Iran is buying reactor parts but not installing them, exploiting a possible loophole in the latest “interim agreement” that postpones sanctions during ongoing negotiations. According to the Telegraph:
Iran has continued to buy essential materials for its heavy water reactor at Arak, according to a leaked United Nations report.
Commentators have since weighed in on whether this procurement, which is clearly in breach of UN sanctions, would also violate the interim agreement signed by America, Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia (or P5+1) and Iran in Geneva in November last year placing constraints on the latter’s nuclear programme.
This deal, known as the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), freezes essential work on the Arak facility, but it does not explicitly mention procurement.
International matters are ultimately not arbitrated by law (pace the liberal post nationalists) but by what each side is willing to put up with. It is clear that Iran is accumulating reactor materials, and it seems likely that the Administration is willing to tolerate it. As Walter Russell Mead wrote following the previous extension of negotiations:
The most likely outlook for the rest of the administration would be more of the same: no final agreement, but no final breach. It works for the White House because as long as there is no Iranian nuclear test, it will have met its key goals: no Iranian bomb, and no war with Iran. Such an outcome could also be a success for the Iranians: they will get some sanctions relief while not making difficult concessions on the scope of their nuclear activities.
From Iran’s point of view, this sort of purchase might not be so much a loophole in the negotiations agreement as the very point of the negotiations.