WASHINGTON – Facing congressional demands for more details, the Obama administration Thursday released to lawmakers the nine-page text of world powers’ latest nuclear deal with Iran.
It sent the document, which lays out how the group will carry out a temporary plan to cap Iran’s nuclear program, to a secure room at the Capitol. Though it is unclassified, it will be available for review only by lawmakers and senior aides with security clearances.
Also released was a public version scrubbed of sensitive details at the request of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, U.S. officials said. Most of its contents had been previously released.
“It is the preference of the IAEA that certain technical aspects of the technical understandings remain confidential,” said Jay Carney, the White House press secretary. He described the agreement as “essentially instructions for the IAEA for how they carry out” the Nov. 24 deal.
The six world powers have been negotiating with Iran to try to work out a deal that will ensure that Tehran’s sprawling nuclear program does not reach nuclear weapons capability. Many countries believe that Iran is seeking such capability, despite its denials.
The preliminary deal will take effect Monday, beginning a six-month period during which the administration will try to negotiate a longer-term deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program. During the bargaining, which may be extended to a year, Iran will freeze portions of its nuclear program and will be granted some temporary relief from the tough international sanctions that have hamstrung its economy.
The negotiations with Iran have set off an intense political struggle in Washington. Whereas the administration insists that the negotiations offer the best hope for halting the nuclear program and avoiding war, critics say they could allow Iran to secretly edge forward to the threshold of bomb-making capability.
Some lawmakers, fearful that the administration and its partners may have been too lenient with Iran, have pushed for as much disclosure as possible. Their concerns were heightened this week when Iran’s chief negotiator, Abbas Araqchi, told reporters in Iran that his country and the six powers had reached informal agreements on some points that wouldn’t be made public.
U.S. officials have denied that there are any secret side deals.
One senior Senate aide said he believed the release would not satisfy some lawmakers’ desire for more information.
“It’s nine pages long – what on earth?” said the aide, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak.
Sen. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.), Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are among the senators who have pushed for more disclosure, saying the deal should be strong enough to withstand public scrutiny.
The public summary says that a new body called the Joint Commission, made up of technical experts from the six powers, Iran and the European Union, will convene at least monthly to discuss implementation of the deal and “any issues that arise.” When important decisions are required, they will be kicked up to a higher level, to diplomats called “political directors” of the six countries and Iran, it says.