Under the terms of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, the clock does not start running on Congress’s 60 days to review the deal until all the agreement “and all related materials and annexes” associated with the deal are turned over. A central purpose of the bill, as its co-sponsors often declared, was to ensure that Congress got the entire deal. Without the bill, the president — just as he is attempting to do now — would never be compelled to reveal what he had promised the Iranians. A summary of the bill stated, “The bill requires the president to submit to Congress the agreement and all related documents, including specifics on verification and compliance. This ensures Congress will get to see the entire deal and make an independent judgment on its merits.” On the floor of the Senate on May 11, Corker urged his colleagues to pass the bill, stating unambiguously that “it ensures transparency. The bill requires the president to submit to Congress the text and all details of any nuclear agreement with Iran, if one is reached.” The president signed off and now appears poised to ignore it.
On July 12, Corker put out a statement reiterating, “Without the law, there would have been no limitation on the president’s use of waivers to suspend the sanctions Congress put in place; no requirement that Congress receive full details of any agreement with Iran; no review period for Congress to examine and weigh in on an agreement; no requirement that the president regularly certify Iran is complying; and no way for Congress to rapidly reimpose sanctions should Iran cheat.” (Emphasis added.) He noted, “The review period does not begin until all documents associated with an agreement are submitted to Congress along with assessments on compliance and non-proliferation.”
The United Nations signed off on the deal before Congress has had a chance to vote — and even before Congress knows what is in the deal. If members of Congress were enraged about trying to cut out Congress by racing to the UN first, one can only imagine the reaction if they are asked to vote on a deal which Russia and China have full knowledge of but they do not.
Josh Block, chief executive of the Israel Project, tells Right Turn: “Without seeing the entire agreement, including those with the IAEA and others upon which the JCPoA rests, it is impossible for Congress to proceed with review of the deal and for the clock to officially start. It seems that this kind of obfuscation defines the administration approach to the deal.” Block adds, “Makes one wonder what they are trying to hide.”
Pompeo, a West Point graduate and Army veteran, declared, “Not only does this violate the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, it is asking Congress to agree to a deal that it cannot review.” Cotton, a veteran of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, likewise objected, “Congress’s evaluation of this deal must be based on hard facts and full information. That we are only now discovering that parts of this dangerous agreement are being kept secret begs the question of what other elements may also be secret and entirely free from public scrutiny.”
In the absence of full disclosure, those Democrats who have said they would need to look through the agreement carefully to satisfy themselves the deal does what the president claims would be forced to vote down the deal for no other reason than they don’t know what is in it. It is moreover not coincidental, I suggest, that the two missing pieces concern the two potentially fatal flaws in the deal.
Access to military sites such as Parchin is not addressed in the deal. Yesterday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif claimed the deal allows Iran to keep its military sites off limits. Iran’s defense minister has said the same. If the annex is not revealed on this subject, Congress must assume the Iranians have it right. If so, the entire deal is a giant fraud. Anything can become a “military site” in a totalitarian state such as Iran and hence virtually anything can be kept from inspectors’ eyes.
Likewise, again and again members of both parties have insisted that any inspection system in which the possible military dimensions (PMDs) of the program have not been revealed to the IAEA is worthless. Inspectors will not know what to look for and where to look. Even the existing terms are grossly insufficient. Before the final deal was announced, numerous outside experts and members of Congress argued that given Iran’s refusal for years to reveal its PMDs, disclosure of Iran’s PMDs had to be a precondition for any sanctions relief. That does not occur in the portion of the deal made available. The highly respected Institute for Science and International Security yesterday put out a report explaining:
[T]here are no explicit requirements that Iran must cooperate sufficiently so that the IAEA can report that its concerns are addressed. If Iran provides by August 15 unsatisfactory answers about its past nuclear work related to nuclear weaponization and the development of a missile payload for a nuclear weapon, what happens? If then it does not adequately clarify the issues before December 15, can Iran get away with what amounts to a simple box checking exercise in which Iran provides false civilian rationales for its various experiments and work? So far Iran has fully denied ever working on nuclear weapons and claims evidence to the contrary is based on forged and falsified information. If this exercise provides real, sound answers and information from Iran, this would be a positive development. But a box-checking exercise by Iran should not be acceptable; deadlines should be extended and Implementation Day delayed until the PMD matter is resolved.
So long as the annex on PMDs remains secret, we must assume that failure to reveal PMDs is NOT a precondition to sanctions relief. Again, without this document, Congress must assume that the inspection mechanism is a ruse.
In sum, refusal to release these two annexes would be a direct and indefensible violation of the law President Obama signed. Moreover, because of the centrality of the two issues to evaluating the deal, without them Congress has no choice but to reject it. On this, a veto-proof majority in both houses is almost certain to agree.