Unidentified International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors (2nd-3rd L) and Iranian technicians disconnect the connections between the twin cascades for 20 percent uranium production at nuclear power plant of Natanz, some 300 kilometres south of Tehran on January, 20, 2014.
Kazem Ghanekazem/AFP/Getty Images

The IAEA story that’s not quite what it seems to be

Updated
With the international nuclear agreement picking up increased support from congressional Democrats, opponents are not only discouraged, they’re also looking for something to help derail the deal’s progress. Yesterday, at least for a little while, the right seemed to think it had found new ammunition against the diplomatic solution.
An Associated Press report said the agreement it obtained would allow Tehran to use its own inspectors to investigate a military site where Iran is suspected to have worked on developing a nuclear weapon, which the nation has denied. 
 
[Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)] blasted the reported arrangement.  ”Why should Iran be trusted to carry out its own nuclear inspections at a military site it tried to hide from the world? How does this not set a precedent for future inspections at suspicious military sites in Iran?” he said. 
The Republican leader added, “The Obama administration has a lot of explaining to do.”
 
Soon after, Senate Majority Whip  John Cornyn (R-Texas) pointed to the same AP report as damning proof of how right Republicans are about the international agreement. “This revelation only reinforces the deep-seated concerns the American people have about the agreement,” Cornyn said in a statement.
 
Well, that certainly sounds serious. What’s this all about?
 
At issue is something known as the Parchin sampling plan. The Associated Press originally published a report with important and detailed allegations, which soon after disappeared from the article without explanation. Haaretz, a prominent Israeli newspaper, reported:
An AP expose of the draft agreement reached between Iran and the IAEA initially said Wednesday that Iranian representatives would be able to inspect Parchin without any intervention by UN inspectors, who would not even be allowed into the suspected compound.
 
A few hours after AP released the initial details of the agreement, a revised report emerged overwriting some of the more troubling issues pertaining to the inspection of Parchin.
 
For instance, the news agency removed from its report the claim that it was Iranian scientists themselves who would be inspecting the air and soil samples at Parchin, rather than UN inspectors. It also removed the claim that the number of air and soil samples taken from within suspected nuclear sites would be limited to seven.
There are screen-grabs that show the before and after on the AP’s article.  Vox’s Max Fisher noted that the Associated Press “quietly removed the damning bits from its Iran story … but left in the GOP quotes bashing the deal.”
 
In a written statement, White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price explained that the work between the IEAE and Iranian officials over the Parchin facility refers to “possible military dimensions of Iran’s former program.” Price added, When it comes to monitoring Iran’s behavior going forward, the IAEA has separately developed the most robust inspection regime ever peacefully negotiated to ensure Iran’s current program remains exclusively peaceful, the overarching objective of the JCPOA.”
 
That’s a diplomatic way of saying that the Associated Press article relates to Iranian activities in the past, which are unrelated to international inspections of the Iranian program going forward.
 
Opponents of the Iran deal will have to look elsewhere for their silver bullet.
 
Update: Both Vox and the Huffington Post published good pieces this morning, making clear that yesterday’s “bombshell” report from the AP was a dud.
 

Foreign Policy, Iran and Nuclear

The IAEA story that's not quite what it seems to be

Updated