Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton blasted the White House on Thursday for its failure to immediately disclose so-called side deals between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency as part of the negotiations of the nuclear deal reached last week, comparing Secretary of State John Kerry to Pontius Pilate, the Roman judge said to have presided over the trial of Jesus Christ.
Cotton, speaking on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” said that he traveled to Vienna last week to meet with IAEA officials, whom he said they were “very frank and helpful” in telling him that they reached two separate side deals on the Parchin military complex, long a point of contention in the Iran talks.
“So the State Department has confirmed now, finally, that those agreements do, in fact, exist, but they have not told us the contents of those agreements. So unless Congress gets the contents of these agreements and knows, for example, how the IAEA plans to inspect the Parchin military site, I don’t see how any member of Congress could vote for this deal, because it’s based on verification and inspection,” Cotton said. “And without that information, I don’t see how we can trust the government of Iran.”
Cotton said that Kerry, who is appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday to sell lawmakers on the agreement, “acted like Pontius Pilate” by not drawing a line.
“He washed his hands, kicked it to the IAEA, knowing that Congress would not get this information unless someone went out to find it,” he said, noting allegations that Iran has tested nuclear detonators at its Parchin facility. (Iran has denied the accusations, but has so far refused to allow IAEA inspectors full access.)
There needs to be a baseline, Cotton said. “For all we know,” he remarked, any unknown actions at Parchin “would undercut the agreement.”
On Wednesday, National Security Adviser Susan Rice told reporters that Congress will be briefed on the side documents and should come to the “same rational conclusion” as the administration that it is a “good and strong deal.”
“We have provided Congress with all of the documents that we drafted or were part of drafting, and all documents that have been shared with us by the IAEA,” Rice said. “So there is nothing that we are holding in our possession that we had either any role in crafting or were given to us that has not been given to Congress.”
While the documents are not public, administration officials have been briefed, she told reporters, and the documents will be shared “in full” in classified sessions with lawmakers. “So there’s nothing in that regard that we know that they won’t know,” she added.
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