Iran to inspect its own sites?
The Associated Press is reporting that one of the secret side deals made between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would allow Iran to take its own soil samples and supply limited photo coverage of the long suspected nuclear site, the military base at Parchin.
Nevertheless, the IAEA says the access being granted by Iran is "consistent with the IAEA verification practice and they meet the IAEA requirements."
The deal is shrouded in secrecy, and the IAEA will neither confirm nor deny the AP's allegations.
Iran will be allowed to use its own inspectors to investigate a site it has been accused of using to develop nuclear arms, operating under a secret agreement with the U.N. agency that normally carries out such work, according to a document seen by The Associated Press.
The revelation on Wednesday newly riled Republican lawmakers in the U.S. who have been severely critical of a broader agreement to limit Iran's future nuclear programs, signed by the Obama administration, Iran and five world powers in July. Those critics have complained that the wider deal is unwisely built on trust of the Iranians, while the administration has insisted it depends on reliable inspections.
A skeptical House Speaker John Boehner said, "President Obama boasts his deal includes 'unprecedented verification.' He claims it's not built on trust. But the administration's briefings on these side deals have been totally insufficient - and it still isn't clear whether anyone at the White House has seen the final documents."
Said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce: "International inspections should be done by international inspectors. Period."
But House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi shrugged off the revelation, saying, "I truly believe in this agreement."
The newly disclosed side agreement, for an investigation of the Parchin nuclear site by the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency, is linked to persistent allegations that Iran has worked on atomic weapons. That investigation is part of the overarching nuclear-limits deal.
Evidence of the inspections concession is sure to increase pressure from U.S. congressional opponents before a Senate vote of disapproval on the overall agreement in early September. If the resolution passes and President Barack Obama vetoes it, opponents would need a two-thirds majority to override it. Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has suggested opponents will likely lose a veto fight, though that was before Wednesday's disclosure.
John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Republican senator, said, "Trusting Iran to inspect its own nuclear site and report to the U.N. in an open and transparent way is remarkably naive and incredibly reckless. This revelation only reinforces the deep-seated concerns the American people have about the agreement."
But the AP walked back some of the report later in the day:
An AP expose of the draft agreement reached between Iran and the IAEA initially said Wednesday that Iranian representatives would be able to inspect Parchin without any intervention by UN inspectors, who would not even be allowed into the suspected compound.A few hours after AP released the initial details of the agreement, a revised report emerged overwriting some of the more troubling issues pertaining to the inspection of Parchin.For instance, the news agency removed from its report the claim that it was Iranian scientists themselves who would be inspecting the air and soil samples at Parchin, rather than UN inspectors. It also removed the claim that the number of air and soil samples taken from within suspected nuclear sites would be limited to seven.
No wonder they want to keep these side deals secret. The U.S. Congress would be up in arms if these arrangements were confirmed. But they won't be, because the IAEA refuses to turn them over. Lindsey Graham recommends that the U.S. withdraw funding from the IAEA until they allow lawmakers to see the deals – a reasonable suggestion, given the stakes.
But in the end, this deal has developed its own momentum that no world leader or U.N. agency is going to attempt to stop. And Democrats have made their choice: they care more about party loyalty than they do the national security of the United States.