Protocols spelling out how the International Atomic Energy Agency will examine and monitor a country's nuclear program are always confidential, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said on Friday, trying to tamp down once and for all the notion that "secret" deals with Iran exist as part of an agreement Tehran reached with six world powers to cease its nuclear weapons program.
"There is no secret side deal," Moniz told reporters on Friday at the White House. The actual deal sent to Congress for review forces Iran to allow the IAEA to go about its work unfettered, he said. It also requires Iran to commit to granting the international agency all the access requested in the protocols by Oct. 15. Such documents are confidential to help maintain the IAEA's independence, Moniz said.
Moniz cited the cooperation between the IAEA and South Africa to dismantle its nuclear program 25 years ago as an example.
"Those documents all remain confidential; that's the standard," Moniz said.
The agency's leader, Yukiya Amano, has agreed to come to Washington and walk administration officials and lawmakers through the protocols, Moniz said.
"The IAEA is an extremely competent organization" that can verify that states that have no diplomatic relations with the U.S., such as Iran, are honoring their commitments, Moniz said. The body is trustworthy "partly because, at a place like Los Alamos National Laboratory, we have courses that all of the IAEA inspectors take, for example."
"What we have done is give them the tools they need to apply these talents and, I might say, to expand their scope relative to other countries as well, hopefully," he added.
The White House increasingly has dispatched Moniz to sell the deal to lawmakers, stakeholders and the press.
Talking to the press from the White House briefing room "is not part of my job description, but obviously it was a — I think, a fortuitous set of circumstances in the sense that this is an area in which I do have a lot of experience," said Moniz, a nuclear physicist before joining the administration.
Moniz said he is happily fielding questions from Capitol Hill as well.
"I've been very, frankly, pleased at how many members are really digging into the documents, both the public and the confidential documents that we have supplied," he said.
Although he is not a party whip who lines up and counts votes, Moniz said he feels he's making progress.
"I have spoken with many members … and I think what it has led them is to sharpen their questions and hopefully for us to sharpen our answers."