Obama adviser: We never sought ‘anytime, anywhere’ access to Iran sites

In April, Ben Rhodes had told Israeli TV a final deal would ensure access ‘if we see something that we want to inspect’

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes (Photo credit: screenshot/CNN)
White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes (Photo credit: screenshot/CNN)

A top adviser to US President Barack Obama claimed Tuesday that the US had never sought co-called “anytime, anywhere” inspections of all suspect Iranian sites in the newly signed nuclear accord. His comments came in marked contrast to statements he made to Israeli television in April.

“We never sought anytime/anywhere inspections,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told CNN’s Erin Burnett in a televised interview defending the new Iran nuclear deal.

Pressing Rhodes on his response, Burnett asked him, “But the bottom line then is, you’re saying you never went for anytime, anywhere?”

“This has the most robust inspections and verification regime that we’ve ever had in this time of agreement that we’ve negotiated,” Rhodes said of the new deal, without directly answering her question.

The lack of guaranteed immediate access, under the terms of Tuesday’s deal, to any and every suspect Iranian site is one of the issues being cited by critics of the agreement. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday highlighted the issue in a Knesset speech: “For example, the agreement gives Iran 24 days’ [notice] before an inspection; it’s like giving a criminal organization that produces drugs a 24-hour warning before performing a search,” he said.

And Netanyahu’s point man on Iran, Minister Yuval Steinitz, called the inspection provisions “worse than worthless,” and said they actually helped Iran.

Days after Israel had listed demands for improvements to the April framework deal reached by Iran and world powers, the precursor to Tuesday’s deal, Rhodes had appeared on Israeli television to make clear that a final agreement would include stringent conditions.

In an interview with Channel 10, Rhodes claimed the new arrangements would ensure “anytime, anywhere” inspections of Iranian facilities. Israel had complained at the time that no such provision was guaranteed in the framework agreement. When asked directly if the IAEA would have anytime, anywhere access, Rhodes said, “Yes, if we see something that we want to inspect.

“In the first place we will have anytime, anywhere access the nuclear facilities,” he said, referring to “the whole supply chain,” Rhodes said.

He added, “If there is a suspicious site, for instance somewhere in a military base in Iran, and we want to seek access to that, we will be able to go to the IAEA and get that inspection because of the additional protocol of the IAEA that Iran will be joining and some of the additional transparency and inspections measures that are in the deal.”

As Obama did in his press conference on Wednesday, Rhodes used his Israeli TV appearances in April to dismiss the notion — relentlessly asserted by Netanyahu — that a better deal was attainable. “We believe that this is the best deal that can emerge from these negotiations,” Rhodes said at the time.

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