The White House scrambled on Wednesday to defend its deal with other world powers and Iran over its nuclear program, after the AP reported that some inspections would be carried out by Iranian, not international, experts.
"We are confident in the Agency's technical plans for investigating the possible military dimensions of Iran's former program," the White House said in a statement provided to BuzzFeed News after the AP reported that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had allowed Iranian inspections at the Parchin nuclear site as part of a side agreement to the main deal between the U.S., five world powers, and Iran.
"When it comes to monitoring Iran's behavior going forward, the IAEA has separately developed the most robust inspection regime ever peacefully negotiated to ensure Iran's current program remains exclusively peaceful," the White House statement continued.
The AP later significantly amended its story, removing the contentious claim that Iranian experts would be carrying out the inspections.
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano released a statement Thursday saying: "I am disturbed by statements suggesting that the IAEA has given responsibility for nuclear inspections to Iran. Such statements misrepresent the way in which we will undertake this important verification work."
He said the arrangements concluded with Iran were "technically sound and consistent with our long-established practices. They do not compromise our safeguards standards in any way. The Road-map between Iran and the IAEA is a very robust agreement, with strict timelines, which will help us to clarify past and present outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear programme."An IAEA spokesman also declined to comment on the details of the agreements with Iran. Spokesman Serge Gas said in a statement provided to BuzzFeed News: "As said previously by the Agency, the separate arrangements of the Road-map are safeguards confidential; we have a legal obligation to protect them and we cannot discuss or comment on their contents. As also stated by the Agency, the separate arrangements of the Road-map are consistent with the IAEA verification practice and they meet the IAEA requirements."
Speaking before the AP amended its report, Olli Heinonen, who worked at the IAEA for 27 years, including as deputy director from 2005 to 2010, told BuzzFeed News the reported inspections regime left him "puzzled" and that he found it "strange."
"I have a lot of reservations," he said.
He urged IAEA members to use a closed meeting of the agency's governing body set for Aug. 25 to press it to release the two side deals.
The White House continues to lobby Congress to increase approval for the deal. Asked if the report would sway his decision, a spokesperson for Sen. Ben Cardin, a Democrat whose vote is seen as critical for the deal's political survival, said: "Senator Cardin continues to review all aspects of the agreement to determine what decision he'll make."
A spokesperson for Sen. Bob Casey declined to comment on the report but said he expected a decision on the Iran deal the week of Aug. 31.
Rosie Gray contributed reporting.