For a little over a week now, Republicans have been using “secret side deals” that Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) “discovered” during a trip to Vienna as another way to undermine the Iran nuclear deal, but the White House is pointing and laughing at Cotton. According to Cotton, he and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) were stunned to learn, several days after the final deal was announced, that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had cut two “secret side deals” with the Iranian government.
There are only two problems with that: the “side deals” aren’t “secret” at all, and were announced on the IAEA websitethe same day the final deal was announced. After a week of Congressional grandstanding and media acquiescence to the “secret deal” narrative, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest took to openly mocking the freshman senator and leader of the “47 traitors” who wrote a letter directly to the Iranian leadership to try to undermine the deal:
Jared Rizzi: When it comes to these confidential agreements with the IAEA, in the 48-year history of the IAEA, isn’t it standard operating procedure for the framework that they create with the countries that they’re inspecting to remain confidential?
Josh Earnest: Well, I don’t know. What I can tell you is that — I mean, the road map for the clarification of past and present outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear program that was put out by the IAEA is actually a document that appeared on the IAEA website a couple of weeks ago. This is the document that Tom Cotton, the Republican international man of mystery, discovered when he traveled to Vienna. So this is information that has been put out.
Fun fact: that reference is only slightly younger than the ability to legally rape your wife in the U.S.
As Earnest explained, the bilateral agreements between the IAEA and Iran are not a secret, and any member of Congress who wants to know what’s in them can find out via a classified briefing. They’re also not “side deals,” since Iran’s compliance with the IAEA is a condition of the sanctions relief that they’ll get under the overall deal. If these agreements are a problem, it’s only to the extent that opponents of the deal believe that the IAEA is untrustworthy, not the Iranians.
Republicans are making hay of the fact that the text of the agreements is not available to the U.S. government or the Congress, but that’s not unusual for a sensitive bilateral agreement like this, and the contents of those classified briefings are provided by the IAEA. That’s the same IAEA that is responsible for enforcing every other part of the agreement. so to mistrust their briefings is to mistrust any effort to monitor Iran’s nuclear program.
The true test of the deal will be what the non-47-traitor senators have to say once they have been briefed on the IAEA’s agreements with Iran.