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Even before Iran reached a deal with six world powers on its nuclear program, it expressed optimism that such an agreement was within reach, that sanctions against it would be lifted, and that it would quickly resume its position as a leading player in the global energy market.
Yet now that the deal is struck and a removal of the sanctions is only a few months away, Tehran appears to be expressing concern about how its partners in the deal will conduct themselves – specifically the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations’ monitor of nuclear programs around the world.
It is the IAEA which must investigate Iran’s nuclear program to determine whether it ever was associated with the development of nuclear weapons. The agency’s director-general, Jukiya Amano, said July 4, ten days before the agreement was reached in Vienna, that its report on the subject could be ready by the end of this year.
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Iran has denied any such activity, but has also refused to answer the IAEA’s questions on the subject. Still, IAEA access to such information and the agency's use of the data for future monitoring is a condition for lessening some of the sanctions on Iran.
Yet the deal was struck, so it appears Tehran has satisfied its negotiating partners – Britain, China, France, China, Russia and the United States, plus Germany – that it has cooperated sufficiently with the U.N. agency.
Now Iran is warning Amano that he must keep any information the IAEA has collected confidential when he meets in Washington with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Aug. 5 to discuss the agency’s role in verifying and monitoring Iran’s nuclear research.
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“Definitely, the agreements between a country and the [U.N.] agency, which are classified, can by no means be presented to any other country,” Reza Najafi, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, told the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) on Saturday.
When the agreement was signed on July 14, Amano said it included a roadmap that “sets out a clear sequence of activities over the coming months, including the provision by Iran of explanations regarding outstanding issues.” He said this would help the IAEA make a “final assessment of possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program,” which would be ready by Dec. 15.
Not all government officials in Tehran are concerned about Amano's discretion. One, Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), said his agency isn’t concerned about Amano as long as he is fair.
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“Regardless of the IAEA chief’s decision to visit which country, what matters to us is the independent and impartial nature of the agency, and Amano is expected to guarantee this independence and impartiality of the IAEA,” he said Saturday.
The source of some senators’ concern is whether the IAEA, with the White House’s blessing, may have made secret side deals with Iran to ensure an agreement. The Washington meeting comes as both supporters and opponents of the agreement are vigorously lobbying members of Congress, which has begun a 60-day review of the pact to determine whether they should support it or not.
On July 30, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) repeated his demand that the White House surrender to Congress such side agreements between Iran and the IAEA. Secretary of State John Kerry said no such deals exist, and the IAEA says the technical details of its monitoring agreements with individual countries are always kept confidential.
By Andy Tully Of Oilprice.com
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Andy Tully is a veteran news reporter who is now the news editor for Oilprice.com