Speaking of the Iran deal (2)

Having watched the Sunday gabfests with Secretaries Kerry and Moniz retailing the Iran deal yesterday, I appreciate Omri Ceren’s email elucidation of the statements peddled in the appearacnes. Here is Omri’s second email message commenting on the Sunday appearances:

Again, if you untangle what happened across all five shows, they were trying to answer concerns about collapsing in the three overarching areas of the Iran deal: will it work to keep Iran away from a nuclear weapon for a decade (the verification debate); even if it works, is it worth the cost of empowering Iran with advanced weapons and hundreds of billions of dollars (the arms embargo debate); doesn’t the deal make Iran into a nuclear power – the opposite of what it was supposed to do – because it expires and allows Iran’s breakout time to go to zero (the sunset clause debate).

The last email had their talking points about the sunset clause. Those were a split between false and obscure, and much the same happened when they tried to discuss the concession to Iran on anytime/anywhere inspections. Kerry tried to claim on several shows that he’d never even heard about the idea, while Moniz mostly settled for the more on-message claim that for scientific reasons the collapse doesn’t matter.

The administration has been struggling since Vienna to spin away its collapse on anytime/anywhere inspections. Administration officials had told lawmakers and journalists for months that the Iranians would be forced to accept the condition. Instead the final deal allows the Iranians to jam up the IAEA for 24 days at a time. Secretaries Kerry and Moniz were pressed on the issues on yesterday’s Sunday morning ABC, CBS, and Fox News shows [a][b][c].

Kerry and Moniz responded in various places with three different talking points: (1) that anytime/anywhere access isn’t really a well-defined standard in the arms control world (2) that U.S. negotiators never intended to secure anytime/anywhere access and never implied otherwise (this is the one that’s getting political and media attention because it’s just shameless gaslighting) (3) that anytime/anywhere access doesn’t matter because technology in general – and specifically environmental sampling – can make up the difference.

(1) Anytime/anywhere access isn’t really a well-defined standard in the arms control world

CBS Face the Nation
KERRY: There’s no such thing in arms control as anytime, anywhere. There isn’t any nation in the world – none – that has an anytime, anywhere.

Fox News Sunday
KERRY: The fact is that in arms control there is no country anywhere on this planet that has anywhere, anytime. There is no such standard within arms control inspections… we never, ever had a discussion about anywhere, anytime. It’s called managed access. It’s under the IAEA. Everybody understands it.

The claim is false. “Anytime/anywhere” is shorthand for the IAEA getting access to any site within about a day, and is just another way of describing an IAEA snap inspection regime that covers declared and suspect sites. In its current version it goes back at least to mid-2014, when Kenneth Pollack published a May 2014 NYT piece that included the line “[inspectors] need to be able to go anywhere and see anything – immediately” [d]. Iran’s nuclear-related PR outlets pushed back: “Fmr IAEA envoy Soltanieh responds to Kenneth Pollack’s proposal for ‘anytime, anywhere’ inspections” [e]. IAEA chief Yukiya Amano eventually sided with Pollack and started explicitly calling for snap inspections, prompting the Iranians to call him out by name and again reject the condition [f]

“Anytime/anywhere” was all over the policy debate last month, after experts began to realize that the administration may collapse on it in Vienna. David Albright, a former weapons inspector and now president of the Institute for Science and International Security, told SFRC that a deal must include “inspector access to Iranian sites where suspicious activity may be occurring, including military sites, anywhere and promptly, or ‘anytime,’ and certainly within 24 hours” [g]. Olli Heinonen, a 27 year IAEA veteran who sat atop the agency’s verification shop, wrote “unfettered access to sites, facilities, material, equipment, people, and documents is imperative to the credible long-term verification of any nuclear agreement with Iran… Access request to inspect any site – declared or suspect – with a reason, should be gained in short notice to avoid tampering that could compromise the verification objectives.” [h]. Former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden noted “I do think anytime, anywhere inspections are absolutely essential… what we believe would happen in a breakout, is that they would simply take the technology from Natanz and replicate it at a secret military facility, and it’s there in that facility that the HEU for a weapon would be enriched” [i]. Former Obama DIA director Michael Flynn told HFAC “Iran’s leaders made it clear the furthest they will go is to allow International inspectors (IAEA) only ‘managed access’ to nuclear facilities, and only with significant prior notification. This makes it nearly impossible… to have real ‘eyes on’ the state of Iranian nuclear development.” [j].

(2) U.S. negotiators never intended to secure anytime/anywhere access and never implied otherwise

CBS Face the Nation
QUESTION: What happened, Mr. Secretary, with anytime, anywhere?
KERRY: We never – this is a term that honestly I never heard in the four years that we were negotiating. It was not on the table.

Fox News Sunday
QUESTION: President Obama and both of you talked about insisting on anytime, anywhere inspections. But what you ended up with is that Iran can keep us out of its most secret, most suspicious sites for up to 24 days. Secretary Kerry, three and a half weeks is not anytime, anywhere.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, that’s not accurate that we ever – I never, in four years, had a discussion about anywhere, anytime. That is —
QUESTION: Secretary Moniz did —
KERRY: Before he came into this negotiation; he did not. Not in the course of this negotiation.

The generous interpretation is that Kerry is making a very clumsy effort at gaslighting journalists. It’s just not true that officials never promised anytime/anywhere inspections. Lead U.S. negotiator Wendy Sherman told Israeli journalists last week that negotiators used it but it was just a rhetorical flourish: “one of those circumstances where we have all been rhetorical from time to time” [k]. Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told CNN last April “first of all, under this deal, you will have anywhere/anytime 24/7 access” [l]. He said the same thing to Israel Channel 10 [m]. Moniz himself told Bloomberg “we expect to have anywhere, anytime access” [n].

Meanwhile dozens and dozens of lawmakers have used the phrase in statements and hearings [o][p].

The less generous interpretation is that Kerry really, actually never heard about the idea. It would mean he hasn’t been following either the policy or political debates over verification. It would mean he wasn’t communicating with the White House’s national security team or with his own team. It would mean he wasn’t aware of analysis of top experts like Albright, Heinonen, Hayden, and Flynn.

(3) Anytime/anywhere access doesn’t matter because technology in general – and specifically environmental sampling – can make up the difference

ABC This Week
MONIZ: … There have been various analogies to throwing things down toilets, et cetera. This is not so simple with nuclear materials. We have plenty of evidence of exquisite environmental sampling that will reveal the traces of nuclear work.

CBS Face the Nation
MONIZ: … Now, 24 days – we feel very confident in the capability of IAEA with environmental sampling to detect any nuclear activity very, very long after it has occurred.

Fox News Sunday
MONIZ: … what will happen is, if the process runs the full length of 24 days, the IAEA inspectors will take environmental samples. When environmental samples are taken and nuclear activity has taken place, it is virtually impossible to clean up that place. You can paint the floors, you can do what you want; we feel very confident that one would find the evidence of nuclear activity.

The claim is misleading on at least a couple of levels. First, it’s misleading regarding the goal of inspections. The question is not about detection but detection to a sufficient degree that Iran could be confirmed cheating scientifically and then diplomatically. If the Iranians had a month to scrub down a facility, the IAEA will still be able to detect that nuclear activity had occurred there, but it couldn’t determine the nature of that activity. The result would be that – once the case was taken up by the violations committee – there would be enough doubt that few if any countries would be willing to blow up the deal.

Second, it’s misleading regarding the target of inspections. Once there’s a large-scale operating facility, it might be detectable without snap access. But Albright told Bloomberg last week that while secret facilities are being built there are “not any centrifuges at those sites, let alone any material… if you had 24 days, you could clean the site out” [q].

This talking point first took hold during Vienna, when White House validators unsuccessfully tried to spin up the New York Times and the Daily Beast on the idea that collapsing on anytime/anywhere inspections wasn’t a big deal because technology could make up for the lack of access [r] [s]. The talking point has apparently now coalesced into “environmental sampling.”

[a] http://m.state.gov/md245055.htm
[b] http://m.state.gov/md245057.htm
[c] http://m.state.gov/md245056.htm
[d] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/07/opinion/the-right-way-to-press-iran.html
[e] https://twitter.com/nuclearenergyir/status/468460549152718848
[f] http://bigstory.ap.org/article/9f85485c0bc5403391a55bf083fca2af/official-iran-wont-accept-snap-inspections-nuke-sites
[g] http://www.foreign.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/062515_Albright_Testimony.pdf
[h] http://taskforceoniran.org/pdf/Verifying_Final_Deal.pdf
[i] http://taskforceoniran.org/transcripts/Looming_Deadline_Event.pdf
[j] http://docs.house.gov/meetings/FA/FA13/20150610/103582/HHRG-114-FA13-Wstate-FlynnM-20150610.pdf
[k] http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Iran/Top-US-official-Anytime-anyplace-access-to-Iranian-facilities-was-rhetorical-flourish-409249
[l] https://youtu.be/ObV5motay7E?t=1m18s
[m] http://www.timesofisrael.com/top-obama-adviser-dismisses-idea-that-better-iran-deal-is-possible/
[n] http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-04-20/inspectors-need-full-access-in-any-iran-nuclear-deal-moniz-says
[o] https://www.google.com/search?num=100&q=site%3Ahouse.gov+%22anytime%2C+anywhere%22+inspections+iran
[p] https://www.google.com/search?num=100&biw=1777&bih=823&q=site%3Asenate.gov%2Fpublic+”anytime%2C+anywhere”+inspections+iran
[q] http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-07-17/where-the-u-s-caved-to-get-iran-to-sign
[r] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/07/world/middleeast/nuclear-inspectors-await-chance-to-use-modern-tools-in-iran.html
[s] http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/07/06/the-spy-tech-that-will-keep-iran-in-line.htmluestions across the board were pathetic.