NCRI – There is strong sentiment in the U.S. Congress that the details of the “side deal” between the regime in Iran and the United Nations nuclear agency must be made public.
President Barack Obama had promised that his nuclear deal with Iran would not be “based on trust” but rather “unprecedented verification.”
“Now it turns out Obama’s verification regime is based on trust after all — trust in two secret side agreements negotiated exclusively between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that apparently no one (including the Obama administration) has seen,” according to the Washington Post.
“Worse, Obama didn’t even reveal the existence of these secret side deals to Congress when he transmitted the nuclear accord to Capitol Hill. The agreements were uncovered, completely by chance, by two members of Congress — Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) — who were in Vienna meeting with the U.N.-related agency,” it added.
The Wall Street Journal wrote in its Review & Outlook section: Congress should insist on public disclosure of secret nuclear side deals.
“The Obama Administration insists there’s nothing secret about the Iran nuclear deal, even as it claims not to have read two crucial side deals Tehran has struck with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). ‘Confidential agreements, but no secrets’ is the way top U.S. negotiator Wendy Sherman describes the deals, which are thought to concern the military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear programs.”
“Try parsing that distinction. And while you’re at it, consider that there might be additional separate agreements we haven’t heard about. We raise the possibility after speaking with Rep. Mike Pompeo, the Kansas Republican who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, and who more-or-less stumbled on the two side deals when the deputy director of the IAEA disclosed their existence to him and Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) in a meeting in Vienna.”
“‘When you ask [the Administration] if there are other [side deals], you don’t get a yes or no answer,’ Mr. Pompeo tells us. The Congressman adds that he and his colleagues have been frustrated by the Administration’s failure to answer their questions even in classified sessions. What does Mr. Pompeo know about the two side deals the Administration does acknowledge? ‘Nearly nothing,’ he says, ‘and we’ve been briefed four times.'”
“The Administration claims this is no big deal because Iran and the IAEA are entitled to reach a non-disclosed understanding to resolve their differences. ‘This is pretty standard,’ says Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.”
“Now there’s an epic dodge. If the U.S. isn’t privy to Iran’s dealings with the IAEA, it’s because Secretary of State John Kerry and other negotiators conceded the point to Iran at the 11th hour. He might have done so figuring that punting to the IAEA gave him the chance to seal the deal without having to know exactly what’s in it.”
“All of this is vital because Iran hasn’t answered the IAEA’s questions regarding the so-called Possible Military Dimensions of its nuclear program. The IAEA has also been seeking access to Iran’s military site at Parchin, which inspectors haven’t visited for a decade and where Iran is suspected of carrying out experiments and tests on weaponizing a nuclear device.”
“But unless the world can have a clear understanding of what Iran is already capable of doing, there’s no way to know how long it would take the regime to build a bomb if it decides to do so. This also undermines Mr. Obama’s central claim that the deal puts Iran at least one year away from a bomb if it walks away from the agreement.”
The Chicago Tribune carried an Editorial entitled, “Iran deal: Trust. Maybe verify.” It editorial in part says:
“They have to do it. It will be done. If there’s going to be a deal, it will be done.”
Secretary of State John Kerry on Iran coming clean about its past nuclear weapons work, PBS, April 8, 2015.
One of the bedrock principles of the nuclear deal with Iran is that international inspectors are supposed to finally learn how far Iran advanced in building a nuclear bomb. They’re supposed to verify Iran’s account by interviewing scientists and inspecting sites to ensure that Iran is telling the whole truth.
All that is supposed to happen before the U.S. and its allies lift economic sanctions.
But now U.S. officials tell Congress that Iran probably won’t come clean on its covert nuclear weapons program now or ever. “An Iranian admission of its past nuclear weapons program is unlikely and is not necessary for purposes of verifying (nuclear deal) commitments going forward,” says the Obama administration’s report to Congress. “U.S. confidence on this front is based in large part on what we believe we already know about Iran’s past activities.”
Translation: The Iranians will probably lie or give incomplete information to the International Atomic Energy Agency about their past activities. And the U.S. and its allies will give Iran a pass, even though the IAEA has spent nearly a decade haranguing, threatening and cajoling Iran to come clean on its past nuclear weapons work.
We don’t know yet what Iran will or won’t tell the IAEA. What we do know is this isn’t a game of political gotcha with Iran. It’s key to ensuring Iran can’t quickly build a nuclear weapon. Obama and other Western leaders have touted this deal as a way to push back Iran’s break-out time — the weeks or months it would need to build a bomb should it decide to do so. But there’s no way to make that break-out calculation accurately unless inspectors know precisely when Iran began work on nuclear weapons and how far that work progressed. That information will provide a baseline so the IAEA can design an effective verification program to assure that nuclear material isn’t used for a bomb.
There’s another potentially dangerous precedent that has emerged in administration officials’ testimony before Congress.
Under the main agreement, Iran is supposed to allow access to its military or civilian sites where IAEA inspectors suspect Iran has done nuclear weapons research and development. High on the list is Parchin, a military complex that the IAEA has tried to inspect for the last three years because experts believe Iran tested nuclear weapons-related equipment there before 2004.
But now we learn from Congressional hearings that a separate Iran-IAEA accord could put Iran, not international inspectors, in charge of taking environmental samples at Parchin, under still-to-be-determined IAEA supervision. Sen. James Risch of Idaho of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee aptly compared that arrangement to allowing professional athletes suspected of drug abuse to mail in their own urine samples.
We’d guess the Parchin inspection probably won’t turn up much. Since the IAEA demanded to visit Parchin in 2012, Iran has had plenty of time to scrub and reconstruct the base.
But Parchin is just one military facility that the IAEA should visit. What are the ground rules for all the others? Will Iran call the shots? Or will the IAEA? That’s unclear. Kerry and other U.S. officials tell Congress they don’t have the confidential IAEA-Iran document so they can’t turn it over.
Here’s a simple two-step process for the administration to resolve these questions. Step one: Get the document from the IAEA. Step two: Turn it over to Congress.
Congress must know what’s in the deal and the separate side agreements before it votes. No surprises. No secret handshakes. If this bargain is as strong as the administration insists, it can withstand a burst of sunlight.