An Iran nuclear deal would essentially a trade: Iran trading its capability to make nuclear weapons in exchange for relief from international economic sanctions.
But experts agree the two issues, nuclear inspections and sanctions, could not be more complex. And no matter what happens, it means all parties involved will be navigating unchartered waters.
“What’s unique about this agreement is that it takes inspections much further than the [International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA)] ever done them before,” said Stephanie Cooke at the Energy Intelligence Group. “First of all, the agency already monitors Iran more heavily than any other country.”
Inspections going forward, Cooke added, would focus on supply chains of materials and equipment that could be used to make nuclear weapons.
They could also include inspections of places suspected of nuclear activities because of information obtained from other countries' intelligence agencies.
But the IAEA inspections have limitations, said Cooke.
“That’s always been a criticism of the IAEA inspection system is that you give advance notice and therefore you can hide things before the visit,” she said. “It’s true the IAEA system is by no means fool-proof.”
Other experts are more optimistic about nuclear monitoring, but predict the sanctions issue will be complicated.
“These all are technical issues at this level that should be solved,” said Behrooz Bayat, a former IAEA consultant. “On the other hand there’s the problem of how to lift the sanctions. Iran, of course, would like to lift the sanctions immediately. It’s the main issue for them.”
Bayat said lifting sanctions will require legal and political maneuverings within nations and the international community.
The timing of both the inspections and sanctions relief, he said, could be the nuclear deal’s biggest obstacles going forward because there is “mistrust on both sides.”