Iranian leaders prevented a top International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) official from disclosing to U.S. officials the nature of secret side deals with the Islamic Republic by threatening harm to him, according to regional reports.
Yukiya Amano, IAEA director general, purportedly remained silent about the nature of certain side deals during briefings with top U.S. officials because he feared such disclosures would lead to retaliation by Iran, according to the spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI).
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Amano was in Washington recently to brief members of Congress and others about the recently inked nuclear accord. However, he did not discuss the nature of side deals with Iran that the United States is not permitted to know about.
Iran apparently threatened Amano in a letter meant to ensure he did not reveal specific information about the nature of nuclear inspections going forward, according to Iranian AEOI spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi.
This disclosure has only boosted suspicions among some that the Iranians are willing and able to intimidate the top nuclear watchdog and potentially undermine the verification regime that Obama administration officials have dubbed a key component of the nuclear accord.
"In a letter to Yukiya Amano, we underlined that if the secrets of the agreement (roadmap between Iran and the IAEA) are revealed, we will lose our trust in the Agency; and despite the US Congress's pressures, he didn’t give any information to them," Kamalvandi was quoted as saying Monday during a meeting with Iranian lawmakers, according to Tehran’s state-controlled Fars News Agency.
"Had he done so, he himself would have been harmed," the official added.
Iran revealed in recent weeks that the United States is banned from knowing the details of its nuclear inspections agreement with the IAEA, a disclosure that prompted anger in many circles on Capitol Hill.
Iran also has gained additional leverage over the IAEA by refusing to sign a document known as the Additional Protocol, which forces Iran to disclose certain details of its nuclear program to the IAEA so that it can confirm that Tehran is not operating a clandestine weapons program.
Even supporters of the deal have noted that this gives Iran greater "leverage" over the IAEA going forward.
One source close to the Iran fight on Capitol Hill explained that Iran’s refusal to sign the document gives it up to eight more years to threaten the IAEA.
"The IAEA desperately wanted the Iranians to ratify the Additional Protocol as part of the deal to lock them into formal obligations that would actually be permanent," the source explained. "The Obama administration failed to win the concessions, and instead Iran got to promise to ascend eight years from now."
"So for the next eight years the Iranians get to hold the threat over the IAEA: Don't push your luck or we'll refuse to accede in eight years," the source said.
Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), expressed concern that Iran could obstruct future inspections.
"Iranian leverage over the IAEA could impede a proper resolution of issues relating to Tehran's past and possibly continuing weaponization activities," Dubowitz said. "It may also prevent the agency from ever getting necessary physical access into suspicious sites including military facilities and prevent detection of Iranian clandestine nuclear activities."
Further complicating the future inspections regime is the expiration of Amano’s term at the IAEA in 2017. The official could be replaced then.
Meanwhile, Iranian officials disclosed on Monday that any nuclear inspector entering Iran on behalf of the IAEA would first have to be screened by Iran’s Intelligence Ministry.
Iran additionally will be given 24 days notice before inspectors enter any site suspected of being used to build a nuclear weapon. U.S. inspectors also will be banned from entering suspicious sites under the deal.