Obama aide: 'Virtually impossible' for Iran to hide nuclear activity

Getty Images

One of the Obama administration's top negotiators is defending the controversial Iranian nuclear agreement from critics who say it does not go far enough to protect the West.

ADVERTISEMENT
Under the agreement, it will be “virtually impossible” for Iran to cover up nuclear activity, Energy Secretary Ernest MonizErnest MonizEnergy secretary: ‘We got it right’ on Iran deal Overnight Energy: Trump visits Flint | GOP chairman defends subpoenas in climate probe Overnight Energy: Trump to visit Flint water plant Wednesday MORE says.

“We are better off forever in terms of Iranian nuclear activity under this agreement than we would be without it,” Moniz told "Fox News Sunday.”

Moniz made the rounds on the Sunday morning political talk shows.

Critics have suggested the nuclear agreement gives Iran too much leeway to secretly build a weapon. One of the chief concerns is that investigators could be forced to wait 24 days before inspecting covert sites suspected of nuclear activity. Some fear this will give Iran enough time to hide any traces of such activity.

“You wouldn’t tell a drug dealers, give them a 24-day notice,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one of the deal’s biggest critics, said. “They’d just flush the drugs down the toilet."

But Moniz said three weeks is a “reasonable” amount of time to inspect for nuclear activity.

Flushing things down the toilet “is not so simple with nuclear materials,” he told ABC’s “This Week.” “We are very confident in our ability to detect the vestiges of any nuclear work beyond 24 days.”

Eventually, inspectors would collect environmental samples.

"When environmental samples are taken and nuclear activity has taken place, it is virtually impossible to clean up that place,” Moniz said on “Fox News Sunday.” You can paint the floors, you can do what you want. We feel very confident that we would find evidence of nuclear activity.”

The key for western negotiators was “getting a defined timeframe” so Iran couldn’t hold inspectors out for more than 24 days, Moniz said on CBS’s "Face the Nation."

“The part of the agreement that is absolutely critical is the one that prevents them from having a weapon,” Moniz told CNN’s “State of the Union."

“There’s a lot more you need for a nuclear explosive and if you look at the agreement you will see an indefinite commitment to not pursuing four major activities needed for a weapon,” he added on Fox.

Moniz said the Obama administration is simply trying to clean up a mess left by the Bush administration.

"The issue of Iran having a nuclear program was already established in the previous administration,” Moniz said. "Clearly, what we have done is we have dramatically limited and constrained the program."

--This report was updated at 1:36 p.m.