Columns

State Dept. Denies Iran Got Secret Exemptions to Push Nuclear Deal Along

A member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said the State Department should turn over all materials related to allegations in a new think-tank report charging that Iran got secret exemptions in the nuclear deal to get the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action completed on schedule.

The Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security report said “some nuclear stocks and facilities were not in accordance with JCPOA limits on Implementation Day, but in anticipation the Joint Commission had earlier and secretly exempted them from the JCPOA limits.”

“The exemptions and in one case, a loophole, involved the low enriched uranium (LEU) cap of 300 kilograms (kg), some of the near 20 percent LEU, the heavy water cap, and the number of large hot cells allowed to remain in Iran. One senior knowledgeable official stated that if the Joint Commission had not acted to create these exemptions, some of Iran’s nuclear facilities would not have been in compliance with the JCPOA by Implementation Day,” wrote authors David Albright, a former UN weapons inspector, and Andrea Stricker.

They added that the “secretive decision making process risks advantaging Iran by allowing it to try to systematically weaken the JCPOA. It appears to be succeeding in several key areas.”

“Given the technical complexity and public importance of the various JCPOA exemptions and loopholes, the administration’s policy to maintain secrecy interferes in the process of establishing adequate Congressional and public oversight of the JCPOA. This is particularly true concerning potentially agreement-weakening decisions by the Joint Commission. As a matter of policy, the United States should agree to any exemptions or loopholes in the JCPOA only if the decisions are simultaneously made public.”

The institute has remained neutral on whether or not the nuclear deal should have been implemented.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) called the revelations “yet another example of the administration’s false choice it presented to the American people in selling the flawed Iranian deal that provides the mullahs a patient pathway to the bomb.”

“The American public deserves answers from the administration, and I expect the State Department to release all relevant materials and to fully explain these allegations,” Gardner added.

State Department press secretary John Kirby told reporters today there was no loosening of the low-enriched uranium stockpile rule, insisting it “hasn’t changed; they’ve not exceeded that limit.”

“As many of you know, it’s written right in the JCPOA, which established the Joint Commission, that the work of the Joint Commission would be confidential,” Kirby said. “Unless the Joint Commission decided otherwise, and it’s right there in the JCPOA itself. And it’s designed that way.”

“…I also would assert that the Joint Commission has not and will not loosen any of the commitments and has not provide any exceptions that would allow Iran to retain or process material in excess of its JCPOA limits that it could use in a breakout scenario.”

Kirby said Congress “has been kept informed” of the commission’s work.

“The Joint Commission has provided guidance in implementing the JCPOA. That’s what it’s for. It’s designed to do that. None of that guidance allows Iran to have more than 300 kilograms of LEU that it can use to enrich further and as the IAEA has said themselves, Iran is implementing on that commitment,” he said.

Albright, he said, “can speak for his own work and we certainly respect his intelligence and respect the position that he holds.”

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which lobbied heavily against the deal, said they were “deeply troubled” by the report.

“If the report is accurate, this unwarranted leniency sets a dangerous precedent concerning adherence to the agreement. No further concessions should be granted to Iran, and complete transparency related to the deal’s implementation must be provided,” AIPAC said in a statement.

“This latest development follows earlier reports that Iran exceeded its quota for heavy water production, and failed to provide the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with unencumbered access during its investigation into the possible military dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program,” the group noted.

“Since the agreement was implemented, Iran has continued its malign behavior, to include harassing American military forces, procuring prohibited technology, testing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, and stoking regional conflicts. The administration and Congress must exercise robust oversight of Iran’s behavior and respond to violations of the JCPOA, U.S. law or United Nations Security Council Resolutions with certain, swift and severe penalties.”