Iran allowed to use own investigators for controversial site

Iran allowed to use own investigators for controversial site
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Iran will be allowed to use its own experts to look for signs of nuclear weapons work at a contested military facility, according to The Associated Press, in a disclosure that is sure to further inflame criticism of a secret component of the nuclear deal. 

The secret agreement signed between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regarding the Parchin facility has emerged as one of the most contested aspects of the multinational deal signed by the U.S., Iran and five other world powers.

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The AP report confirms allegations made by members of Congress, who have not been able to see the document for themselves.

Earlier this summer, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerPress: How 'Nervous Nancy' trumped Trump Press: How 'Nervous Nancy' trumped Trump Amash gets standing ovation at first town hall after calling for Trump's impeachment MORE (R-Tenn.) said that the details of the agreement “would not be unlike causing athletes to just mail in their own urine specimens in the mail, and us believing that it came from them.” 

House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerTed Cruz, AOC have it right on banning former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists Ted Cruz, AOC have it right on banning former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists Rep. Amash stokes talk of campaign against Trump MORE (R-Ohio) and other GOP lawmakers were quick to blast the “secret” agreement Wednesday.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTrump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign 'dirt' Trump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign 'dirt' Overnight Health Care: Pelosi to change drug-pricing plan after complaints | 2020 Democrats to attend Planned Parenthood abortion forum | House holds first major 'Medicare for All' hearing MORE (R-Texas) — the No. 2 Senate Republican — said the deal is based on a “remarkably naïve” trust of Iran. 

“This type of unorthodox agreement has never been done before by the IAEA and speaks to the great lengths our negotiators took to accommodate the Ayatollah despite repeated assurances from the administration that this deal is not based on trust,” Corker added in a statement.

The former deputy director general of the IAEA, Olli Heinonen, told the AP that he could not think of a single instance in which a country being monitored for nuclear work has been allowed to do its own investigations. 

Analysts suspect Iran previously tested detonators for nuclear devices at the Parchin military facility.

In recent weeks, intelligence assessments and commercial satellite photographs have suggested that Iran may have been scrubbing the site of any past nuclear work in the run-up to inspections. 

Under the terms of the agreement, Iran has agreed to provide the IAEA with photos and videos of areas that may be linked to weapons work. Exceptions will be made for “military concerns,” the AP reported. That suggests that international inspectors will not have complete access, even to secondhand reports of suspected weaponization sites.

The White House has repeatedly denied allegations that the bilateral agreement between Iran and the IAEA is a “secret side-deal” to the main nuclear accord. Instead, it has insisted that the terms of the IAEA’s inspections regime always remain confidential and that that secret nature of those agreements is a core part of the international body’s work. 

On Wednesday, it expressed confidence that the IAEA's ability to investigate Iran's alleged efforts to build a nuclear weapon under the terms of the agreement.

"We are confident in the agency's technical plans for investigating the possible military dimensions of Iran's former program," said National Security Council spokesman Ned Price. "Just as importantly, the IAEA is comfortable with arrangements, which are unique to the agency's investigation of Iran's historical activities."

Price declined to comment on the details of the report.

Administration officials have not been able to review the text of the agreement between Iran and the IAEA themselves, but they have maintained that they have been fully briefed on their terms and are “satisfied” by what they have heard.

Those briefings have been relayed to members of Congress by officials, including IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, though lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed frustration that they cannot get the agreements’ actual text.  

--Jordan Fabian contributed to this report, which was updated at 6:26 p.m.