‘Side deals’ intensify Iran pact fears

Oh to be a fly on the wall inside the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s meeting today with the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano on the Iran nuclear “side deals” that deal with the IAEA.

Side deals?

Yes, it turns out that there are secret — bilateral — side deals between the IAEA and Iran that accompany the broader nuclear deal concluded in Vienna with the goal of capping the ayatollah’s atomic ambitions.

It’s no wonder the Foreign Relations Committee wants to be briefed.

During his rounds of Capitol Hill, Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress that he hadn’t read these side deals, wasn’t sure who on his team had read them — and that the Obama administration didn’t even have a copy of them.

These same side deals haven’t been made public and appear to have only come to light reportedly due to a recent fact-finding trip to the IAEA headquarters in Vienna by U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.).

Moreover, the IAEA-Iran side deals weren’t submitted to Congress, a requirement under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act signed into law by President Obama.

It’s all hard to believe.

But beyond the concern about Team Obama’s handling of the two reported side deals, the pacts appear to cover some critical issues, such as the so-called possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.

For instance, Iran is supposed to come clean to the IAEA on any prior work on a nuclear weapon. The IAEA has been after Tehran about this matter for a while — well before the Vienna agreement — but Iran has failed to answer all of the IAEA’s inquiries.

No surprise there.

Iran has consistently maintained (since its illicit nuclear program was uncovered in 2003) that the purpose of its nuclear program was peaceful — for generating power and for medical research.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has claimed that the development of a nuke would be “un-Islamic” and that the atomic bomb assertion was a “myth” generated by Tehran’s foes.

That’s all nonsense, of course.

It’s firmly believed that Iran’s nuclear program was for building the bomb, key to asserting Tehran’s desire for regional dominance and freedom of action in its foreign policy — which, by the way, makes the other secret side deal so important.

It appears to surround inspections of the infamous Parchin military complex near Tehran, where it’s believed Iran conducted its bomb-related research and development.

Under this side deal, U.S. Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho) reportedly asserts that Iran will be allowed to essentially self-report to the IAEA on its activities at Parchin — no foreign inspectors allowed.

If true, that’s troubling.

It’s no wonder that many Americans are skeptical of — or even against, according to a new Quinnipiac poll — the nuclear deal; congressional approval of the pact is seemingly in serious jeopardy.

It’s probably not a coincidence that beyond today’s meeting with the IAEA chief on Capitol Hill, President Obama will also speak in Washington on the nuclear deal, an effort to clarify the muddled message on issues like secret side deals.

The fact is that neither the briefing nor the talk is likely to help build support for this dangerous deal — and understandably so from what we now know.

 - Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense.

About the Author

Peter Brookes Senior Fellow, National Security Affairs
Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy

Originally appeared in Boston Herald