The Cable

Military Facilities Become Focus of Iran Deal

The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Sunday he could tolerate a series of concessions by the White House on Tehran's nuclear program, but a “huge” factor in determining his support for a deal is the degree to which inspectors have access to Iran’s military facilities.

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 14:  Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker (L) (R-TN) confers with ranking member Sen. Ben Cardin (R) (D-MD) during a committee markup meeting on the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran April 14, 2015 in Washington, DC. A bipartisan compromise reached by Corker and Cardin would create a review period that is shorter than originally proposed for a final nuclear deal with Iran and creates compromise language on the removal of sanctions contingent on Iran ceasing support for terrorism.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 14: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker (L) (R-TN) confers with ranking member Sen. Ben Cardin (R) (D-MD) during a committee markup meeting on the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran April 14, 2015 in Washington, DC. A bipartisan compromise reached by Corker and Cardin would create a review period that is shorter than originally proposed for a final nuclear deal with Iran and creates compromise language on the removal of sanctions contingent on Iran ceasing support for terrorism. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Sunday he could tolerate a series of concessions by the White House on Tehran’s nuclear program, but a “huge” factor in determining his support for a deal is the degree to which inspectors have access to Iran’s military facilities.

Disagreement over the inspection of military facilities is the latest roadblock to a final deal between Tehran and U.S. negotiators who were already haggling over the timing of sanctions relief.

Earlier this month, Tehran and six world powers agreed to a framework agreement to restrain Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of crushing economic sanctions. A deadline for a final deal has been set for the end of June.

When the agreement was announced, the State Department released a fact sheet saying Iran would allow U.N. inspectors access to any “suspicious sites.” It also said Iran would grant the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) broader access to declared and undeclared nuclear facilities.

But during remarks on Iranian state TV on Sunday, Gen. Hossein Salami, the deputy leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, said submitting to inspections of military sites amounted to “selling out.”

“We will respond with hot lead to those who speak of it,” Salami said. “Iran will not become a paradise for spies. We will not roll out the red carpet for the enemy.… They will not even be permitted to inspect the most normal military site in their dreams.”

Shortly after those remarks, Sen. Bob Corker, a bellwether on the right, raised concerns about Iranian resistance to these types of inspections.

“How are we going to have the ability to get in and, on snap inspections, get into the military facilities, make sure that covert operations are not under way?” Corker said on CNN’s State of the Union. “This is of significance, huge significance — the biggest geopolitical arrangement that possibly will be entered into.”

Salami’s remarks are the latest case of Iran and the United States portraying the April 2 nuclear accord reached in Lausanne, Switzerland in a markedly different light as hard-liners in both countries raise doubts about the wisdom of the international deal. In Iran, where large swaths of the public support a deal, President Hassan Rouhani is trying to allay concerns from the country’s more skeptical clerical establishment. In the United States, President Barack Obama needs to build enough support in Congress to preclude a veto proof majority of lawmakers voting against the lifting of sanctions on Iran — a key component to a final nuclear deal.

Notably, Corker did express support for other aspects of the Iran deal that many of his Republican colleagues have criticized relentlessly, such as the repurposing of key Iranian nuclear facilities instead of a full dismantlement.

If a deal is finalized, the underground bunker at Fordow will be converted to a physics and technology center for research, and no longer produce fissile material. The reactor at Arak will be rebuilt with international assistance in order to render it incapable of producing weapons-grade plutonium. The hardened facility at Natanz would be permitted to enrich uranium, but under strict guidelines observed by the IAEA.

“Look, I am concerned about Arak, but I think we can deal with it. I am concerned about Fordow, but I think we can possibly deal with that. I am concerned about Natanz. I think we can deal with that,” he said. “What concerns all of us, I think, the most is the covert actions.”

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