- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Obama administration officials denied Republican accusations Wednesday that the United Nations made secret side deals with Iran over the inspection of Iranian military sites, as lawmakers demanded that the administration disclose the fine print of the nuclear agreement and raised fresh objections to the historic accord.

White House National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice said the additional documents signed by the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran “are not public” but that the administration would share the information with lawmakers behind closed doors. She indicated that the U.S. government doesn’t have the documents.

“We have been briefed on those documents, we know their contents, we’re satisfied with them and we will share the contents of those briefings in full in a classified session with the Congress,” Ms. Rice said.

State Department spokesman Adm. John Kirby described the documents as “technical arrangements” that are standard between the U.N. atomic agency and a country being inspected.

“They’re not released publicly or to other states, but our experts are familiar and comfortable with the contents,” he said.

Lawmakers said the inability of Congress to obtain the documents could violate the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act signed by President Obama granting lawmakers a 60-day review of “all related materials and annexes” associated with the nuclear deal.

House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican; Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican; and Rep. Mike Pompeo, Kansas Republican, wrote a letter to Mr. Obama on Wednesday demanding to see the side agreements.

“Failure to produce these two side agreements leaves Congress blind on critical information regarding Iran’s potential path to being a nuclear power and will have detrimental consequences for the ability of members to assess” the deal, they wrote.

The issue of undisclosed U.N. agreements with Iran was brought to light by Mr. Cotton and Mr. Pompeo, who met with IAEA officials in Vienna last week. They came away from the meeting saying there were “two secret side deals” to the nuclear agreement that weren’t being shared with other nations or with Congress.

The first agreement involves inspections of Iran’s Parchin military base, where Iranians reportedly have conducted explosive testing for nuclear warhead development. The second pertains to how Iran and the IAEA will resolve outstanding issues on the possible military dimensions of Tehran’s nuclear program.

Both subjects were points of contention in the talks involving Iran, the U.S. and other world powers that concluded last week with the agreement to limit the Iranian nuclear program in return for lifting economic sanctions.

The development preceded closed-door meetings in the House and the Senate with Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, both of whom were at the bargaining table with the Iranians, and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. Their briefings Wednesday on Capitol Hill marked the start of the administration’s lobbying effort to prevent Congress from killing the deal.

Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer also was on Capitol Hill to meet privately with about 40 House Republicans in opposition to the deal. One participant in the meeting, Rep. Dave Brat of Virginia, said the diplomat’s main point was to “pay less attention to all the details” such as nuclear centrifuges and more attention to “who’s on the other side of the ethical debate, and that is Iran.” Tehran is opposed to the existence of Israel.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on his Twitter account that the deal “makes war more likely.”

Mr. Pompeo said he raised the issue of side deals with Mr. Kerry during the classified briefing.

“I just find that completely unacceptable,” Mr. Pompeo said. “I don’t see how a member of Congress could vote for an agreement not knowing what the full scope of the agreement actually is.”

He said Mr. Kerry told lawmakers that the U.S. would have to trust the IAEA.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, said after the briefing that the deal won’t prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

“They can buy it from North Korea, or let’s say Pakistan, and this treaty will do nothing to prevent that,” he said.

The House briefing was well-attended. Lawmakers and staff could recall only two other classified briefings in recent memory that held so much interest: a session on training and equipping moderate Syrian opposition forces, and the briefing on the details of the covert raid in 2011 that killed Osama bin Laden.

Democratic lawmakers questioned Mr. Moniz and Mr. Kerry about the ability to detect Iran cheating and the technical aspects of the agreement.

Mr. Kerry spoke at length to try to assure lawmakers that U.S. allies in the Middle East support the deal, according to a House Republican leadership aide. The aide said the secretaries refused to address hypothetical questions about what would happen to U.N. and U.S. sanctions if Congress rejects the agreement.

A spokesman for Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, a nonprofit group supported by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, said the reports of side deals were troubling.

“It is imperative that all agreements with Iran be completely revealed to Congress and the American people,” said spokesman Patrick Dorton. “Full transparency rather than secrecy is the only way that the American people can be fully informed about this flawed agreement with a deceitful regime. Congress must have anytime, anywhere access to the complete agreement and any side agreements before the review process begins.”

Mr. Moniz rejected the argument that the administration was hiding parts of the agreement.

“There are no secret deals,” he said on MSNBC. “This is the IAEA performing its usual function with any country that it’s about to inspect.”

Republican leaders renewed their objections to the agreement Wednesday. Mr. Boehner told reporters that the deal, approved quickly Monday by the U.N. Security Council, “faces serious skepticism here at home.”

“A bad deal threatens the security of the American people, and we’re going to do everything possible to stop it,” Mr. Boehner said.

Mr. McConnell said “no serious person truly believes” Mr. Obama’s claim that the deal is the only way to avoid another war in the Middle East. Mr. Obama told a veterans group Tuesday that opponents of the deal are “the same folks who were so quick to go to war in Iraq.”

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said the administration should have held out for an agreement that is more verifiable.

“There are tougher sanctions that will bring Iran to the table for a better deal and a good deal,” Mr. Cornyn said on the Senate floor.

The debate in the Senate focused on Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat and a vocal supporter of Israel who hasn’t announced how he will vote on the Iran agreement. The Stop Iran Rally Coalition called out Mr. Schumer during a protest rally in Times Square on Wednesday evening, saying he “has the votes as presumptive leader to override this deal. If this deal is not stopped, New York voters will know whom to blame.”

Mr. Schumer said in a statement Wednesday that he wasn’t ready to make a decision about the deal.

“I’ve read the agreement, and I’m seeking answers to the many questions I have. Before I make a decision, I’m going to speak at length with experts on both sides,” he said.

A White House ally, Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, chided Republicans who were blasting the agreement before they even received the text.

“Common sense dictates: At least read it before you condemn it,” said Mr. Durbin, who came out in support of the accord Tuesday.

In Tehran, security hawks began sniping about the nuclear deal, emboldened a day after Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, described some of the world powers that signed it as untrustworthy. Iran’s government tried to sell the agreement to hard-liners.

With both Tehran and Washington facing stiff opposition to the accord, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter arrived in Saudi Arabia in an attempt to reassure leaders who fear archrival Iran will make major mischief in the Middle East.

Mr. Carter said Iran’s “potential for aggression” was a shared concern as he moved to bolster defense ties with Riyadh in the wake of the nuclear agreement.

The conservative, mainly Sunni Muslim kingdom is engaged in a contest for power with Shiite Iran stretching across the region. It fears the nuclear deal will free Tehran from international pressure and sanctions, giving it more room to back allies in conflicts from Syria to Yemen.

Since Salman became king in January, he has tried to build a Sunni coalition against Iran’s regional allies, boosting support for rebels against Syrian President Bashar Assad and waging war against Yemen’s Houthi militia.

In the talks, King Salman and his defense minister reiterated their public support for the deal while voicing some reservations, such as the need to properly implement the accord, Mr. Carter said.

He said discussions in Jeddah focused on advancing security ties, including in missile defenses, cybersecurity, maritime security and special operations forces, following up commitments made by Gulf states at a Camp David summit in May.

Mr. Carter sought to emphasize U.S. and Saudi concern about Iran, citing “malign activities in the region and potential for aggression.”

He singled out Iran and Islamic State militants — whom Tehran is fighting — as the top challenges facing both nations and noted concerns in Yemen.

“The Iranian influence with the Houthis is real,” Mr. Carter said.

He said Salman will visit the United States and meet with Mr. Obama in September.

Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide