State Department: Iran Allowed to Continue Building Construction at Arak Under Nuclear Deal

by Nov 28, 2013Foreign Policy0 comments

A Reuters headline reads "Iran says to continue building at Arak nuclear site despite deal", thus implying that its ongoing construction would be in violation of its recent agreement with the U.S. and its Western allies. But a State Department spokesperson acknowledged that "building work" is allowable under the deal.

Reuters headline reads “Iran says to continue building at Arak nuclear site despite deal”, thus implying that its ongoing construction would be in violation of its recent agreement with the U.S. and its Western allies. The lead paragraph states:

Iran will pursue construction at the Arak heavy-water reactor, Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif was quoted as saying on Wednesday, despite a deal with world powers to shelve a project they fear could yield plutonium for atomic bombs.

Further down the page, Reuters reports what Zarif actually said:

According to the agreed text, Iran said it would not make “any further advances of its activities” on the Arak reactor, under construction near a western Iranian town with that name.

“Capacity at the Arak site is not going to increase. It means no new nuclear fuel will be produced and no new installations will be installed, but construction will continue there,” Zarif told parliament in translated comments broadcast on Iran’s Press TV.

It isn’t until the very end of the article that Reuters offers a hint that, actually, the construction Iran has said will continue doesn’t violate the agreement:

Other experts have said that an apparent loophole in the Geneva agreement could allow Iran to build components off-site to install later in the reactor.

“The agreement is silent on the manufacturing of remaining key components of the reactor and its continued heavy-water production,” former chief U.N. nuclear inspector Olli Heinonen wrote in an analysis.

Turning to Haaretz, we can read the headline: “Iran allowed some construction at key nuclear site under interim deal, U.S. says”. That article notes:

The U.S. said Wednesday that Iran can undertake some construction work at a key nuclear facility as long as fuel isn’t produced and advances aren’t made on a planned heavy water reactor….

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Wednesday while his country was honoring the deal, construction on building projects would continue.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said she isn’t sure what work Zarif meant. She said road or building work might be allowable. But nuclear fuel production, reactor work, testing, control systems advances and other activities aren’t permissible.

Again, Zarif said that construction would continue, i.e., “building work”, and he also specified “no new nuclear fuel will be produced and no new installations will be installed”, which doesn’t seem out of line with what the State Department has said.

Iran has also invited IAEA inspectors to visit the Arak site, which is an additional step it has taken that is not part of the deal. (Note that the Haaretz article at the link describes the IAEA as a “UN agency”. Actually, it is not a UN body, but was established independently from it and cooperates with it by agreement. See here.)

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About Jeremy R. Hammond

About Jeremy R. Hammond

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