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Will the UN Side Deal Kill Obama’s Iran Nuke Deal?

The swirl of controversy in the wake of Wednesday’s AP exclusive story deepened yesterday with contradictory statements from IAEA director General Yukia Amano. Amano released a statement saying the report was “misleading,” that he was satisfied with the access his people will receive under the deal. Referring to the AP report Amano said “Such statements misrepresent the way in which we will undertake this important verification work.” The AP story cited drafts of a separate inspection protocol about Iran being granted control over inspections of the disputed Parchin test site allegedly involved with tests of nuclear triggers a decade ago.

The IAEA is charged with developing a so-called Road Map of prior military developments upon hinges release of over $100 billion in sanctioned funds to the Islamic Republic of Iran in December 2015. A few weeks ago , when IAEA chief Amano briefed Senators on Capitol Hill, many came away less than impressed by his presentation of the inspection regime that  Administration negotiators, Secretary of State Kerry, Undersecretary Sherman and Energy Secretary Dr. Earnest Moniz said were” intrusive and robust verification” of Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA provisions.  Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) weren’t satisfied and conducted their own due diligence at IAEA headquarters in Vienna. In an August 2, 2015 Wall Street Journal op-ed they argued that the so-called secret side deals should be released in compliance with the requirements of the Iran Nuclear Review Agreement Act. They commented:

Weaponization lies at the heart of our dispute with Iran and is central to determining whether this deal is acceptable. Inspections of Parchin are necessary to ensure that Iran is adhering to its end of the agreement. Without knowing this baseline, inspectors cannot properly evaluate Iran’s compliance. It’s like beginning a diet without knowing your starting weight. That the administration would accept side agreements on these critical issues—and ask the U.S. Congress to do the same—is irresponsible.

AP, Fox News and other media   obtained copies of Separate Agreement II leaked by an anonymous senior IAEA official revealing that the IAEA had adopted a protocol for the PMS Road Map giving Iran complete authority over soil sampling, video and photographic evidence at the disputed Parchin Site.  Armin Rosen of Business Insider revealed the text in his report:

Separate arrangement II agreed by the Islamic State of Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency on 11 July 2015, regarding the Road-map, Paragraph 5

Iran and the Agency agreed on the following sequential arrangement with regard to the Parchin issue:

1. Iran will provide to the Agency photos of the locations, including those identified in paragraph 3 below, which would be mutually agreed between Iran and the Agency, taking into account military concerns.

1. Iran will provide to the Agency videos of the locations, including those identified in paragraph 3 below, which would be mutually agreed between Iran and the Agency, taking into account military concerns.

1. Iran will provide to the Agency 7 environmental samples taken from points inside one building already identified by the Agency and agreed by Iran, and 2 points outside of the Parchin complex which would be agreed between Iran and the Agency.

1. The Agency will ensure the technical authenticity of the activities referred to in paragraphs 1-3 above. Activities will be carried out using Iran’s authenticated equipment, consistent with technical specifications provided by the Agency, and the Agency’s containers and seals.

1. The above mentioned measures would be followed, as a courtesy by Iran, by a public visit of the Director General, as a dignitary guest of the Government of Iran, accompanied by his deputy for safeguards.

6. Iran and the Agency will organize a one-day technical roundtable on issues relevant to Parchin.

Rosen went on to write:

The final text confirms that at least one aspect of the IAEA’s road map — the agreement meant to resolve the agency’s numerous outstanding questions on the status of Iran’s nuclear weaponization program — was settled on terms favorable to Iran.

Iran has barred IAEA inspectors from Parchin despite nearly a decade of requests for access. The roadmap, which is meant to settle years of unanswered questions about Iran’s nuclear weaponization drive, apparently doesn’t change that.

If the Parchin investigation is happening on Tehran’s terms, it raises the possibility that the rest of the roadmap inquiry will be carried out under a process that Iran can strongly influence or even control.

This is by design: As Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s atomic energy agency told regime-linked media in early August, one of Iran’s negotiating objectives was limiting the IAEA’s reach inside of the country, according to a report from the Washington Institute for Near East Studies:

We do not have an optimistic view of the [IAEA]. There is no doubt that they will release the information [that we are giving them]. We need to be careful in the information that we supply to them …We are not only dealing with the agency and these spies. We are dealing with all the countries that own nuclear programs. There are formulas and methods to prevent supplying information to the agency’s inspectors. We did not know about these methods in the past and supplied some information that should not have been supplied.

Iran’s “formulas and methods” for limiting the IAEA’s reach are now apparent, at least as Parchin is concerned. Whether the Parchin arrangement is part of a larger trade off to ensure IAEA access to other, possibly more important sites is currently unknown — the other implementation agreement governing whom IAEA inspectors can talk to and what facilities they can visit as part of their investigation is still secret.

Yesterday, State Department spokesperson, Admiral John Kirby was besieged with journalists’ questions about the relinquishing of IAEA inspection to Iran on development of the Road Map. He endeavored to repeat Administration claims of being “confident and comfortable” that the Inspection regime adopted via the IAEA would provide the information for the Roadmap. Besides, as he is often wont to say, ‘we have enough evidence of what went on at Parchin and other known sites”.  The skepticism of inquiring journalists was risible. I am reminded of I.F. Stone, the radical alleged KBG agent and US Journalist during the Vietnam anti-War era in Washington, whose eponymous weekly report was emblazoned with this masthead quote: “all governments are led by liars don’t believe a word they say”.

Watch this C-Span video excerpt of yesterday’s State Department briefing on the Parchin prior military developments inspection protocol:

There are those of us like Stephen and Shoshana Bryen and my colleague Ilana Freedman and this writer  suggest that the IAEA will never be able to inspect the more likely venue of Iran nuclear weaponization experimentation since 2003, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Given the revelations of the AP  and other  media news stories, Members of both Chambers of Congress  who favor the President’s position might reassess their positions and request  vigorous due diligence  gathering  all of the side agreements  for the JCPOA, prior to casting a vote by the mid-September  on the pending resolution .  Otherwise, they might, as Senator Menendez warned in his Seton Hall University address this week, they might find having   their names added to Iran’s bomb.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of IAEA Director General Yukia Amano and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Tehran, July 2, 2015. Source: Europhoto.

Is the U.S. State Department Taking Reports of North Korea-Iranian Nuclear Cooperation Seriously?

At today’s State Department Daily Press Briefing, spokesperson Jeff Rathke was asked by Matt Lee, AP White House correspondent about reports by the Paris-based Iranian dissident group, the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI) about alleged North Korean meetings in Iran alleging discussions over nuclear program cooperation an ICBM developments.  Reuters reported the NCRI group allegation that:

Citing information from sources inside Iran, including within Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, the Paris-based NCRI said a seven-person North Korean Defense Ministry team was in Iran during the last week of April. This was the third time in 2015 that North Koreans had been to Iran and a nine-person delegation was due to return in June, it said.

“The delegates included nuclear experts, nuclear warhead experts and experts in various elements of ballistic missiles including guidance systems,” the NCRI said.

In response to AP’s Lee question Rathke said, “We are taking these allegations very seriously” citing various UN Security Council Resolutions sanctioning the proliferation behavior of the DPRK. That led Lee and other correspondents to inquire whether this would impact the current P5+1 negotiations in Vienna seeking to conclude a comprehensive Joint Plan of Action by June 30th.  We posted  yesterday that France’s Foreign Minister demanding that Iran agree to  UN IAEA inspectors be  given  full access to military facilities for verification of prior developments.

Watch this C-SPAN video clip on the exchanges between State Department Jeff Rathke and AP’s Lee and other reporters at today’s Press Briefing:

Satellite Image of the Sohae Launch Facility, North Korea

North Korean Sohae Missile Launch site, November 2012. Source: Space.com

The Reuters report gave indications of previous unverified reports about such cooperation between the DPRK and Iran:

The NCRI said the North Korean delegation was taken secretly to the Imam Khomenei complex, a site east of Tehran controlled by the Defense Ministry. It gave detailed accounts of locations and who the officials met.

It said the delegation dealt with the Center for Research and Design of New Aerospace Technology, a unit of nuclear weaponization research, and a planning center called the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, which is under U.S. sanctions.

Reuters could not independently verify the allegations.

“Tehran has shown no interest in giving up its drive to nuclear weapons. The weaponization program is continuing and they have not slowed down the process,” NCRI spokesman Shahin Gobadi said.

U.N. watchdog the IAEA, which for years has investigated alleged nuclear arms research by Tehran, declined to comment. North Korean officials were not available for comment.

Several Western officials said they were not aware of a North Korean delegation traveling to Iran recently.

A Western diplomat said there had been proven military cooperation between Iran and North Korea in the past.

North Korean and Iranian officials meet in the course of general diplomacy. On April 23, Kim Yong Nam, North Korea’s ceremonial head of state and Iran’s president held a rare meeting on the sidelines of the Asian-African summit in Jakarta.

My colleague Ilana Freedman and this writer have reported on Iranian and DPRK on both nuclear and ICBM developments and nuclear tests in NER and Iconoclast posts.  In a March 2014, NER, article, “Has Iran Developed Nuclear Weapons in North Korea”, we cited Freedman reporting:

According to my sources, Iran began moving its bomb manufacturing operations from Iran to North Korea in December 2012. Two facilities near Nyongbyon in North Pyongan province, some 50 miles north of Pyongyang, have become a new center for Iran’s nuclear arms program.

Over the last year, Iran has been secretly supplying raw materials to the reactor at Nyongbyon for the production of plutonium. At a second facility, located about fifteen miles north and with a code name that translates to ‘Thunder God Mountain’, nuclear warheads are being assembled and integrated with MIRV platforms. MIRVs are offensive ballistic missile systems that can support multiple warheads, each of which can be aimed at an independent target, but are all launched by a single booster rocket. Approximately 250-300 Iranian scientists are now reported to be in North Korea, along with a small cadre of IRGC personnel to provide for their security.

According to the reports, the Iranian-North Korean collaboration has already produced the first batch of fourteen nuclear warheads. A dedicated fleet of Iranian cargo aircraft, a combination of 747′s and Antonov heavy-lifters, which has been ferrying personnel and materials back and forth between Iran and North Korea, is in place to bring the assembled warheads back to Iran.

In a June 2014, Iconoclast post, “Does Iran/ North Korean Nuclear & ICBM Development Preclude A P5+1 Agreement?” we cited a Wall Street Journal report by  Claudia Rosett, journalist in residence at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Iran Could Outsource Its Nuclear –Weapons Program to North Korea. Rosett commented:

The pieces have long been in place for nuclear collaboration between the two countries. North Korea and Iran are close allies, drawn together by decades of weapons deals and mutual hatred of America and its freedoms. Weapons-hungry Iran has oil; oil-hungry North Korea makes weapons. North Korea has been supplying increasingly sophisticated missiles and missile technology to Iran since the 1980s, when North Korea hosted visits by Hasan Rouhani (now Iran’s president) and Ali Khamenei (Iran’s supreme leader since the death of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989).

Rosett in the WSJ oped lays out the case for what the NER article demonstrated was a plausible means of evading sanctions. The evidence for that we noted was North Korean/ Iranian cooperation with Assad’s Syria creating a plutonium reactor on the Euphrates at Al Kibar destroyed by Israel’s Air Force in September 2007. We drew attention to Iranian/ North Korean joint development of large rocket boosters sufficient to loft nuclear MIRV warheads and the likelihood that Iran might have that capability within a few years. In June 2014, The Algemeiner reported an Iranian official announcing that it possessed a 5,000 kilometer (approximately 3,125 miles) range missile that could hit the strategic base of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean:

“In the event of a mistake on the part of the United States, their bases in Bahrain and (Diego) Garcia will not be safe from Iranian missiles,” said an Iranian Revolutionary Guard adviser to Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Majatba Dhualnuri.

In an April 15, 2015, Iconoclast post, “Obama Administration Knew of Illegal North Korea Missile Technology Transfers to Iran During Talks” we reported:

Bill Gertz has a blockbuster expose in today’s Washington Free Beacon of something we have been hammering away for years: the technology transfer of missile and nuclear technology between North Korea and the Iran, “North Korea Transfers Missile Goods to Iran During Nuclear Talks.”  The stunning disclosure was that U.S. intelligence has known about the illegal transfer in violation of UN arms sanctions, as apparently did the Obama Administration. You recall the statement that Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman made before a Senate hearing in early 2014. Sherman said, “that if Iran can’t get the bomb then its ballistic missiles would be irrelevant.”

Gertz went on to report:

Since September more than two shipments of missile parts have been monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies as they transited from North Korea to Iran, said officials familiar with intelligence reports who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Details of the arms shipments were included in President Obama’s daily intelligence briefings and officials suggested information about the transfers was kept secret from the United Nations, which is in charge of monitoring sanctions violations.

While the CIA declined to comment on these allegations claiming classified information, others, Gertz queried said that “such transfers were covered by the Missile Technology Control Regime, a voluntary agreement among 34 nations that limits transfers of missiles and components of systems with ranges of greater than 186 miles.”

One official said the transfers between North Korea and Iran included large diameter engines, which could be used for a future Iranian long-range missile system.

The compilation of these reports and today’s exchange at the State Department Press Briefing clearly raises the ante as to why in one reporter’s query, ‘our negotiators” haven’t simply asked  Foreign Minister Zarif in Vienna  is there such cooperation going on, backed up by the intelligence reports cited by Gertz and others?  Our suspicion is that French Foreign Minister Fabius has better feed on Iranian nuclear and ICBM developments than our CIA.  Or more likely is the Obama West Wing suggesting not to believe those lying reports in the President’s  Daily Intelligence Briefing? After all, President Obama, Secretary Kerry and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman want nothing to stand in the way of an agreement with Iran, even it means evading the truth. Stay tuned for developments.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is from the official site of the President of The Islamic Republic of Iran.