For the United States, the art of the deal on Iran's nuclear program seems to be in putting more pressure on the Middle Eastern country. The White House is pushing for further inspections of suspicious Iranian military sites in an effort to find ways in which Tehran may not be complying with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on its nuclear program. Specifically, the United States will try to persuade Iran to permit inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) into military sites that U.S. intelligence suggests may be used for research and development that violates the stipulations of the agreement.
Under the JCPOA, the IAEA is allowed routine access to facilities related to Iran's nuclear program. But if the organization has reason to believe the country is conducting nuclear-related activities at another location — including military sites — it can request information and access to inspect those sites. If Iran denies those requests, it has 14 days to resolve the dispute with the IAEA. Afterward, the issue can be brought to the JCPOA's dispute resolution mechanism, the Joint Commission, which has seven days to issue a ruling. The Joint Commission comprises eight parties: China, the European Union, France, Germany, Iran, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Decisions by the Joint Commission must then be approved by a simple majority of its members. This means the United States could force Iran to open up sites to inspection with the support of its European allies alone. Should it do so, Iran would have three days to comply with the Joint Commission's ruling before sanctions against it are automatically put back into place.
The United States had already floated the idea of requesting access to Iranian military sites to its European partners during a regular meeting of the Joint Commission on July 21. But it encountered opposition from countries that said they needed ironclad proof of Iran's activities before giving their consent. The United States' probable goal is to ask for access to an array of facilities and try to convince Europe to support its request. And should Iran deny access to even one of the sites, the United States could then claim Tehran is not holding up its end of the bargain.