Under an unprecedented secret agreement, the United Nations (UN) will allow Iranian experts to inspect their own country's military site reportedly used to develop nuclear weapons, according to a document obtained by the Associated Press.
Usually, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is tasked with inspecting a member nation's nuclear weapons sites. However, the UN agency reached a separate deal with Iran concerning inspections at the Parchin military site without consent from the United States and the other international powers who signed the broader Iran nuclear agreement.
This unprecedented move transfers the IAEA's investigative authority of a key component in Iran's nuclear program to Iran itself – directly contradicting advocates of the nuclear deal who claim the agreement is transparent and forces the Islamic Republic to be accountable for their actions.
The White House denies that a secret "side deal" exists, but Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged that no one from the Obama administration has had access to the secret document.
"We are aware of what the basics of it are... [the agreement] is not shared with the world, but we do get briefed on it," said Kerry.
Olli Heinonen, a former deputy IAEA director general tasked with monitoring Iran's nuclear activity, said that he cannot recall a time when a country under investigation was allowed to conduct its own inspections.
In congruence with U.S., Israel, and other intelligence reports, the IAEA believes that Iran experimented with high-explosive detonators for nuclear weapons at the Parchin military base, siting evidence based on satellite images and Iranian attempts to clear the site of nuclear activity.
The document, called "separate arrangement II," implies that there is another secret deal between Iran and the IAEA and suggests that the IAEA's role is diminished to monitoring Iranian inspectors at the military site.
Under this confidential agreement, Iran will give IAEA experts photos and videos of sensitive nuclear activities, "taking into account military concerns." Iranian technicians will also be tasked with conducting environmental samples for evidence of nuclear activity – a role traditionally reserved for IAEA inspectors.
Not only will the Iranian experts take the lead on the investigations, it also is only obliged to provide selective information at its own discretion.
"Activities will be carried out using Iran's authenticated equipment consistent with technical specifications provided by the agency," the agreement says. The IAEA "will ensure the technical authenticity" of Iran's inspection, but fails to lay out exactly how the procedure will be enforced.
This separate agreement reinforces concerns that the complex deal fails to provide the necessary transparency and accountability to assure Iran's pathway to nuclear weapons is effectively obstructed.