Updated: Jan 20, 2022
Given Iran's long history of deception and intransigence prior to the commencement of negotiations in 2012--every reasonable citizen must ask whether any sane government would believe that the regime would comply with any purported "agreement".
In May of 2013 then presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani detailed how he broke a nuclear pledge in a video clip which gaining much attention as the international community sought to assess his credibility. Rouhani bragged on Iranian state television just four months ago that he and the regime utterly flouted a 2003 agreement with the IAEA in which they promised to suspend all uranium enrichment and certain other nuclear activities.
Rouhani, who was being interviewed by Iran’s state IRIB TV (Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting) on May 27, less than three weeks before he won the June 14 presidential elections, was provoked by the interviewer’s assertion that, as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator in 2003-5, “everything was suspended” on the nuclear program under his watch.
Smiling but evidently highly irritated by the suggestion, Rouhani called it “a lie” that only “the illiterate” would believe, and said that “whoever is talking to you in your earpiece” was feeding false information. He proceeded to detail how Iran, in fact, had flagrantly breached the October 2003 “Tehran Declaration,” which he said “was supposed to outline how everything should be suspended.”
Although Iran issued a joint statement with visiting EU ministers in October 2003 setting out its pledged obligations under the Tehran Declaration, in practice, Rouhani said in the interview, “We did not let that happen!”
The interview, conducted by Hassan Abedini, was one in a series of shows in which the presidential candidates were questioned by the widely watched channel. The TV station is closely controlled by loyalists of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Rouhani clearly felt the imperative to underline that he was no Western pushover.
Far from honoring the commitment, in which Iran said “it has decided voluntarily to suspend all uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities,” Rouhani told the interviewer that all Iran did was merely suspend “ten centrifuges” in the Natanz enrichment facility. “And not a total suspension. Just reduced the yield.”
Unimpressed, interviewer Abedini asserted that work had been suspended at the UCF — the Uranium Enrichment Facility at Isfahan. Quite the contrary, Rouhani countered, detailing the completion of various phases of work at Isfahan under his watch in 2004 and 2005. He went on to state proudly that the Iranian heavy water reactor at Arak was also developed under his watch, in 2004.
“Do you know when we developed yellowcake? Winter 2004,” Rouhani went on. “Do you know when the number of centrifuges reached 3,000? Winter 2004.”
Iran’s deception and denial go back to 1984, when at the height of the Iran-Iraq war the late Ayatollah Khomeini ordered the nuclear program jump-started.
Iran’s scientists had deserted the country in 1979 at the onset of the Islamic Revolution. The country’s new leaders did not see the need for a costly nuclear program. But with Iraqi missiles falling on Iranian cities and thousands of Iranian casualties from Iraqi chemical attacks, Khomeini summoned the scientists back.
In 2002, Iranian dissidents exposed extensive clandestine nuclear activities at the Natanz uranium-enrichment facility and the Arak heavy water reactor, which could be used to produce weapons-grade plutonium. Iran’s nuclear infrastructure was much larger than the regime had ever admitted.
Tehran’s subsequent maneuvers eventually led the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in September 2005, to declare it in non-compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The following year, the IAEA referred the Iran file to the United Nations Security Council, whose six subsequent resolutions underscored the country’s unwavering defiance of the international community.
Much of the sanctions regime — starting with UN Security Council Resolution 1737 in March 2007 which strengthened by additional UN resolutions along with US and European measures – aimed to interdict continuing Iranian efforts to buy nuclear and missile technology.
Additional international concerns emanated from what the IAEA described as the Iranian nuclear program’s “possible military dimensions.” These include, but are not limited to, a third clandestine enrichment facility, Fordow, which Iran built deep underground. Fordow's existence was revealed only after Western intelligence services detected it in 2009.
Iranian deception continued even as the country's diplomats proclaim that Islam and Iran’s Supreme Leader both prohibit nuclear weapons. Yet Iran’s actions belie these proclamations.
Benjamin Weinthal reported that German Customs’ criminal investigation unit noted in November 2014 that more than two thirds of all its investigations in 2012 and 2013 involved Iranian procurement efforts for sanctioned goods.
In late 2013, a German court sentenced three Iranian nationals and one German to prison for procuring valves for the Arak reactor. In another case still pending in an Italian court, a US-owned company is being charged with trying to deliver industrial-sized water chillers to the Islamic Republic to be used in deep underground facilities for the development and production of weapons of mass destruction.
The US Department of the Treasury used existing sanctions four times in 2014 to target Iranian sanctions evasion networks. These networks provided Tehran with illicit nuclear procurement, money laundering, and transshipment channels. The Treasury Department used its powers sparingly, however, and there was little evidence that Iran’s efforts to circumvent sanctions were abating. Instead, Iranian entities targeted by Western and UN sanctions continued to operate under new names.