IAEA chief stonewalls Congress

Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency Alliance (IAEA) came to Capitol Hill yesterday to try to reassure members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the Iran nuclear deal. Amano wanted to convince Senators that the private side deals between Iran and the IAEA aren’t problematic and shouldn’t lead Congress to reject the deal.

There was just one problem: Amano couldn’t provide any details about his agency’s confidential arrangement to examine Iran’s nuclear research to see if the mullahs are trying to develop a nuclear weapon. “There were many questions on this issue,” Amano reported. “I repeated that I am not authorized to share or discuss confidential information.”

Amano might therefore just as well have stayed home. According to Committee chairman Bob Corker, “most members left here with greater concerns about the inspection regime than they came in with.”

Corker’s Democratic counterpart, ranking Democrat Benjamin Cardin of Maryland, also expressed disappointment. “I think there are provisions in the document that relate to the integrity of the review,” he said, stating the obvious.

Amano’s justification for not disclosing this vital information doesn’t seem to wash. He protests that the credibility of his agency depends on confidentiality. Yet, Wendy Sherman, the lead U.S. negotiator of the Iran deal, says she has seen documents relating to the side agreements between Iran and the IAEA. As Senator Corker asked, “if Wendy has been able to read it, why can’t we read it?”

But it doesn’t really matter whether Amano has good reasons for not telling Congress what’s in the side agreements. As Sen. Cardin says, these agreements go to the integrity of inspections, and the integrity of inspections goes to viability of the deal (though even under the best inspections possible, the deal doesn’t prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear state in the “out years”).

It’s reasonable to suspect, moreover, that provisions pertaining to the integrity of inspections we farmed out to the IAEA because the U.S. couldn’t get Iran to accept language that (a) it considered necessary or, more likely, (b) it knew Congress would see as vital.

If Congress isn’t permitted to find out what’s in the side agreements, it should reject the deal for that reason alone.