A double secret deal with Iran

In several posts we examined the Joint Plan of Action agreement the Obama administration arrived at with Iran in November. It is brief and poorly written, right down to the footnotes You really have to take a look with your own eyes. I think it represents a tremendous victory for Iran. There is a reason why the Iranian officials have been the best source of information about the terms of the deal. They are rightly proud of what they have accomplished.

If the idea is to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, the agreement is a bust. It leaves the centrifuges running and it leaves a stockpile of enriched uranium sufficient for several bombs. The scope of the agreement does not extend beyond the known enrichment facilities and the facility under construction at Parchin. It guarantees Iran that at the end of the day it will be left with a nuclear program. Combined with the sanctions relief Iran secures up front, it looks like the agreement facilitates Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.

The JPOA left details to be ironed out. It hasn’t yet kicked in, but now the details have been ironed out and the agreement is set to commence. The announcement on Sunday indicates the deal kicks in on January 20. Los Angeles Times reporter Paul Richter covered the announcement here.

Richter followed up with a story yesterday disclosing the existence of a so-far secret document setting forth the details:

Key elements of a new nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers are contained in an informal, 30-page text not yet publicly acknowledged by Western officials, Iran’s chief negotiator said Monday.

Abbas Araqchi disclosed the existence of the document in a Persian-language interview with the semiofficial Iranian Students News Agency.

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When officials from Iran and the world powers announced that they had completed the implementing agreement, they didn’t release the text of the deal, nor did they acknowledge the existence of an informal addendum.

In the interview, Araqchi referred to the side agreement using the English word “nonpaper,” a diplomatic term used for an informal side agreement that doesn’t have to be disclosed publicly.

The nonpaper deals with such important details as the operation of a joint commission to oversee how the deal is implemented and Iran’s right to continue nuclear research and development during the next several months, he said.

Araqchi described the joint commission as an influential body that will have authority to decide disputes. U.S. officials have described it as a discussion forum rather than a venue for arbitrating major disputes.

Richter updated his story after hearing from the State Department:

A State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, denied later Monday that there was any secret agreement.

“Any documentation associated with implementation tracks completely with what we’ve described,” she said. “These are technical plans submitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency,” the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency.

“We will make information available to Congress and the public as it becomes available,” Harf said.

In the meantime, we have this:

In his interview, Araqchi touched on the sensitive issue of how much latitude Iran will have to continue its nuclear research and development.

U.S. officials said Sunday that Iran would be allowed to continue existing research and development projects and with pencil-and-paper design work, but not to advance research with new projects. Araqchi, however, implied that the program would have wide latitude.

“No facility will be closed; enrichment will continue, and qualitative and nuclear research will be expanded,” he said. “All research into a new generation of centrifuges will continue.”

At NRO, Patrick Brennan comments on Richter’s story. We’ll see the double secret nonpaper or whatever it is at some point soon. Until then, however, I take Araqchi at his word because, as I say, the Iranian officials have been a better guide to the agreement than the Obama administration. That ought to tell us something.

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