This has resulted in the creation of an alternative financial system that helps Iran conduct international transactions apart from the American monetary system, thereby skirting sanctions.

Iran does not "respect a gentle nudge, they don't respect the weakness, they don't respect people who are trying to do the right thing. They are recalcitrant in every respect," Risch said.

In meetings with European officials, Risch has raised the Iran issue, he said.

"I'm always disappointed in the Europeans' tolerance of what the Iranians do," he said. "Every time I meet with the Europeans, different ones, I raise that, which by the way is frequently. They just simply aren't getting it. They promised us before we entered into the agreement that they would demand snapback if Iran did not comply. They're clearly not complying."

However, the United States will continue to issue new and more biting sanctions as long as Iran continues its pursuit of enriched uranium and other nuclear materials.

Risch also expressed optimism that the IAEA, despite the challenges it faces, will continue to provide a window into Iran's nuclear undertakings.

"My sense is that the IAEA is not turning its back on doing what their mission is, as far as Iran is concerned," he said. "They're not turning their back on that even though the Iranians are doing what they always do, and that is stiff-arm everybody who tries to do anything. They know that. They realize it."

Published under: Iran , Jim Risch