Energy secretary defends waiting periods in Iran deal

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz defended the Iran nuclear deal on Monday, arguing 24-day waiting periods for international inspectors would not be a significant problem in identifying nuclear activity by Iran.

Lawmakers have criticized the deal for not requiring “anytime, anywhere” sanctions on all sites, while warning that the 24-day period may be enough time for Iran to hide any evidence of a covert program.

Moniz emphasized that monitors have “daily access” to all declared sites and the 24-day period only relates to undeclared sites.

“In regards to 24 days, we are very confident that activities involving nuclear materials will be detectable,” he said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

He also noted that in 2003, inspectors caught Iran “red-handed” during a period where less intrusive inspections were in place.

The House and Senate are reviewing the Iran nuclear deal, and could vote to approve or disapprove it in September. With most Republican lawmakers lining up against the deal, the Obama administration faces a challenge in convincing Democrats to back it.

Moniz and other officials have engaged in a heavy public relations campaign to pull public support behind the deal and make it easier for Democrats to back it.

On Monday, Moniz argued the deal gives the international community its first mechanism to ensure Iran is not secretly creating a nuclear weapon.

“The P5+1 have established for the first time a finite time period for Iran, or any other country for that matter, to respond to the allegations, provide access, or be in material breach,” he said.

Under the terms, Iran has 14 days to satisfy the concerns of international monitors, or the dispute gets brought to the international community. That process lasts a maximum of 10 additional days, by the end of which Iran would have to satisfy concerns or grant access.

Moniz pushed back against criticism from lawmakers that the deal sets up Iran to build out a weapon after the strongest terms expire, within 10 to 15 years.

“Without this deal, 15 years would be tomorrow,” he said.

“We will have more insight to any potential Iranian nuclear program with this deal than without it,” he said.

By The Hill