It may be time for the White House to fire up the Iran deal echo chamber once again. A new report by the Institute for Science and International Security finds that, contrary to a claim made by the Obama administration, there was a last minute agreement made in secret regarding the Iran deal. The agreement allowed Iran to exceed certain limitations set in the Iran deal so they would be in compliance on implementation day. From the report:
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) placed detailed limitations on facets of Iran’s nuclear program that needed to be met by Implementation Day, which took place on January 16, 2016.* Most of the conditions were met by Iran. However, we have learned that 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.
The report questions the decision to keep these decisions secret and says doing so risks “advantaging Iran”:
The decisions of the Joint Commission have not been announced publicly. The Obama administration informed Congress of key Joint Commission decisions on Implementation Day but in a confidential manner. These decisions, which are written down, amount to additional secret or confidential documents linked to the JCPOA. Since the JCPOA is public, any rationale for keeping these exemptions secret appears unjustified. Moreover, the Joint Commission’s 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.
Reuters spoke to a White House source who said Congress had been “comprehensively” briefed on the Joint Committee’s actions:
A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the joint commission and its role were “not secret.” He did not address the report’s assertions of exemptions…
The White House official said the administration had briefed Congress “frequently and comprehensively” on the joint commission’s work.
Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, a leading critic of the Iran deal and a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Reuters in an email: “I was not aware nor did I receive any briefing (on the exemptions).”
So the White House is saying the joint commission wasn’t secret but it didn’t deny the thrust of this report, i.e. that there were secret agreements made to insure Iran would be in compliance on implementation day.