The International Atomic Energy Agency on Thursday came out swinging against an Associated Press report that claimed Iran could use its own inspectors to investigate a suspected military site in Parchin. The implication is that IAEA made this “side deal” with Iran’s leaders at the exclusion of the Obama/Kerry deal.
“I am disturbed by statements suggesting that the IAEA has given responsibility for nuclear inspections to Iran. Such statements misrepresent the way in which we will undertake this important verification work,” IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said in a statement.
He said the “separate arrangements” between the U.N. nuclear watchdog and Tehran “are confidential and I have a legal obligation not to make them public,” but “I can state that the arrangements are technically sound and consistent with our long-established practices. They do not compromise our safeguards standards in any way. “
Amano called the deal with Iran a “very robust agreement, with strict timelines, which will help us to clarify past and present outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear” efforts.
On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported on a side deal between the IAEA and Iran regarding the Parchin facility. The disclosure sparked a firestorm of criticism from GOP lawmakers and presidential candidates who think the Obama administration made too many concessions during negotiations for the broader nuclear agreement between Tehran and Western powers.
However, hours later the Associated Press changed large portions of its expose and offered no explanation for the changes.
Among the revisions, the news agency cut the claim that Iranian scientists would gather the air and soil samples at Parchin, instead of UN investigators, according to Haaretz. It also deleted an assertion that only seven such samples could be taken from suspected nuclear installations.
The modifications left the media and those on both sides of the Iran nuclear deal scratching their heads and demanding an explanation.
Wendy Benjaminson, the AP’s Washington assistant bureau chief, tweeted that the paragraphs in question had been restored and were cut “solely for space,” a strange claim considering the article was posted online, where space is not a problem.
That the details of the AP article itself should become part of the debate over the Iran deal shows just how volatile the politics surrounding the agreement remain. It also signals that the tug-of-war between the pact’s supporters and opponents is likely to grow only more contentious in the weeks leading up to the congressional vote on the bargain next month.
Also on Thursday, Sen. Claire McCaskill (MO) became the 26th Senate Democrat to come out for the deal. The GOP-controlled Congress is expected to vote against the deal and President Obama needs at least 34 Democrats on his side to ensure that his promised veto is sustained.