Details of the nuclear talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany have been made public thanks to Abbas Araghchi, an Iranian deputy nuclear negotiator - much to Araghchi's dismay. The website of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, or IRIB, accidentally published the minutes of an off-the-record briefing with Araghchi on Aug. 5. The transcript was removed within hours after Araghchi voiced his anger, but the damage had been done.
Araghchi's briefing was meant exclusively for the senior management of the IRIB, the Islamic Republic's state television broadcaster and a major propaganda tool. The head of the IRIB is always appointed by the Supreme Leader, and its management is selected from senior employees of either the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or the Ministry of Intelligence. Former IRIB heads have included high-ranking Revolutionary Guard officers such as Ali Larijani and Ezatollah Zarghami. IRIB management are culled from the exclusive club of ruling elite and from their underlings in the Islamic Republic. Members of this club do not generally change; they simply move from one position to another. Therefore, it is difficult to imagine that Araghchi would falsify facts to people ultimately responsible for implementing the terms of the Iran deal and its secret side agreements.
The points made by Araghchi strongly validate the considered judgment held by a majority in the U.S. Congress: that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action - the agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1 - is not in the national security interests of the United States and should not be approved. While U.S. President Barack Obama's plan to implement the JCPOA using his own executive authority appears to be succeeding, his plan may yet be undone. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei may decide that he should not stain his legacy of advancing the Islamic Revolution by endorsing a nuclear deal claimed by the leader of the so-called Great Satan as his signature foreign policy achievement.
Iranian Nuclear Program Certified in its Entirety. Critics of the nuclear deal point out that the stated purpose of negotiations with Iran was to dismantle all or significant parts of Iran's illicit nuclear infrastructure to ensure it would not possess a nuclear weapons capability at any time. Yet the JCPOA requires no dismantling of Iran's nuclear infrastructure and in fact commits the international community to helping Iran develop an industrial-scale nuclear power program, including industrial-scale enrichment. Confirming this is Araghchi's statement that U.S. Secretary of State Kerry agreed not only to give Iran the right to enrich and move its nuclear program forward, but also to grant official recognition of even the commercial and industrial aspects of the program. Araghchi said this means that the Iranian nuclear program has been certified in its entirety.
Araghchi expanded on this point by quoting Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Rybakov, who headed the Russian negotiating team. Reportedly, Rybakov said:
"I was telling my associates last night that these Iranians are truly geniuses. They came to get a green light for their enrichment program from the Security Council in exchange for what? In exchange for their sanctions to be lifted. Not only do they not give anything in exchange, but they receive something in exchange for what they receive! Their sanctions will be lifted and their enrichment will continue."
Hollow Verification Inspections. There is now ample evidence to substantiate Rybakov's praise for his Iranian counterparts and to deepen congressional concerns about the flaws in the nuclear deal. Regarding Kerry's discussion of daily inspections of Iranian facilities, Araghchi made the following points, while noting that Kerry needed to be given some latitude by the Iranian regime to exaggerate the effectiveness of the inspections arrangements:
"Even before the Geneva agreement, the inspectors were in our sites four to five times a week. Therefore, we have no problems with inspections. Now in Natanz, they can not only stay there for 24 hours, but they may even sleep there if they so wish. In Natanz, there is nothing to be found so we have no problems with that. Mr. Kerry has to after all say something and aggrandize to be able to resist the pressures in Congress and to be able to confront the Zionists and the Zionist lobby. Therefore, we should not aggrandize things that he is aggrandizing in America because the American party's behavior is indicative of his frantic attempt to pass the deal in Congress."
Secret Side Agreements on PMD and Parchin. There is good reason for Araghchi not to publicly challenge Kerry's assertions about so-called unprecedented inspections, and Araghchi himself clearly is not concerned about the inspections. Just before the JCPOA was announced on July 14, Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency signed a roadmap to resolve long-term concerns about the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program. The joint roadmap contains the two secret side agreements to which the U.S. government has no access. One of the agreements is supposed to resolve the IAEA's concerns over possible military dimensions, and the other presumably is meant to address nuclear weapons research at Iran's Parchin military complex. According to an exclusive Associated Press report on Aug. 19, under the provisions of this secret side agreement Iran will be allowed to use its own inspectors to investigate the Parchin site. This revelation obviously undercuts the credibility of the so-called precedent-setting verification inspections touted by Obama and Kerry. The full text of this side agreement is here.
Further, a former deputy director of the IAEA, in a report to the Iran Task Force, notes that the procedures in the Parchin side deal depart significantly from well-established safeguard practices and that historically the IAEA has not viewed such issues as confidential.