National Security & Defense

GOP Lawmakers: Did Iran Brief Administration Officials on Secret Side Deals?

Kerry and Moniz testify on the Iran nuclear deal, July 28, 2015. (Olivier Douliery/Getty)

President Obama’s refusal to allow Congress to review the newly-discovered “side deals” with Iran has Republican lawmakers steaming, even pushing to halt the larger deal’s review process, on the argument that the White House isn’t complying with the law.

Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.,) and Representative Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.), who discovered the side deals during a meeting with IAEA officials two weeks ago, argue that the fact that Secretary of State John Kerry and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz were “briefed” on the side deals undermines the claim that they’re too confidential to be revealed to Congress. “Secretary Kerry, Secretary Moniz, and others in the Administration indicate that they were ‘briefed on the contents’ of the arrangements,” they wrote in a Thursday letter to Moniz and State Department undersecretary Wendy Sherman, a key player in the negotiations. “Who provided these briefings? Were they IAEA officials? Iranian officials? U.S. government officials?”

Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress that it doesn’t have the right to review the deals between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency due to IAEA policy, even though the federal law establishing congressional review of the Iran deal requires lawmakers be given access to all related agreements. “I don’t know even at this point what the law says about the United States requiring something which another entity’s laws prohibit,” Kerry said during a Wednesday hearing.

The deals pertain to controversial aspects of Iran’s nuclear program, including inspections of the Parchin military complex — long-suspected of being used to for nuclear research and studies of long-range ballistic missiles — and questions about the military aspects of Iran’s past nuclear work. “They were originally intended to be part of the primary agreement but could not be done that way,” Pompeo tells National Review. “When Kerry allowed the IAEA to carry the mantle the Iranians must have interpreted that as, ‘hey, we can drive a truck through this thing, because now we know the United States is going to turn its head and allow this deal to go through without even looking at the words on the paper.’”

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On Thursday, Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) introduced a Senate resolution emphasizing that the 60-day review of the Iran deal cannot officially begin until the side deals are provided to Congress. “The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 mandates that the 60-day congressional review period cannot begin until the nuclear agreement with Iran, and all related materials outlined in the Act, are transmitted to Congress,” a press release from his office notes. “President Obama has failed to provide separate side agreements and federal guidance materials to Congress, so the review period cannot have begun without the majority leader’s consent.”

#related#A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) left the door open to a delay of the review. “I don’t believe the committee has even confirmed that it started yet,” Don Stewart tells NR. ”But that hasn’t stopped any of us from highlighting the flaws.”

McConnell has demanded the side deals repeatedly. “The administration needs to turn over the side agreements without delay,” McConnell said Thursday. “As the review moves forward, we’ll continue working to assess the relative threat posed to the greater Middle East and to the United States by an Iranian regime empowered with a threshold nuclear program and billions of dollars in additional resources.”

— Joel Gehrke is a political reporter for National Review.

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