This is the second in a series of posts on an accidentally-published interview with Iran’s Abbas Araghchi, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. This interview was conducted by regime insiders, and was meant to be provided only to highly placed loyalists. The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting is an outlet whose head is hand-picked by Iran’s Supreme Leader, and which is made up of political elites of proven loyalty. The publication of this off-the-record interview provides insight into what Iran is telling its own elites about the deal and how it was crafted.
The second set of claims we will investigate are the claims that the IAEA “secret deal” treating the Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program is a mere formality, so much so that the terms of the IAEA’s “final report” have already been framed. Here is what Araghchi said in the interview:
I told our friends at the Ministry of Defense that I vow to you that not one more word than the information that has already been given to the IAEA will be conveyed to them. The story of Parchin is one of 12 fabricated cases against Iran and the Westerners vehemently insisted that the PMD issue must be resolved. (They said) this file cannot remain open while we lift the sanctions. Before the implementation of the deal, we need to answer certain questions that the IAEA has for us. As far as the deal is concerned, these issues have been resolved, but there remain issues between us and the IAEA before it can finalize its report. That report will be gray. It will neither be black nor white. With regards to this issue, a roadmap has been signed by Mr. Salehi and Mr. Amano based on which, for example,we will present some of our own assessments on PMD by Aug. 15 and the IAEA will review them by Oct. 15, and that will conclude the task of the IAEA. We have no further problems as far as the deal is concerned, but by Dec. 15, Amano will present the final assessment and we have made some precautionary arrangements to hold off on certain things we need to do until the IAEA presents its final report. Meaning this will cause the Westerners themselves to pressure the IAEA to wrap up the case as soon as possible so that the deal could be implemented.
That last statement in bold is very strong evidence that Iran intends to violate the deal, and is structuring its plans to do so in a way that is intended to deceive international inspectors.
How plausible is this set of claims? The first point that has to be made is that only the IAEA and Iran are really in a position to say. The Associate Press published a document that it claims is the full text of the side deal treating the Parchin military facility, but this document — titled “Separate Agreement II” — is not the one that relates to the PMD issue. So far no one in the United States government, to include the President and the Secretary of State, actually know what the agreement between Iran and the IAEA might be. This is cause for concern, as according to the Institute for Science and International Security:
…the IAEA could release this agreement to member states under its existing rules…. Under its mandates, the IAEA has over time applied a great deal of secrecy to safeguards information, including arrangements between it and states. However, in the case of Iran safeguards, the IAEA has been far more transparent about safeguards-related information and documents than in almost all other cases.
The shift to secrecy on this particular deal thus represents a surprising departure from the IAEA’s ordinary practice with regard to Iran. Whereas the IAEA has before acted in accord with an understanding that member states have a vested interest in understanding exactly what is going on with Iran’s program. For example, the IAEA recently released an assessment of Iran’s expansion activity at Parchin that suggests that Iranian claims of “road work” are not plausible explanations for the construction equipment and activity observed at that military facility. It is thus striking that the IAEA is keeping this agreement secret.
If the Associated Press report on Parchin is accurate, however, it is suggestive of an IAEA decision to make very lenient agreements designed to smooth Iran’s path to normalization. As reported here at IranTruth, the Parchin agreement — though described in terms of ongoing inspections in the press — appears to make Parchin verification efforts a one-off experience.
The alleged side-deal between Iran and the IAEA does not contain any provision for “permanent” or even “ongoing” inspections. It requires Iran to pony up certain details and samples that Iran itself will collect. Nowhere in that deal is any reference to this being done more than once. In fact, the language about how this provision will be “followed by” a courtesy visit arranged by Iran indicates that it is a temporally specific event: it will happen once, and then the IAEA will be satisfied. Lest you believe that ongoing inspections of Parchin are in the road map to which the side deal refers, they are not: the paragraph 5 specified merely states that there will be a separate agreement treating Parchin, of which this is apparently the whole.
The same “road map” document definitely confirms the timeline that Araghchi speaks of in the leaked interview, with the same deadlines he offers. That part of his claims are publicly confirmed by the IAEA itself, the only other party that knows for certain what the terms of the deal happen to be.
For these reasons, this set of claims by Araghchi are probably accurate. The PMD ‘side deal’ is probably a pure formality, merely intended to sweep all of this under the rug. Araghchi’s claim that Iran has “made some precautionary arrangements to hold off on certain things we need to do until the IAEA presents its final report” is probably also true. Congress should read this claim as a clear statement of Iran’s intent to deceive us and the international community while proceeding with development of nuclear weapons. There are good reasons to believe this statement is the truth as Araghchi sees it.