Nuke Inspectors Gear Up For Iran, But Americans Unlikely To Be Included : Parallels The International Atomic Energy Agency can have 130 to 150 inspectors to keep tabs on Iran's nuclear program. The U.S. is paying the largest share, but probably won't have inspectors inside Iran.
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Nuke Inspectors Gear Up For Iran, But Americans Unlikely To Be Included

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Nuke Inspectors Gear Up For Iran, But Americans Unlikely To Be Included

Nuke Inspectors Gear Up For Iran, But Americans Unlikely To Be Included

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The International Atomic Energy Agency is charged with monitoring Iran's nuclear program and trying to make certain it sticks to the deal. The U.S. helps fund the IAEA, but no American inspectors will be allowed into Iran. Some experts say the U.S. should still support the U.N. agency's work by sending it more experts and more technology. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Thomas Shea spent more than two decades as an inspector with the IAEA but not inside Iran.

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THOMAS SHEA: Any country under the Non-Proliferation Treaty safeguards arrangement can say yes or no to any individual inspector that is proposed, and Iran does not accept American inspectors today.

KELEMEN: And under the deal, Iran will only allow in inspectors from countries with which it has diplomatic relations. Still, Shea told a Washington think tank that he hopes this will change.

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SHEA: I do think that there is a need for more Americans on the staff. At present time, the IAEA budget - one-quarter of it is paid by the United States. That's the U.N. formula.

KELEMEN: That means Americans are entitled to a quarter of the IAEA jobs, he says, though it's far short of that now, at about 12 percent. Another expert on the organization agrees it would be in the U.S. interest to beef up its presence at the IAEA. But Trevor Findlay of Harvard's Belfer Center says it's probably not helpful to have American inspectors in Iran.

TREVOR FINDLAY: You may recall that in the Iraq case - that was a significant point of controversy, that American inspectors were in Iraq as part of the U.N. bodies. And it caused political difficulties and in the end was counterproductive.

KELEMEN: The IAEA needs to make sure that its reports are viewed around the world as unbiased. But, he adds, the U.S. could do more in Vienna, where the inspectors' reports are analyzed and where the IAEA's task force on Iran is based.

FINDLAY: The United States often provides cost-free experts to the agency. They provide technology. They provide intelligence information. So the role of the United States is critical.

KELEMEN: U.S. officials say they will make sure the IAEA has what it needs to carry out a monitoring mission in Iran that costs about $1 million a month for a pool of up to 150 inspectors. Jon Wolfsthal, a nuclear expert in the White House, told the Atlantic Council that the Obama administration is already offering technology to ensure Iran adheres to strict limits to its uranium enrichment program.

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JON WOLFSTHAL: A great example is the new types of cameras or the online enrichment flow monitors that will instantaneously be checking the enrichment level. It's sort of like a thermostat. You could set it when it hits 3.68, it sends a little alarm out, and we know immediately that they've gone above the enrichment level.

KELEMEN: The inspectors won't just be watching known nuclear sites. They'll also have to try to make sure there are no hidden facilities. If inspectors want to visit a suspect site, Iran has a maximum of 24 days to either let inspectors in or satisfy the IAEA's request in other ways, before Iran is formally found in noncompliance. Wolfsthal brushes off those who say this gives Iran too much leeway.

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WOLFSTHAL: Are we worried Iran is going to build an underground enrichment or reprocessing facility? If they are, you can't get rid of it in 24 days 'cause it turns out uranium, which has a half-life of about 4 billion years, is kind of a pesky element. It doesn't go away for very easily.

KELEMEN: The White House official doesn't think this will become a cat and mouse game. And he believes the IAEA is up to the task. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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