© 2024 South Carolina Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Critics Say U.S. Officials Promised 'Anytime, Anywhere' Inspections In Iran Nuclear Deal


The possibility of Iran eventually being able to develop weapons-grade uranium is not the only risk worrying critics. There's concern that inspectors may have to wait 24 days before gaining access to suspected nuclear weapons sites. Critics say inspections should be anytime and anywhere. NPR's David Welna reports.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: It was only when the terms of the Iran nuclear agreement were made public last month that the world learned that country could have what would be, in effect, a two-and-a-half week warning before inspections were carried out at suspected undeclared nuclear sites.


MARCO RUBIO: It is not an anytime, anywhere inspection system.

WELNA: That's Florida Republican senator and presidential contender Marco Rubio on CNN a few days after the deal was announced. But such complaints are coming not only from Republicans. Chuck Schumer is a New Yorker who's expected to be the Senate Democrats' next leader. Here's Schumer yesterday explaining why he's opposing the Iran deal.


CHUCK SCHUMER: I found the inspections regime not anywhere, anytime but with lots of holes in it.

WELNA: Even before the nuclear agreement was reached, Schumer had been under pressure to oppose it.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Call Senator Schumer, and tell him he must stand firm - anywhere, anytime inspections or no deal.

WELNA: That ad from a group calling itself The Emergency Committee for Israel aired just days before the deal was reached. But at a congressional hearing in January, Schumer was already demanding a tighter inspections regime.


SCHUMER: The agreement must contain stronger language that allows inspections anywhere, anytime, unannounced.

WELNA: And the White House sounded as if it agreed. Here's deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes speaking on CNN in early April.


BEN RHODES: Under this deal, you will have anywhere, anytime, 24/7 access as it relates to the nuclear facilities that Iran has.

WELNA: And Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz was asked on this program last month why he'd earlier told Bloomberg News there would be anytime, anywhere inspections.


ERNEST MONIZ: I said anytime, anywhere access in the sense of having a well-defined process over a finite time period to resolve the issues, so that's what anytime means. It's still what it means.

WELNA: But Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told MORNING EDITION last month that anytime means anytime and that Iran can cheat inspectors if it has 24-days' notice before inspections have to take place.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: That's a long time. You can flush a lot of evidence down the toilet. It's like telling a drug dealer, we're going to check your meth lab in 24 days; we put you on warning. And therefore, I think these inspections are completely porous.

WELNA: Former nuclear weapons inspector David Albright says it's a fact that Iran has cheated during previous nuclear inspections it knew about in advance.

DAVID ALBRIGHT: Iran had time in those cases. They didn't have this 24-day clock. And so there is a worry that they'll rise to the occasion and learn how to defeat sampling in 24 days.

WELNA: Albright says one way to speed up inspections, even with the deal in place, would be to impose progressively harsher sanctions on Iran for every day it seeks to delay. David Welna, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.