The Obama administration spent the last two years telling lawmakers and reporters that any deal with Iran would require the Iranians to provide International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors robust access to the Parchin military base, where the Iranians conducted hydrodynamic experiments relevant to the detonation of nuclear warheads. The IAEA needs the access to determine how far the Iranians got as a prerequisite to establishing a verification regime. Here's Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in 2013: the Joint Plan of Action requires Iran to "address past and present practices... including Parchin"; Sherman in 2014: "as part of any comprehensive agreement... we expect, indeed, Parchin to be resolved"; State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf in 2015: "we would find it... very difficult to imagine a JCPA that did not require such [inspector] access at Parchin"; etc.
Last month Republican senator Jim Risch suggested in an open Senate Foreign Relations committee hearing that the West had collapsed on the requirement and that instead the Iranians had worked out a secret side deal with Iran under which the Iranians would be trusted to collect their own samples for the IAEA. Kerry refused to confirm the arrangement citing classification issues, but the Associated Press's Vienna reporter locked it down anyway.
White House officials and validators continued to declare that in no way would the IAEA ever agree to that kind of arrangement, since it would preclude the agency from securing a chain of custody over the evidence. But the administration refused to transmit the side deal to Congress—which would have resolved the debate—and instead claimed that the U.S. couldn't get the text because it was a confidential Iran-IAEA bilateral agreement. Business Insider confirmed that in fact U.S. diplomats can call for the agreement at any time because Washington sits on the IAEA's Board of Governors. Nonetheless Kerry told Congress that not only did the U.S. not have the text, but that he hadn't even seen the final wording, though he added that maybe "Wendy Sherman may have" (she subsequently clarified she hadn't either).
Thursday the AP revealed that its reporters had—in contrast—seen a draft reflecting the final language, and that they were in a position to confirm the concessions made to Iran. Instead of allowing IAEA inspectors to collect evidence from Parchin, samples will be collected by the Iranians using Iranian equipment. Instead of allowing the IAEA to collect everything it wants, only seven samples will be handed over from mutually agreed upon areas. Instead of giving inspectors access to facilities, photos and videos will be taken by the Iranians themselves, again only from mutually agreed upon areas.
After Wednesday's article was published someone—presumably an overeager AP editor—tried to save some space by cutting several somewhat redundant paragraphs from the original draft. That triggered a flood of conspiracy theories about the AP retracting the story, and this morning there were a flood of snarky attacks on the outlet: "The AP's controversial and badly flawed Iran inspections story, explained" (Vox); "BREAKING: Nuclear Stuff Really Complicated" (TPM); "Revised AP report... overwrites some of the more troubling aspects" (Haaretz); "Potentially Deal-Shattering Report About Iran Inspections Has Some Issues" (HuffPo), etc.