MSNBC host Chris Hayes and one of his guests Thursday night attacked the credibility of an Associated Press reporter who revealed damaging information about the secret deals negotiated between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as part of the Iran nuclear agreement.
Hayes and his guest, Iran deal advocate Dr. Jeffrey Lewis, dismissed the bombshell story as a "wonderful destructive leak" that was accepted uncritically by AP reporter George Jahn, although the Associated Press has released evidence that corroborates Jahn’s reporting.
Lewis stated that Jahn, who is the AP's Austrian bureau chief, was not a "real reporter" because he did not find out how the IAEA planned to authenticate Iran’s evidence, information that the IAEA typically keeps secret. On Wednesday, Lewis told Vox's Max Fisher that Jahn was a "friendly reporter" to opponents of the nuclear deal, who he insinuated were leaking misleading documents to the press.
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Jahn reported Wednesday that the IAEA will allow Iran to take its own samples from Parchin, a military site that the nuclear watchdog believes was once used to test components for a nuclear weapon.
This highly-unusual arrangement provides Iran with an opportunity to hide the extent of its past nuclear weapons activities. The Islamic republic has reason to cover up such activities—it officially denies any attempt to build nuclear weapons.
Hayes and Lewis said that the AP story would be highly damaging to the Iran nuclear deal if true, but asserted that it was untrue.
"The sense that one got from reading the initial AP story was that the Iranians were going to be able to take their own samples and give them to the IAEA, and say, yeah, that stuff's from Parchin. Is that what's going to happen?" Hayes asked.
"Yeah, that sounds terrible, right? But, no, that's not what's going to happen," Lewis said.
Lewis’s statement contradicts a draft copy of the side deal released by the AP on Thursday. The draft states that Iran will take its own samples and give them to the IAEA.
Iran will provide "pictures," "videos," and "environmental samples" to the IAEA from predetermined locations in and around the Parchin facility. IAEA inspectors will not be allowed to accompany Iranian inspectors as they compile evidence at Parchin, although the IAEA director general will be taken on a "courtesy" visit of the facility after inspections have taken place.
Hayes and Lewis cited broad assurances by IAEA and Obama administration officials that they can authenticate evidence provided by Iran.
The IAEA said in a statement that the AP story is a "misrepresentation" of its ability to verify Parchin samples, but did not dispute any of the story’s particulars.