August 31, 2017 | Memo

Verifying Section T of the Iran Nuclear Deal

FDD Research Memo

Co-authored by David Albright.

Download the full report here.


The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) made at best a general statement in its last quarterly reporting (spring 2017) about its monitoring and verification of Section T, annex 1 of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).  This innovative, key section closes a loophole in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), explicitly banning Iran from undertaking certain nuclear weapons development activities and controlling dual-use equipment potentially usable in such activities.  At the same time, the Iranian authorities have repeatedly stated that its military sites are off limits to the IAEA, indicating that the IAEA currently has limited or no access to Iranian military sites.[1]  Such access is an essential part of a broader effort to verify Section T undertakings of Iran. 

Discussions have frequently mischaracterized the verification of Section T (and associated access to military sites) as a problem of finding violations via national means and then reporting them to the IAEA for follow-up.  In fact, the nature of the Section T conditions is analogous to verifying that allowed activities and equipment are not misused in a manner similar to verifying declared nuclear activities.  Moreover, certain activities and equipment are subject to Joint Commission approval.  It is likely that some of the conditions in Section T are not currently being met and may in fact be violated by Iran.  If it has not already done so, the United States should also establish (1) a list of equipment in Iran controlled under Section T, including any that may currently be outside of required Section T controls and (2) a list of Iranian sites associated with Section T, either because of activities or equipment at these sites.  The United States and other members of the P5+1 should press the IAEA to develop and establish an effective, credible verification regime under Section T that includes access to military sites and the sharing of relevant information.  The United States and Britain, France, and Germany should also raise Section T and the likely need for approvals of certain Iranian equipment and activities at the next Joint Commission meeting.  Toward that goal, Iran should declare to the IAEA its sites and equipment subject to Section T verification and approvals.


One of the most serious compliance issues concerns the IAEA’s access to military sites and credible verification of Section T, which prohibits key nuclear weapons development activities and controls dual-use equipment potentially usable in such activities.  In this report, the issue of verifying Section T is discussed.  The absence of credible implementation and verification of Section T undermines the effectiveness of the JCPOA.

The IAEA has the authority under UN Security Council resolution 2231 to request access to sites and equipment associated with Section T.  This resolution “requests the Director General of the IAEA to undertake the necessary verification and monitoring of Iran’s nuclear-related commitments for the full duration of those commitments under the JCPOA.”  In addition, the resolution states: “The International Atomic Energy Agency will be requested to monitor and verify the voluntary nuclear-related measures as detailed in this JCPOA.” 

Between January 2016 and March 2017, the IAEA made no mention about verifying section T in the its quarterly reports on the Verification and Monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in light of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 (2015).  Likely in response to questions raised by members of the P5+1, the IAEA included a general statement in its June 2017 report, namely, “The Agency’s verification and monitoring of Iran’s other JCPOA nuclear-related commitments continues, including those set out in Sections D, E, S and T of Annex I of the JCPOA.”  However, this report provides no details on whether the IAEA actually verified Section T, or simply, for example, followed relevant publications indicating relevant activities in the open literature.

Although this report focuses on verification associated with Section T, IAEA access to military sites is also needed so that the IAEA can reach a broader conclusion under the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA) and Additional Protocol (AP).  Part of that determination involves ensuring the absence of nuclear weapons related work.  This type of access is essential for the IAEA to resolve the IAEA’s unanswered questions about, for example, the Parchin site and other locations and activities developed prior to Implementation Day.  Under the CSA with Iran, the IAEA has the right to visit any site in Iran, whether military or civilian, in furtherance of its safeguards obligations to ensure that Iran is fully complying with its reporting obligations and the nuclear program is peaceful.  Iran has challenged this right.  This issue also needs to be acted upon by the United States.

[1] For example, as reported by the Iranian regime’s Financial Tribune on August 23, 2017, “Iranian officials have roundly ruled out the possibility of new inspections of military bases.  Early August, Ali Akbar Velayati, a foreign policy advisor to the Leader of Islamic Revolution, said foreign access to these facilities would constitute a breach of the Islamic Republic's national security.”