IAEA says access to Iran's Parchin military site meets demands of nuclear deal

Without IAEA confirmation that Iran is keeping its promises enshrined in the deal, the country will not be granted much-needed sanctions relief.

August 20, 2015 10:15
2 minute read.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Yukiya Amano is seen through a camera

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Yukiya Amano is seen through a video camera viewfinder as he attends a news conference in Vienna. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said access it will receive to Iran's Parchin military site, suspected by some states to have in the past hosted atomic bomb-related experiments, will satisfy its requirements.

Without IAEA confirmation that Iran is keeping its promises enshrined in a landmark nuclear deal Tehran reached with world powers on July 14, the country will not be granted much-needed sanctions relief.

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Under a roadmap agreement Iran reached with the UN nuclear watchdog alongside the political deal, Iran is required to give the IAEA enough information about its past nuclear program to allow it to write a report on the issue by year-end.

According to a leaked document obtained by the Associated Press, the IAEA will allow Iran to use its own experts and equipment to conduct an investigation into questions over its past nuclear weaponization work.

The agreement, characterized as “unusual” by nuclear experts, amounts to the IAEA “essentially ceding the agency’s investigative authority to Iran,” the AP stated in its report.

Several agreements made within the umbrella of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the multilateral nuclear deal reached in Vienna on July 14, were directly brokered between the IAEA and Iran. Their details are confidential, as per standard IAEA protocol in its dealings with member states.

But the terms of this particular agreement appear unusual. The IAEA has sought access to several sites, including an Iranian military complex at Parchin, for nearly a decade, in order to obtain answers to a set list of questions over the possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program.


Physical access will be denied, the report said, as will photo and video evidence of areas of several sites, to accommodate Iran’s “military concerns.”

“If this is the agreement, then it is absurd,” said Simon Henderson, a proliferation expert and director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “If we are not confident that we know what Iran has done in the past, then we cannot accurately estimate how long it would take Iran to break out.”

The United States estimates that Iran’s current “breakout time” to a nuclear weapon – the time it would need to obtain enough fissile material for one bomb – is two to three months. The JCPOA aims to extend that breakout time to one year for roughly a decade.

“Unless non-Iranians do the inspecting, we won’t be confident,” Henderson continued, calling the development a “major, perhaps fatal, weakness” in the accord. “It is no good just considering breakout in terms of enriching enough material, in this case [highly enriched uranium], for a nuclear weapon.”

Responding to the report, State Department spokesman John Kirby declined to confirm its contents, but said the IAEA is “comfortable with the arrangements” and that the US had confidence in the IAEA.

“It’s not for the P5+1 to endorse or negate,” Kirby said, referring to the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany, which together negotiated the agreement with Iran. The US, he said, is “confident the IAEA will get the information and the access it needs” to resolve questions of possible military dimensions.

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