During a meeting with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials in Vienna, two American Congressmen learned that two secret side deals existed that were not being disclosed to Congress. These deals exist pursuant to an agreement to except sensitive sites from any public oversight, leaving them to Iran and the IAEA to handle privately according to any standards they want. The deals treat at least one of the most sensitive and interesting sites in Iran, the Parchin military complex where much of Iran’s nuclear weapons research is thought to have been done. The second deal has to do with military aspects of Iran’s nuclear program, which will now not be revealed to the United States.
There are almost certainly more of these deals that have yet to be disclosed. The reason is that Parchin is not the only secret facility on which Iran’s nuclear program turns that is not discussed in the deal sent to Congress. The Bushehr pressurized water reactor is also not mentioned in the deal, and yet it is critical to Iran’s plutonium production capacity. It has the capacity to produce enough plutonium for “dozens” of bombs, so any deal that aimed to address Iran’s nuclear weapons program would have to address it. Given its absence from the deal disclosed to Congress, we can assume there is another deal that is being kept secret from our elected representatives.
All these secret side deals are in direct defiance of a law signed by the President himself. This law says that “the President shall transmit to the appropriate congressional committees and leadership the agreement as defined in subsection (h)(1)[.]” Subsection (h)(1) defines “agreement” to include any agreements pursuant to which the United States commits or agrees to take action, “regardless of the form it takes,” and including “side agreements.”
The agreement of Iran to these side agreements with the IAEA is, indeed, a thing “pursuant to which” the US is taking action – to whit, the action of entering into the public agreement revealed to Congress. This was a negotiated compromise that led to the surrender of a key American demand: the demand to know Iran’s history of military nuclear research. This demand was waived by Secretary Kerry in June, following the April framework but before the final deal. He said:
[W]e’re not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they did at one point in time or another. We know what they did. We have no doubt. We have absolute knowledge with respect to the certain military activities they were engaged in. What we’re concerned about is going forward. It’s critical to us to know that going forward, those activities have been stopped, and that we can account for that in a legitimate way.
Admiral Kirby, US State Department spokesman, appeared to confirm this in the midst of trying to refuse to comment on the matter. “We know that the IAEA is going to work with Iran to make sure they get the access that they need,” he said. That would make sense as an answer only if, in fact, the State Department knew that the IAEA and Iran were negotiating private deals about what right access would look like.
Can we take comfort in the state of our intelligence, this “absolute knowledge” that Secretary Kerry claims to have? It is not likely. The last intelligence assessment of Iran’s nuclear program is eight years old, and the Central Intelligence Agency has refused to revise it in spite of new evidence that contradicts its central claims. This assessment held that Iran had abandoned its quest for nuclear weapons via cooperation A.Q. Khan’s network. However, the United States had not known of that cooperation until it was revealed by an Iranian opposition group in 2002. The 2007 report that they had abandoned a program the US had not known existed is questionable, according to former CIA director Michael Hayden: “That judgment was based on the evidence of absence, not the absence of evidence. Of course, hidden in that conclusion was the reality that, until 2003, Iran was indeed doing all those things. They lied about it then, and they are lying about it now.”
The law the President signed committed him personally to transmit the details of these side agreements, as they were concessions pursuant to which the United States agreed to the terms of the public deal. That means that these secret deals represent a violation of US Federal law. The President was personally directed by the law he signed to reveal these deals and their terms to Congress. If he knew they existed, he himself is in violation of Federal law. The State Department, in its conspiracy to keep these deals secret, is also in direct violation of the law at the highest levels.
Meanwhile, we can be sure that there are more deals about which we know nothing. What about Bushehr? What else besides that? Until we have answers, we cannot be sure of the scale of the secrets being kept from the American people and their representatives in Congress.