State Department spokesman John Kirby repeatedly refused to answer direct questions from MSNBC's Joe Scarborough Wednesday over whether he knew about reported "side deals" between Iran and the nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that would not be subject to scrutiny by Congress or the American public.
"I won't speak for the IAEA," Kirby said. "What I can tell you is that all relevant documents to this deal, certainly all those in our possession, have been delivered to Congress. They were delivered over the weekend, and they'll have access to everything that we have access to."
The U.N. nuclear watchdog plays the critical role of verification in the agreement by seeking to ensure Iran is not violating it with illicit nuclear activity.
National Review reported on two Republicans issuing a press release that they'd discovered these deals while meeting with IAEA officials in Vienna:
Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and Congressmen Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) issued a press release today on a startling discovery they made during a July 17 meeting with International Atomic Energy Agency officials in Vienna: There are two secret side deals to the nuclear agreement with Iran that will not be shared with other nations, with Congress, or with the U.S. public.
One of these side deals concerns inspection of the Parchin military base, where Iran reportedly has conducted explosive testing related to nuclear-warhead development. The Iranian government has refused to allow the IAEA to visit this site. Over the last several years, Iran has taken steps to clean up evidence of weapons-related activity at Parchin.
The other secret side deal concerns how the IAEA and Iran will resolve outstanding issues on possible military dimensions (PMDs) of Iran’s nuclear program. In late 2013, Iran agreed to resolve IAEA questions about nuclear weapons-related work in twelve areas. Iran only answered questions in one of these areas and rejected the rest as based on forgeries and fabrications.
Scarborough was unsatisfied with Kirby's answer and pressed him repeatedly to give a definitive answer to whether the U.S. had knowledge of these details or whether such "side deals" existed at all. The exchange went on:
SCARBOROUGH: But Admiral, does the State Department know of secret side deals between Iran and the IAEA? Do you know of secret side deals between Iran and the IAEA? Does Secretary Kerry know of secret side deals between Iran and the IAEA?
KIRBY: What we know is that the IAEA will be working with Iran to make sure that they have the information and access that they need to be able to verify Iran's commitments to this deal.
SCARBOROUGH: But that's not the question I asked. That's not the question I asked, Admiral. Are you all familiar with side deals between the IAEA as it pertains to Iran's nuclear program that we don't know about?
KIRBY: This isn't about side deals, Joe. This is about making sure the IAEA gets the access they need to verify Iran's commitments, and they're going to do that. I can't speak for the IAEA. What I can do is speak for the State Department, and I can say definitely that every relevant document —
SCARBOROUGH: But you certainly can speak to your knowledge and Secretary Kerry's knowledge and the State Department's knowledge and the White House's knowledge. Do you all have knowledge of these side deals?
KIRBY: We know that the IAEA is going to work with Iran to make sure they get the access they need. How they do that and what manner they do that, I'm going to let them speak to that.
Co-host Mika Brzezinski cut in.
"It sounds like there's side deals," she said.
"I'm just trying to get a yes or a no," Scarborough said.
Kirby looked perturbed at this point.
"I can't really answer it any better than I did," he said. "I mean, the IAEA needs to get the access to verify Iran's compliance and they'll do that. How they work with Iran on that is really for them to speak to. What I can you tell you though is every relevant document in this deal, and there's a lot of them, everything has been delivered to Congress, and they're going to get ample time to speak to Secretary Kerr and Secretary Moniz to answer all their questions."
Scarborough concluded the exchange by saying Kirby actually could have answered better with a simple yes or no, but he moved on.