In July 2015, multilateral talks with Iran culminated in an agreement called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), through which Iran committed to limits on its nuclear program in exchange for relief from sanctions put in place by the United States and other nations. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an independent international organization that administers safeguards designed to detect and deter the diversion of nuclear material for non-peaceful purposes, was requested to monitor and verify Iran’s adherence to these limits.
GAO’s preliminary observations indicate that IAEA may face potential challenges in monitoring and verifying Iran’s implementation of certain nuclear-related commitments in the JCPOA. According to current and former IAEA and U.S. officials and experts, these potential challenges include (1) integrating JCPOA- related funding into its regular budget and managing human resources in the safeguards program, (2) access challenges depending on Iran’s cooperation and the untested JCPOA mechanism to resolve access requests, and (3) the inherent challenge of detecting undeclared nuclear materials and activities—such as potential weapons development activities that may not involve nuclear material. According to knowledgeable current and former U.S. government officials, detection of undeclared material and activities in Iran and worldwide is IAEA’s greatest challenge. According to IAEA documents, Iran has previously failed to declare activity to IAEA.
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