Secretary of State John Kerry and two other cabinet officials’ job selling the Iran nuclear accord on Capitol Hill may be complicated by questions from Republican lawmakers over what they call secret “side deals.”
Supporters say confidential components of the agreement reached last week to limit Iran’s nuclear program are routine and will be disclosed to members of Congress. Opponents are invoking the issue in their effort to defeat the pact, which President Barack Obama wants lawmakers to approve.
“We’re going to get access to those particular agreements,” Senator Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat who was a co-author of legislation granting Congress 60 days to review the deal, said Thursday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program. “We’ll have the ability to dig into it. That’s what the 60-day review period is for.”
In question are confidential documents involving Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which inspects and tracks nuclear facilities. The documents regard the inspection of the Parchin military complex, where the IAEA said in 2011 it suspected possible nuclear-related weapons work was conducted, and efforts to resolve questions about possible military dimensions to Iran’s past nuclear efforts.
Kerry, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz are to testify Thursday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the agreement announced July 14. After the open hearing, Kerry and Moniz are scheduled to brief House Democrats behind closed doors.
Selling the deal to Congress is important to Obama even though he’s said he’d veto any legislation to block the deal, a move that would require opponents to muster two-thirds votes to override. Deal supporters say it would be harder to keep unified international sanctions on Iran without the deal, which has the support of other countries that were part of the negotiating group.
Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican who has been a vocal critic of the deal and the “secret deals,” said he doesn’t envision congressional approval without disclosure of the agreements.
Cotton, in an interview Thursday on MSNBC, compared Kerry with the biblical Pontius Pilate, saying he “washed his hands” of the issues and left them to the IAEA.
“These agreements are not administrative,” he said. “This goes to the heart of” the verification process question.
National Security Adviser Susan Rice on Wednesday said the agreements are peripheral to the accord and that the U.S. is satisfied with what it’s been told about them.
“These documents are not public, but nonetheless, we have been briefed on those documents, we know their contents, we’re satisfied with them and we will share the contents of those briefings in full in a classified session with the Congress,” she told reporters in a briefing. “So there’s nothing in that regard that we know that they won’t know.”