Exclusive: Rice – Iran cannot avoid inspections of suspicious sites

Iran will have no way to avoid inspections of military or other sites that the United States and its allies deem suspicious when a nuclear pact sealed this week goes into effect, U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice said on Wednesday.

Rice, in an interview with Reuters, said the deal would not give Iran any room to oppose inspections if Washington or others had information believed to reveal a secret site that they took to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for review.

“If the Iranians said, ‘No, you can’t see that site,’ whether it’s a military site or not, the IAEA, if it deems the site suspicious, can ask for access to it,” she said.

If Iran refuses access but five of the eight international signatories to the deal demand an investigation under a newly created joint commission, Iran must comply, she said.

“It’s not a request. It’s a requirement,” Rice said. Iran would be “bound to grant that access.”

Under the deal announced earlier this week, sanctions imposed by the United States, European Union and United Nations will be lifted in exchange for Iran agreeing to long-term curbs on its nuclear program, which the West and Israel have suspected was aimed at creating a nuclear bomb.

As part of the deal, Iran will have a 24-day period in which it can address concerns over suspicious sites and agree to inspections.

But the procedure does not explicitly force Iran to admit that its military sites could be open to foreign inspections, leaving some uncertainty over the access Iran will allow in practice.

Critics of the deal, including Republicans and Israel’s government, have said the agreement is full of loopholes, particularly when it comes to verification and Iran’s “breakout” capability – the time it would take theoretically to develop a nuclear weapon. They have called the 24-day period an unacceptable loophole for Iran.

Rice dismissed concerns that Iran could hide radioactive nuclear material in what would be large facilities during that waiting period.

“They can’t hide the evidence of that in any meaningful way in that kind of period of time. And you can’t hide a facility of that size very easily for long,” she said.

Signatories to the deal include the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, the EU, and Iran.

Rice and other officials in President Barack Obama’s administration are advancing a broad sales pitch at home and abroad, needing to reassure skeptical Gulf allies and Republicans in Congress who are hostile to the deal.


U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter will travel to Saudi Arabia as part of the effort to convince partners in the region about the benefits of the deal, Rice said.

The United States would also look at ways to deepen its security cooperation with Israel, a strident opponent of the deal, she said. Carter is traveling to Israel this weekend. His trip to Saudi Arabia had not been announced previously.

“We will … be looking forward, if the Israelis are interested and willing, they haven’t said so yet, to discuss with them how we might further deepen and strengthen our security and intelligence cooperation,” Rice said.

Rice gave a strong indication that some of Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium would be shipped to Russia as a result of the historic deal and said the United States would not be worried about that.

“It can be shipped out to a third country, like Russia. That’s probably the most likely means … Russia has its own fissile material, it’s handled it appropriately, we’re not concerned about that,” Rice said.

Rice expressed confidence that Iran would fulfill its requirements under the deal based on its record of implementing an interim agreement.

But it will take time, she said. If Iran complies and sanctions were lifted in “many months,” new oil flows from Iran would not hit the market all at once but were likely to lower global oil prices at least for a while, she said.

“Given what other supply may be on the market at that time, it could have the effect of at least for a period of time reducing oil prices,” she said.

“Obviously if oil prices come down, it will affect the revenue streams of the oil-producing countries.”

Asked about the U.S. ban on exports of domestic oil, Rice said that issue was unrelated to sanctions being lifted on Iran. Washington has banned most crude exports since the Arab oil embargo of the early 1970s sparked fears of shortages. Some lawmakers, including the head of the Senate Energy Committee, are pushing to lift the restrictions.

(additional reporting by Roberta Rampton, Lisa Lambert, and Megan Cassella; Editing byStuart Grudgings)

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