Friday, August 21, 2015

The Side Deal No One Is Talking About

Just when we thought the Iran Deal debate couldn't possibly become more partisan and hyperbolic, a bit of poor journalism from the Associated Press' Vienna bureau chief has added unnecessary fuel to the fire.

Despite this outrage over a misunderstood and possibly fraudulent document (though I think it is more likely a series of translation errors and poor reporting), critics are ignoring an important fact; there is another agreement dealing with the possible military dimensions (PMDs, or 'outstanding issues' as the IAEA prefers to call them). In the IAEA's 'Road Map for Clarification of Past & Present Outstanding Issues regarding Iran's Nuclear Program' there are two agreements referenced between Iran and the IAEA.

The details of these deals are secret as is standard procedure when involving such sensitive matters. This is further complicated by the fact that Parchin is a military base. There is a separate agreement relating especially to Parchin because of this fact. If all of the sites that the IAEA wanted to investigate were civilian, there would likely be one agreement in the road map, not two.

JCPOA critics are so obsessed with Parchin because it is believed that illegal activities were undertaken at the site, but they seem so much less concerned with the other outstanding issues; issues that are also about PMDs of Iran's nuclear program. In fact, in the AP article, there is no mention of the other agreement also dealing with PMDs.

Parchin's potential nuclear connections are a problem, but aren't ALL PMDs important for Iran to explain to the IAEA? Shouldn't people be just as worried about the other agreement? It is important that all outstanding issues are resolved by Iran and the IAEA, in fact the JCPOA (and all of the sanctions relief) is contingent upon the road map being fully implemented. For all the talk about 'precedent' and establishing a baseline of inspections and behavior, why is it that the 'regular' roadmap agreement is getting so little attention? Isn't the approach of the IAEA dealing with PMDs at non-military sites also important?

It is baffling that the critics are only worried about one agreement in the road map, while the agreement, which involves around a dozen more outstanding issues, is ignored. The reporting is also shockingly bad, the existence of these agreements has been known since the JCPOA was signed over a month ago; this should have given them plenty of time to at least read this short document and note that the document regarding Parchin isn't the only thing that matters.

I have asked a variety of sources (including ISIS Nuclear, and Ken Dilanian, one of the reporters with the byline) about why the AP failed to mention the other PMD document. All have ignored my question as of yet. They keep going on and on about folks insisting the document is a fake, while ignoring valid and important questions which undermines the reporting of the entire exclusive. I suppose I should not be surprised that folks are unwilling to consider another view and that they would ignore a point that proves they are most likely wrong.

Still no answers from those I've asked before. What is most bizarre is that the original story ( seemed to have completely disappeared for a while. There is now a story on the 20th of August which refers back to the first story, but the first story is somehow gone from the original URL and a correction is on the page instead. The correction takes up a mere 132 words, and the rest of the story is gone. Additionally, many of the original flaws in the story remain. I find it most interesting that the author calls this secret agreement 'unusual' without any proof that this is in fact unusual. Has Mr. Jahn read a lot of secret agreements from the IAEA?

The AP did something sneaky by deleting the original story and replacing it with a 'correction' which states that the original story is below. This in fact is not true and there is no original story below. However, they also created a new URL with the correction AND the story which is not tagged to Jahn so it doesn't show up when searching the AP site for his articles. Either way the points about the correction are still valid and important.


Following is a short breakdown of the AP exclusive and its fallout

On August 19th, the AP published an exclusive stating that Iran would be able to inspect itself at Parchin, a military site also allegedly involved in nuclear weapons testing. This new information was based upon the reporter copying a draft text agreement between the IAEA and Iran over testing at Parchin from an anonymous source.

Critics of the deal responded as predicted, while supporters were mostly quiet. Over the next few hours the AP inexplicably removed key parts of the article containing alleged specifics of the IAEA's testing procedures while adding quotes from politicians critiquing the specifics. Jeffrey Lewis caught the changes and shared a screenshot showing this.

Later, some of these details were added back to the article, and a copied version of the draft agreement was published by the AP. There are a number of reasons why the information contained in the text provided by the AP is problematic; not only are there are a lack of technical details (which is what matters anyway), the terminology used seems to be wrong. A breakdown of the problems is available here: