Members of Congress must know more about secret side arrangements between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran before they vote on the proposed nuclear agreement with Tehran. Why won't the Obama administration reveal the topics that the various side deals touch upon?
Transparency is more crucial than normal when it comes to dealing with Tehran because of its lengthy track record of deceit. That is why the entire Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreed to by representatives of Iran, the United States and our five other negotiating partners is predicated upon the ability to inspect and verify all activities linked to Iran's nuclear program.
Without proper and trustworthy verification systems in place, Iran would continue to pursue its covert development of nuclear weapons and the entire agreement will crumble.
How can members of Congress be expected to vote on a deal that hinges entirely on verification and enforcement if the Obama administration does not provide full transparency concerning Iran's side deals with the IAEA that hinder these corroboration efforts?
The questions and furor over the secret side agreements are critical components to understanding the full parameters of this historic deal and should not be trivialized. The administration should at least provide lawmakers with insight into whether these side deals address the issues of verification and enforcement.
According to recent reports by the Associated Press, one of the alleged side deals authorizes Iran to use its own personnel to conduct inspections related to possible military dimensions of its nuclear program. The locations eligible for self-inspections reportedly include Parchin, the highly controversial site of a military base long suspected of being grounds for past nuclear-related military activity.
And according to an IAEA report obtained by Reuters on August 27th, satellite imagery has revealed that a potential extension has been constructed and added onto an existing building at Parchin.
Fully understanding Tehran's previous nuclear military program is vital to establishing a baseline for the implementation of future verification systems. Inspectors must be equipped with a complete picture of how much progress Tehran may have already achieved in its efforts to build a bomb so they can best design future verification parameters.
This is the best way to prevent Iran from future agreement violations, especially since Iran has succeeded in blocking the IAEA's access to Parchin for years.
Reports of a new secret side deal related directly to Parchin should raise serious red flags about the degree of access that international inspectors will gain in Iran, which for decades has engaged in a pattern of deceitful subterfuge. The issue underscores the degree to which members of Congress would benefit from understanding the truth about whether other side deals exist that undercut the ability of inspectors to verify activity at other suspected nuclear sites.
The White House will significantly compromise the ability of members of Congress to make an informed decision about the deal with Iran if it prevents Congress from knowing if sufficient inspection measures will be in place to effectively monitor Tehran's nuclear program.
Congress has a vital role to play. The national security implications directly linked to the strength of the verification and inspection systems are of critical importance. These security concerns alone should compel Congress to do all that it can to learn as much as possible before voting. Members of Congress can't be expected to simply take at face value the assertion that this is the best deal that America can get.
Joseph I. Lieberman, a former four-term U.S. senator from Connecticut, is senior counsel at Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman.