US official: ‘Anytime access’ to Iranian facilities was rhetorical flourish

Wendy Sherman says Israeli experts “essential” in formulating certain aspects of deal.

Nuclear facility (photo credit: REUTERS)
Nuclear facility
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The US pledge three months ago for “anytime, anyplace” access to Iran’s nuclear facilities was more of a rhetorical flourish than anything else, US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said on Thursday “I think this is one of those circumstances where we have all been rhetorical from time to time,” Sherman, who played a central role in the negotiations, said in a conference call with Israeli diplomatic reporters.
“That phrase, ‘anytime, anywhere,’ is something that became popular rhetoric, but I think people understood that if the IAEA felt it had to have access, and had a justification for that access, that it would be guaranteed, and that is what happened.”
Sherman urged the Israeli public to read the more than 100-page agreement and then judge it on the facts.
PM Netanyahu"s Interview on NBC News
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stressed that under the accord, “instant” inspections will only take place 24 days after requested, giving time – he charged – to clean up the site to be inspected.
He likened giving Iran 24-day notice before inspecting a site to giving a drug ring three weeks before launching a drug bust.
“Can you imagine giving a drug dealer 24 days’ notice before you inspect the premises?” Netanyahu said on Wednesday in an NBC interview.
“That’s a lot of time to flush a lot of meth down the toilet.”
Sherman, however, quoted US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz as saying, “it’s not so easy to clean up a nuclear site.”
The reason there has been such a debate over IAEA inspectors visiting the Parchin military facility, she said, is that many years later there is still concern that the IAEA will still find something there.
“Twenty four days may seem like a long time but, in nuclear matters, according to the scientist and technical experts, it is actually a very short time,” she said. “We believe that we have the most extensive, inspection, monitoring regime” ever put in place, she said.
Contrary to Netanyahu’s assertion that what was agreed upon in Vienna was a bad deal, Sherman called it “not only a good deal, but a very, very good deal” that not only fulfills the framework worked out in Lausanne earlier this year, but actually goes beyond it.
Sherman also said there has been “extraordinarily close coordination” with Israeli experts and that they were essential in the development of certain components of the agreement.
“One of your lead experts wrote an email to us after the deal looking for further consultation to see where our joint experts produced a result,” she said, adding that Israeli experts were involved in everything from the redesign of the Arak hard water reactor, to looking at issues of weaponization that were in the accord.
She said Netanyahu urged Israeli experts to continue consultation and “give us the benefit of the expertise Israel had.” She said this cooperation “has been very valuable and was very consequential to the steps that we took.”
She said Netanyahu urged Israeli experts to continue consultation and “give us the benefit of the expertise Israel had.”
Sherman denied reports that there was a break in communications between Israel and the US during the key last weeks of negotiations, saying she herself had spoken with National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen three times during this period, including on Wednesday in a “secure call” with National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz.
Another call was scheduled for Thursday evening between Netanyahu and Secretary of State John Kerry, she said. Netanyahu spoke with US President Barack Obama on Tuesday.
According to Sherman, Obama – during that conversation – tried to “talk about ways that they might enhance future security cooperation with Israel,” but that Netanyahu was “not ready to have that discussion yet.”