Inspector Clouseau was unavailable (2)

Today the juicebox leftists at Vox and their fellow lefties elsewhere in the media took a stab at discrediting George Jahn’s August 19 AP story reporting the self-inspection provisions of the IAEA side deal with Iran applicable to the Parchin facility. The AP has now posted the text of the original draft of the side deal here. The side deal shows President Obama and administration officials to be voluble liars on critically important matters inherent in the deal with Iran. Omri Ceren emails to provide the relevant background and bring the story up to date as of tonight. Omri writes:

The Obama administration spent the last 2 years telling lawmakers and reporters that any deal with Iran would require the Iranians to provide IAEA inspectors robust access to the Parchin military base, where the Iranians conducted hydrodynamic experiments relevant to the detonation of nuclear warheads. The IAEA needs the access to determine how far the Iranians got as a prerequisite to establishing a verification regime. Sherman in 2013: the JPOA requires Iran to “address past and present practices… including Parchin” [a]; Sherman in 2014: “as part of any comprehensive agreement… we expect, indeed, Parchin to be resolved” [b]; Harf in 2015: “we would find it… very difficult to imagine a JCPA that did not require such [inspector] access at Parchin” [c]; etc.

Last month Sen. Risch suggested in an open SFRC hearing that the West had collapsed on the requirement, and that instead the Iranians had worked out a secret side deal with Iran under which the Iranians would be trusted to collect their own samples for the IAEA [d]. Kerry refused to confirm the arrangement citing classification issues, but the AP’s Vienna reporter locked it down anyway [e].

White House officials and validators continued to declare that no way would the IAEA ever agree to that kind of arrangement, since it would preclude the agency from securing a chain of custody over the evidence. But the administration refused to transmit the side deal to Congress – which would have resolved the debate – and instead claimed that the U.S. couldn’t get the text because it was a confidential Iran-IAEA bilateral agreement. Business Insider confirmed that in fact U.S. diplomats can call for the agreement at any time because Washington sits on the IAEA’s Board of Governors [f]. Nonetheless Kerry told Congress that not only did the U.S. not have the text, but that he hadn’t even seen the final wording, though he added that maybe “Wendy Sherman may have” (she subsequently clarified she hadn’t either [g]).

Yesterday the AP revealed that its reporters had – in contrast – seen a draft reflecting the final language, and that they were in a position to confirm the concessions made to Iran [h]. Instead of allowing IAEA inspectors to collect evidence from Parchin, samples will be collected by the Iranians using Iranian equipment. Instead of allowing the IAEA to collect everything it wants, only seven samples will be handed over from mutually agreed upon areas. Instead of giving inspectors access to facilities, photos and videos will be taken by the Iranians themselves, again only from mutually agreed upon areas.

After yesterday’s article was published someone – presumably an overeager AP editor – tried to save some space by cutting several somewhat redundant paragraphs from the original draft. That triggered a flood of conspiracy theories about the AP retracting the story, and this morning there were a flood of snarky attacks on the outlet: “The AP’s controversial and badly flawed Iran inspections story, explained” (Vox [i]), “BREAKING: Nuclear Stuff Really Complicated” (TPM [k]), “Revised AP report… overwrites some of the more troubling aspects” (Haaretz [l]), “Potentially Deal-Shattering Report About Iran Inspections Has Some Issues” (HuffPo [j), etc.

As the news cycle unfolded today it became clear that the AP had the goods on the collapse to Iran. The AP restored the cut paragraphs and added a Washington angle [n]. AP reporters started listing specific concessions confirmed by the document [o][p][q][r] – and publicly daring critics to deny them [s]. Meanwhile IAEA chief Amano put out a statement that sought to defend the deal, but very much did not deny the AP report [m]. Then the afternoon press briefing happened, and again – as with Amano – State Department spokesman Kirby pointedly declined to back the White House validators who had attacked the AP’s report [t]:

QUESTION: … The points in the article that Iran would take the soil samples, Iran would take the videos; there would be seven points within Parchin, two points outside; that there wouldn’t necessarily be any IAEA inspectors in the facility… you don’t challenge those per se?
MR KIRBY: Well, as I said yesterday, Brad, I’m not going to comment about the contents of a draft document between the IAEA and Iran. Even the director general wouldn’t go so far as to reveal the details of what is a confidential agreement…

QUESTION: … was there any specific item in the story that – factual item in the story that was wrong? I don’t want to know which one it is, but there are times when you guys will say this was inaccurate without saying specifically what because you can’t comment on the specifics. So was there anything you can specifically say without identifying it that was inaccurate…
MR KIRBY: Well, as I said to Brad, I’m not going to get into speaking about the details of a draft document between —
QUESTION: I’m not asking about the details.
MR KIRBY: Arshad, I know, if you’d just let me finish.
MR KIRBY: I’m not going to get into speaking about the details between – of a draft document between the IAEA and Iran or any other nation for that matter…

Then finally the AP just published the full text of the side deal, confirming the previous reporting [linked above].

After you read the side deal – which is short – you should also read another article the AP published this afternoon, which is an explainer on the substance of the Parchin debate now that the side deal is public. I wanted to make sure you caught the part about some of the policy and policy angles that are going to get reported out over the next few days:

The document on Parchin…will let the Iranians themselves look for signs of the very activity they deny — past work on nuclear weapons… Any indication that the IAEA is diverging from established inspection rules could weaken the agency… and feed suspicions that it is ready to overly compromise in hopes of winding up a probe that has essentially been stalemated for more than a decade. Politically, the arrangement has been grist for American opponents of the broader separate agreement to limit Iran’s future nuclear programs, signed by the Obama administration, Iran and five world powers in July. Critics have complained that the wider deal is built on trust of the Iranians, while the administration has insisted it depends on reliable inspections.

On a policy level, the side deal effectively trusts Iran to investigate its own violations, something that comes off as a bit absurd on its face (“will let the Iranians themselves look for signs of the very activity they deny”). On a political level, that absurdity will confirm suspicions that the IAEA has been pressured by parties who want to put aside substantive concerns over the viability of the nuclear deal in order to preserve it at all costs.