White House Launches Iran Side Deals Counterattack

White House Launches Iran Side Deals CounterattackWhite House Launches Iran Side Deals Counterattack

The Obama administration is launching a counterattack against Republican arguments that so-called "side deals" between Iran and international nuclear inspectors represent a good reason to oppose the nuclear deal struck between Iran and major powers on July 14.

Iranian officials have said the agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency, although linked to the nuclear accord, are not part of it.

Republicans have seized upon bilateral agreements between Iran and the IAEA to turn public opinion against the deal, the Hill reported on Sunday.

They hope if the public rejects the agreement, it will be harder for Democrats to back the administration on votes to unwind the deal that are expected in September.

Republicans would need two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate to overcome an expected veto by President Obama.

Republicans also are using the fact that the documents are being kept secret to accuse the administration of withholding information.

As the "side deals" argument gained traction in Republican circles, administration officials stepped up their effort to fight back.  

"I know there has been a suggestion by some Republicans that there are some agreements that were cut off to the side," press secretary Josh Earnest said last Wednesday. "The fact is this is a critical part of the agreement."

The White House also took to Twitter to rebut Republican claims.

"There's no 'secret' or 'side' deal with Iran. Congress has everything we have on (the deal)" read one tweet on @TheIranDeal account, set up by the White House to sell the agreement to the public.

"Lots of misperceptions (on the deal)," US National Security Adviser Susan Rice tweeted. "This is a good deal that should be judged on its merits, not distortions."

  Standard Practice

Administration officials say the Iran-IAEA agreements are not side deals, but standard practice in verifying member states' compliance with their commitments as per the UN nuclear agency's regulations.

Yet the administration's initial response to Republican arguments was muddled.

While US State Department spokesman John Kirby on Wednesday said there were no "side deals" and that the IAEA arrangements were normal, Rice described the arrangement as an agreement between Iran and the IAEA.

She hastened to add that the deals were not secret, that the administration new their contents and were "satisfied" with them. She also pledged administration officials would hold classified briefings for lawmakers on the details.

House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell penned a letter to Obama demanding administration officials turn over the documents, a signal Republicans are making the deals a central part of their argument against the Iran agreement.

Winning the battle of public opinion on Iran could prove crucial, as lawmakers will face heavy pressure from outside groups and their constituents when they go home for August recess.

Polls show public opinion is mixed when it comes to the deal, which provides Iran with sanctions relief in exchange for accepting temporary limits on its nuclear program.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll last week showed 56 percent of Americans support the deal. A Pew Research Center survey showed just 38 percent approve, while 48 percent disapprove.

During a Thursday Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, top US negotiators faced a barrage of criticism from Republican senators, who alleged an agreement governing a sensitive military site would allow Iran to collect samples themselves for IAEA investigations.  

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz denied Iran will be allowed to police itself, saying Tehran knows it has to produce evidence that can withstand scrutiny in an international network of laboratories.