GOP lawmaker wants to withhold funds to nuclear watchdog over Iran

Rep. Ryan Zinke
Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.)

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) will introduce legislation this week that would bar funding for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) if it does not provide lawmakers access to secret side deals signed with Iran. 

The resolution would be attached it to the government funding measure known as the omnibus, and has the support of several House committee chairs.

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The international agency tasked with enforcing the nuclear deal signed with Iran earlier this year has told the U.S. it needs an additional $10.6 million annually in order to do so. 

Since the U.S. is obliged to fund 25 percent of the agency's budget, Congress would need to approve that funding. Zinke's resolution would make funding conditional on Congress receiving the side deals.  

Zinke said that in reality, the U.S. provides the IAEA with 42 percent of its yearly operating costs. 

"It is apparent that the bulk, if not all, of this increased funding will be paid for by the American tax-payers," he said in a statement. 

"Congress has the Constitutional responsibility to control the power of the purse. If we are expected to foot the bill for these side deals, we should know what measures are included in them." 

The revelation of side deals the agency signed with Iran angered Republicans as Congress considered the Iran deal reached earlier this summer. 

The deals dealt with providing the IAEA with access to Iranian facilities as the international organization sought to conclude a report on whether Iran had worked to build a nuclear weapon.

On Wednesday, the IAEA reported that it had found no credible evidence that Iran had recently engaged in trying to build an atomic weapon, though it also found that Iran had been doing so until 2009 — a later date than expected.

The Iran nuclear deal is slated to go into effect on Dec. 15, and as part of the deal the U.S. is set to lift sanctions on Tehran in January. 

“I think we’re getting off to a very, very poor start,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told reporters Wednesday after a top-secret committee hearing.

“These are exactly the things that we talked about during the hearing process that raised concerns and they’re being validated right now,” he said.  

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) added, “It just sets a very bad precedent that if Iran thinks it can violate the world’s will, as expressed by Security Council resolutions, and in essence face no consequence for it."  

Under the deal, the administration agreed to provide all relevant documents of the deal to Congress, but White House officials argued the side deals between the IAEA and Iran were not part of the formal deal.

"The Obama administration has acknowledged they know the contents of these side deals, yet Congress has been left in the dark," Zinke said in a statement. 

"Now, the IAEA is acknowledging that it will require additional funding to enforce the deal. I am introducing the following resolution to make the increased funding conditional on the IAEA releasing the side deals to Congress. I urge you to please join me in supporting transparency," he said. 

So far, the proposal is supported by Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas); Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.); House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah); House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas); House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific Chairman Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.); House Armed Services Committee Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee Chairman Joe Wilson (R-S.C.); and Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah).