U.S. Negotiators Never Asked Iran 'Explicitly' If There Were Other Side Agreements

Under questioning from a Senate Democrat today at a Banking Committee hearing on the Iran deal, the lead State Department negotiator said they never bothered to ask Iran if there are any other side deals floating around out there.

Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman came under intense bipartisan questioning about Iran's agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry told lawmakers that he thought the only administration official who might have seen the agreement was Sherman.

Today, Sherman had a few explanations.

"I did see the provisional documents, I didn't see the final documents," she told Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).

To Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Sherman said: "I have seen -- I have -- I have seen the document, as I said, as we were going through the technical discussions with the IAEA. But what is important here, Senator, ultimately what we are talking about here is the credibility of the International Atomic Energy Agency, whether, in fact, we believe that they are credible, independent verification organizations, which it is."

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) asked, "In the final deal from the IAEA, have you seen it and read it?"

"Let me be very clear. I have seen the documents that the IAEA and Iran discussed to create the final arrangements for the modalities that underpin the road map, the road map document being a public document that Congress has a copy of," Sherman replied.

"Can you assure us that this access will be physical access? IAEA inspectors will be physically walking into these sites and taking samples or installing equipment?" Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) asked of the deal.

"I think that every situation is different, Senator, and that the IAEA has the capability, the expert knowledge to make sure that whatever they do can be technically authenticated," Sherman replied.

Sherman said a "handful" of U.S. experts -- "I'd have to stop and think" -- saw the documents are "very short" and defended the confidentiality agreement -- if the U.S. gets confidential IAEA agreements, Iran should too.

"Under the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, to which we are also a party, we have confidential safeguards, confidential documents and protocols with the IAEA between the United States and the IAEA, as does -- do all of the countries that are under the CSA," she said. "The IAEA has committed to keeping them confidential, and so, therefore, they are committed to keeping these protocols under CSA confidential as well."

"Is there reason to believe there's any other documents out there?" Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) asked.

"No. If there are, I don't know about them," Sherman replied. "I have not asked them explicitly."

"Have you asked the Iranians who you've had these discussions with, do you have any other agreements with anybody else at this time that we don't know about?" Donnelly asked.

"I have not asked that question explicitly, but given the hours and hours we have spent together, I do not believe there are any other documents," Sherman said.

And as President Obama was in another part of town accusing critics of the Iran deal of wanting war, Sherman wouldn't commit to the deal-or-war summary.

"This agreement or war? Is that the choice? A simple yes or no," Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) asked.

"I don't think it's a simple yes or no," Sherman replied. "I believe that the chances that we would be down the road to war would go up exponentially."

Menendez said he wanted "to read some excerpts from a hearing when I was pursuing the Iran Sanctions Act, when the then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, now the Secretary of State, was actually arguing against the sanctions. So, I guess in that respect things haven't changed."

"He went on to say that, 'Rather than motivating these countries to join us in increasing pressure on Iran, they are most likely to resent our actions and resist following our lead, a consequence that would serve the Iranians more than it harms them, and it could have the opposite effect than was intended, and increase the Iranian regime's revenue,'" Menendez continued.

"Then you recorded, Secretary Sherman, as in fact, also buying into that point of view. And if you look at the transcript of the hearing, basically what it talks about is everything we've heard here, that we will break the coalition, that in fact, we will be isolated, that in fact, we will be alone; and that therefore we will not have the consequences against Iran. The problem is, when you cry wolf one too many times, it really is problematic."

Menendez added that "this Iranian regime cares about two things, preserving the regime and the revolution."

"They're not going to enter into any agreement that doesn't preserve the regime and the revolution," the senator said. "And so, they must think this is a good agreement for them ultimately to accomplish that goal, and that's worrisome. And that is worrisome."