Accord sullied by secret agreements, nuclear experts' grim assessment
It almost sounds like Nancy Pelosi’s famous line, “We have to pass the bill first before we know what’s in the bill.”
Some members of Congress are protesting that two secret “annexes” to the Iran nuclear accord are being withheld from them before they sign off on the overall agreement.
In a meeting in Vienna with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) learned that two side deals made between the Iran and the IAEA as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) will remain secret and will not be shared with other nations, with Congress, or with the public. One agreement covers the inspection of the Parchin military complex, and the second details how the IAEA and Iran will resolve outstanding issues on possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.
It’s the latest revelation concerning the JCPOA that has many observers calling into question whether the agreement is in the best interest of the United States and its allies in the Middle East.
Congress has 60 days to review and vote on the deal, but that time frame does not start until it receives all documents related to the agreement. Pompeo and others are pushing to see the secret annexes.
“This agreement is the worst of backroom deals,” he said in a statement. “In addition to allowing Iran to keep its nuclear program, missile program, American hostages, and terrorist network, the Obama administration has failed to make public separate side deals that have been struck for the ‘inspection’ of one of the most important nuclear sites—the Parchin military complex. Not only does this violate the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, it is asking Congress to agree to a deal that it cannot review.”
The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, signed by President Obama, requires the administration to provide Congress with all nuclear agreement documents, including all “annexes, appendices, codicils, side agreements, implementing materials, documents, and guidance, technical or other understandings and any related agreements.”
The JCPOA, however, is a done deal, according to a government official who served for years in the Middle East.
“The reality is that the deal—the lifting of sanctions in exchange for the Iranian promise not to develop a nuclear weapon—is a fait accompli, because if Congress votes against it to overcome a presidential veto, the only thing that is going to do is impede the Iranians from using the financial system of the US, which means that all their purchases and sale of oil and such are going to have to find a mechanism outside the US banking system,” the official said.
Sen. Cotton told The Washington Post, “Congress’s evaluation of this deal must be based on hard facts and full information. That we are only now discovering that parts of this dangerous agreement are being kept secret begs the question of what other elements may also be secret and entirely free from public scrutiny.”
The UN Security Council voted 15-0 Monday to approve a resolution supporting the deal. But the accord came in for tough scrutiny this week by nuclear experts with long experience in monitoring Tehran’s nuclear program. Olli Heinonen, a former deputy director of the IAEA, questioned Energy Secretary Ernest J. Moniz’ insistence that Iran would not be able to hide traces of illicit nuclear work before inspectors gained access to a suspicious site. A provision in the deal gives Iran up to 24 days to grant access to inspectors.
While “it is clear that a facility of sizable scale cannot simply be erased in three weeks’ time without leaving traces,” the more likely risk is that the Iranians would pursue smaller-scale but still important nuclear work, such as manufacturing uranium components for a nuclear weapon, Heinonen told the