Critics of Iran deal fume as UN confirms past attempt to build nuke

An official determination that Iran formerly worked to build a nuclear weapon — despite Tehran's ardent claims to the contrary — is just the latest bad omen for the prospects of the nuclear deal involving the country, critics of the agreement said Wednesday.

Hours after an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) assessment leaked to the press, key opponents of the nuclear deal warned that it was proof Iran was getting a light sentence from the rest of the globe.

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“I think we’re getting off to a very, very poor start,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger RNC votes to give Trump 'undivided support' ahead of 2020 Sen. Risch has unique chance to guide Trump on foreign policy MORE (R-Tenn.) told reporters after a roughly two-hour 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 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," said Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.), one of the four Democrats who voted against the deal in September.

"Then what makes it think that whatever sanctions or other protocols we have moving forward in the [nuclear deal], that they won’t think in the long term that they can get away with violations of that?"

The IAEA report, which was leaked to multiple news outlets on Wednesday but won’t be formally approved until Dec. 15, concludes that Iran conducted preliminary work to build a nuclear weapon, but ceased that activity at least five years ago. 

Completion of the report was a requirement of the nuclear deal signed between Iran, the United States and five other world powers this summer, as one step toward enacting the deal. The diplomatic pact sets limits on Iran’s ability to build a nuclear weapon in exchange for rolling back sanctions on its oil and financial sectors.

The report essentially turns the page on Iran’s past nuclear efforts, the Obama administration said on Wednesday, and sets the stage for ensuring that it sticks to the terms of the deal.

In coming weeks, the U.S. and five other nations will submit a resolution at the IAEA “with a view towards closing the [past military dimensions] issue, and then after that we can focus on implementing” the agreement, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

The IAEA’s focus on Iran’s nuclear history had long been controversial on Capitol Hill, where multiple lawmakers tried unsuccessfully this summer to force the United Nations agency to disclose the “secret side deals” it had made with Tehran to investigate the previous work.

Wednesday’s report is “dangerously incomplete,” said Rep. Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Graham clashed with Pentagon chief over Syria | Talk grows that Trump will fire Coats | Coast Guard officer accused of domestic terrorism plot Sean Spicer joins 'Extra' as 'special DC correspondent' Trump, Pompeo: Alabama woman who joined ISIS cannot return to US MORE (R-Kan.), who helped lead the House’s criticism of the Iran deal.

“The IAEA must not close the book on Iran’s past nuclear weapons related activities until a thorough and conclusive report has been completed," he said in a statement. "This document doesn’t even come close to accomplishing that basic task.”

Yet Corker on Wednesday acknowledged that the matter is largely out of Congress’s hands, given lawmakers’ failure to kill the deal earlier this year.

“We know we have a situation where the inertia is towards closing this file, towards moving ahead toward the sanctions relief that Iran wants,” he told reporters.

“I don’t know what to do about it.”