- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 20, 2015

Amid growing anger on Capitol Hill and in Israel, the head of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog on Thursday strongly defended the controversial methods that will be used to monitor possible cheating by Iran on the recently signed nuclear deal.

Yukiya Amano, head of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, pushed back strongly against an Associated Press report that said the IAEA inspection protocol allows Iran to use its own nationals and equipment to provide soil samples and other evidence from a key site of suspected past nuclear weapons activity and pass on its findings to the U.N. agency.

Critics say the provision is just one more reason to reject the deal negotiated by the Obama administration and five partners with Iran, designed to curb Tehran’s suspect nuclear programs in exchange for a gradual lifting of international sanctions. The agreement faces a showdown vote in Congress next month with President Obama scrambling to retain enough support from minority Democrats to preserve the deal.

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“I am disturbed by statements suggesting that the IAEA has given responsibility for nuclear inspections to Iran,” Mr. Amano said in an unusually pointed statement issued Thursday. “Such statements misrepresent the way in which we will undertake this important verification work.”

Mr. Amano said the inspection arrangements with Iran, consistent with longstanding IAEA practice, are confidential and he had “a legal obligation not to make them public.”

Opponents of the deal, including some prominent former U.N. nuclear inspectors, say the IAEA arrangements amount to “secret side deals” that make it even harder for Congress to evaluate its provisions. The site in question, known as Parchin, is critical because it is believed to be the site of an active nuclear military push by Iran more than a decade ago.

Mr. Amano added, “However, I can state that the arrangements are technically sound and consistent with our long-established practices” and will allow the IAEA to clarify “past and present” issues regarding Iran’s covert nuclear programs.

Leading Republicans in both the House and Senate were quick to cite the AP report as another reason to kill the deal. The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which also opposes the agreement, mockingly praised the “outside-the-box” approach which, it said, essentially allows Iran to inspect itself.

“One can only wonder if the Iranian inspectors will also have to wait 24 days before being able to visit the site and look for incriminating evidence?” Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said, referring to another clause in the deal on the notice period for intrusive IAEA inspections.

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