National Security & Defense

IAEA Tells Congressmen of Two Secret Side Deals to Iran Agreement That Won’t Be Shared with Congress

(Photo Illustration: NRO)

Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and Congressmen Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) issued a press release yesterday on a startling discovery they made during a July 17 meeting with International Atomic Energy Agency officials in Vienna: There are two secret side deals to the nuclear agreement with Iran that will not be shared with other nations, with Congress, or with the U.S. public.

One of these side deals concerns inspection of the Parchin military base, where Iran reportedly has conducted explosive testing related to nuclear-warhead development. The Iranian government has refused to allow the IAEA to visit this site. Over the last several years, Iran has taken steps to clean up evidence of weapons-related activity at Parchin. 

The other secret side deal concerns how the IAEA and Iran will resolve outstanding issues on possible military dimensions (PMDs) of Iran’s nuclear program. In late 2013, Iran agreed to resolve IAEA questions about nuclear weapons-related work in twelve areas. Iran only answered questions in one of these areas and rejected the rest as based on forgeries and fabrications.  

Former Department of Energy official William Tobey explained in a July 15 Wall Street Journal op-ed why it is crucial that Iran resolve the PMD issue. According to Tobey, “for inspections to be meaningful, Iran would have to completely and correctly declare all its relevant nuclear activities and procurement, past and present.”  

According to the Cotton/Pompeo press release, there will be a secret, opaque procedure to verify Iran’s compliance with these side agreements. The press release says:

According to the IAEA, the Iran agreement negotiators, including the Obama administration, agreed that the IAEA and Iran would forge separate arrangements to govern the inspection of the Parchin military complex — one of the most secretive military facilities in Iran — and how Iran would satisfy the IAEA’s outstanding questions regarding past weaponization work. Both arrangements will not be vetted by any organization other than Iran and the IAEA, and will not be released even to the nations that negotiated the JCPOA [Iran nuclear agreement]. This means that the secret arrangements have not been released for public scrutiny and have not been submitted to Congress as part of its legislatively mandated review of the Iran deal. 

This means that two crucial measures of Iranian compliance with the nuclear agreement will not be disclosed to Congress despite the requirements of the Corker-Cardin bill (the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act), which requires the Obama administration to provide the U.S. Congress with all documents associated with the agreement, including all “annexes, appendices, codicils, side agreements [emphasis added], implementing materials, documents, and guidance, technical, or other understandings and any related agreements, whether entered into or implemented prior to the agreement or to be entered into or implemented in the future.” 

It also means that Congress will have no way of knowing whether Iran complied with either side agreement.  

Congress will have no way of knowing whether Iran complied with either side agreement.

This is especially troublesome for the PMD issue. I wrote in National Review on June 15 and June 17 that the Obama administration was trying to find a way to let Iran off the hook for past nuclear weapons-related work. It seems to have found a way to do this with a secret procedure shielded from the American public and the U.S. Congress. 

What do Obama administration officials know about these secret agreements? A source who was in the Cotton-Pompeo meeting told me that IAEA officials gave a vague answer to this question that “Secretary Kerry was told about the agreements.” 

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I don’t buy this any more than I buy the numerous other dubious and outright false statements made by Obama officials about the Iran deal. I believe that U.S. negotiators drafted the side agreements and then asked the IAEA to assume responsibility for them. This allowed the Kerry negotiating team to sidestep issues that Iran refused to resolve in a way that did not have to be reported to Congress.  

#related#The Cotton-Pompeo trip is already affecting the debate over the Iran deal on Capitol Hill. According to The Hill, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker and ranking member Ben Cardin met with Department of Energy secretary Ernest Moniz yesterday to demand copies of the side agreements discovered by Cotton and Pompeo. The two senators also sent a joint letter to President Obama asking for copies of these documents. 

Congressman Pompeo said in the press release, “This agreement is the worst of backroom deals.” I agree with Pompeo, but I also worry about whether there are other side deals associated with the Iran agreement that Pompeo and Cotton were not told about. 

Fred Fleitz, president of the Center for Security Policy, served in 2018 as deputy assistant to the president and to the chief of staff of the National Security Council. He previously held national-security jobs with the CIA, the DIA, the Department of State, and the House Intelligence Committee staff. He is the editor of the 2020 book Defending against Biothreats.


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