FPI Resources: Iran, the IAEA and Secret Side Deals to the Nuclear Agreement

August 4, 2015

On July 17, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) learned from IAEA officials that the agency and Iran made two secret side deals to the July 14 nuclear agreement, but would not share them with the United States. The disclosure prompted bipartisan concerns on Capitol Hill that lawmakers would lack the ability to review the entire agreement before they vote on it in September. It also raised the question of whether the administration’s failure to obtain the documents violates the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which requires the White House to transmit the full text of the agreement before a 60-day review period can begin.

Administration officials have stated that the IAEA has briefed them of the contents of the side deals, but that they have not read the documents themselves. At the same time, they have also argued that the briefings gave them confidence that the side deals would advance the overall agreement’s stated objective of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran, thereby obviating any need for the full text.

Tomorrow, the IAEA will brief Congress about the contents of the side deals. However, it is unlikely to dampen the skepticism of lawmakers, who continue to ask why the United States — but not Iran — should lack access to documents of such critical important to American national security. This FPI publication presents key statements by the Obama administration and members of Congress in order to provide context to the debate as it unfolds.


Administration Statements

“There are no secret here. We are well aware that the IAEA, which will verify the deal, will create arrangements with countries, as they do with us, under the ‘additional protocol.’ What we are trying to do here is make sure everybody in Congress knows. I had a closed-doors meeting with all of Congressional leadership yesterday and I told them what was in the arrangement between the IAEA and Iran. No secrets here. Confidential agreements, but no secrets.” – Chief U.S. Negotiator Wendy Sherman, MSNBC, July 30, 2015

“We haven’t received a written copy of it, but we have been briefed on the contents. … Nuclear experts with much bigger degrees than I can ever attain have looked at this and their comfort level with it is good.” – State Department Spokesman Mark Toner, Daily Press Briefing, July 30, 2015

“All I can say is that -- well, first of all, I personally have not seen those documents, and … All I can say that the agreement requires [Iran’s] cooperation with the IAEA, and this is the standard practice of the IAEA, whose independence is very critical to all of us.” – Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, Senate Armed Services Committee, July 29, 2015

“There’s no secret deal. There is an agreement, which is the normal process of the IAEA where they negotiate a confidential agreement, as they do with all countries, between them and the country. And that exists. We have [been] briefed on it.” – Secretary of State John Kerry, House Foreign Affairs Committee, July 28, 2015


Congressional Letters and Statements

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS)Wall Street Journal – August 2, 2015

“Weaponization lies at the heart of our dispute with Iran and is central to determining whether this deal is acceptable. Inspections of Parchin are necessary to ensure that Iran is adhering to its end of the agreement. Without knowing this baseline, inspectors cannot properly evaluate Iran’s compliance. It’s like beginning a diet without knowing your starting weight. That the administration would accept side agreements on these critical issues—and ask the U.S. Congress to do the same—is irresponsible. … A game of nuclear telephone and hearsay is simply not good enough, not for a decision as grave as this one. The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act says Congress must have full access to all nuclear-agreement documents. ... How else can Congress, in good conscience, vote on the overall deal?”

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) – Senate Floor Statement – July 30, 2015

“The purpose of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act is to ensure Congress has a fully informed understanding of any comprehensive agreement reached between the Administration and Iran. These are principles both parties endorsed when they voted overwhelmingly to pass the measure. These are principles President Obama endorsed when he signed it into law. These are principles that need to be upheld. That’s why I recently joined Speaker Boehner, Senator Cotton, and Congressman Pompeo in calling on the administration to comply with the terms of this law by providing the Senate with the text of two side agreements reached between Iran and the IAEA. That was more than a week ago. But we still have yet to receive them.”

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) Challenges Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on Iran Side Deals – Hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee – July 29, 2015

MCCAIN: Those protocols — those protocols are very important, Mr. Secretary. Are we going to be aware of those protocols? Because we know that with any agreement with a country such as Iran, the devil is in the details.
MONIZ: All I can say is that — well, first of all, I personally have not seen those documents, and —
MCCAIN: Which is astounding. To be honest with you, that is absolutely astounding that you have not seen the documents that are about requirement for verification, Mr. Secretary.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) – Hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee – July 29, 2015

“I have received several classified briefings about the deal. I look forward to another one, but what Congress would like is the text of these agreements as required by U.S. law. Certain published reports starting most recently with the Associated Press yesterday, say that the content of the side deal that discusses Parchin, the military base where detonators for nuclear devices may have been tested, will allow Iran to collect their own samples and submit those samples to the IAEA, much like an NFL player taking his own urine sample and sending it to Roger Goodell for a drug test.”

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) – Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – July 23, 2015

“This is a very important point. The documents in question are traditional between the country and the IAEA and are kept confidential between the country, in this case Iran, and IAEA, but it is part of the JCPOA in regards to possible military dimensions, which are critical for us to have base line in order to deal with moving forward. So it’s a very important part. And from what we can tell, if we can get eyes on that document, it may answer some of our questions. Secretary Moniz has raised questions, and he’s greatly respected in that regard. But I think transparency could help us all better understand that. I would just hope in a confidential setting there would be an opportunity to review those documents.”

Sens. Bob Corker (R- TN) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) – Letter to Secretary of State John Kerry – Washington Examiner – July 21, 2015

“A Corker spokesperson later told the Washington Examiner: ‘Senators Corker and Cardin sent a private letter to Secretary [of State John] Kerry requesting two additional documents associated with the Iran nuclear agreement that were left out of the materials required to be submitted to Congress per the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act that the president signed into law.’”


Key Media Resources

Top U.N. nuclear inspector to brief senators on Iran deal – Nahal Toosi – Politico – July 31, 2015

“The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, whose inspectors’ role in implementing the Iran nuclear deal has become a flashpoint on Capitol Hill, will privately brief members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next week. Yukiya Amano of the International Atomic Energy Agency agreed to the Aug. 5 session after receiving a letter requesting his presence from all of the lawmakers on the committee, the top two senators on the panel said in a statement Friday.”

Editorial: Iran’s Closed CovenantsWall Street Journal – July 31, 2015

“The Obama Administration insists there’s nothing secret about the Iran nuclear deal, even as it claims not to have read two crucial side deals Tehran has struck with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). ‘Confidential agreements, but no secrets’ is the way top U.S. negotiator Wendy Sherman describes the deals, which are thought to concern the military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear programs. Try parsing that distinction. And while you’re at it, consider that there might be additional separate agreements we haven’t heard about.”

The Iran Nuke Documents Obama Doesn’t Want You to See – Tim Mak – The Daily Beast – July 30, 2015

“Scattered around the U.S. Capitol complex are a series of Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facilities, or SCIFs, which are typically used to hold Top Secret information. But today in these deeply secure settings are a series of unclassified documents—items dealing with the Iran nuclear deal that are not secret, but that the Obama administration is nevertheless blocking the public from reading.”

Congress Alarmed by Iran Pact’s Secret Understandings – Eli Lake and Josh Rogin – Bloomberg News – July 25, 2015

“The controversy began on Wednesday [July 22] when Secretary of State John Kerry told House lawmakers behind closed doors that he neither possessed nor had read a copy of two secret side deals between the IAEA and Iran, according to Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee who was inside the session. Congress hasn’t seen those side agreements either. ‘Kerry told me directly that he has not read the secret side deals,’ Pompeo told us in an interview. ‘He told us the State Department does not have possession of these documents.’”

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