Reports that confidential side-agreements to the recently signed nuclear deal will let the Iranians inspect the Parchin military site on their own is “just another” of the problems Israel has identified in the deal, Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold said on Thursday.
Gold was referring to an AP report on Wednesday about the draft of a side-agreement stipulating that Iran will be able to use its own investigators to inspect the site 30 km. southeast of Tehran where it has been accused of developing nuclear arms, including nuclear bomb trigger devices, in the past.
According to the AP report, the side agreement would allow Iran to use its own experts and equipment to search for evidence that it has used the site to develop nuclear weapons, something it has continuously denied.
Gold likened this to “allowing the criminal present the evidence.”
The side-agreement in question was one of two concluded between Iran and the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, the details of which even the US administration is reportedly not privy to.
Iran deal in a nutshell
Gold said there is already a “big problem” at the Parchin site, since the Iranians have been pouring asphalt there to make it more difficult to take ground samples and prove previous nuclear activity.
“Our experience over the last 20 years is that as soon as a rogue state will be tipped off that they are being inspected, they will begin to modify the facility,” he said.
In 2004 and 2005 the Iranians, after allowing a very limited IAEA visit to what was suspected to be an undeclared nuclear site in northeastern Iran called Lavizan-Shian, destroyed the site and dug out the top soil to a depth of two meters, Gold said. His claim was not confirmed by the IAEA.
“The first rule in any kind of forensic inspection is don’t tamper with the crime scene,” he said, adding that the Iranians are “famous” for doing precisely that.
Gold would not venture a guess whether the revelations about the side agreement would sway anyone in the US Senate or House of Representatives to vote against the deal, adding – however – that the new information “speaks for itself.”
Letting the new information speak for itself is also apparently the reason Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who has been an outspoken critic of the provision that allows the Iranians 24-days’ notice before undergoing an inspection of an undeclared nuclear facility – has not yet spoken out about the recent revelations.
The IAEA, however, said in a statement on Thursday that the access it will be granted at the site will satisfy its requirements.
“The separate arrangements of the road map are consistent with the IAEA verification practice and they meet IAEA requirements,” the nuclear organization said.
Diplomatic sources said that Israel was following the reports.
Regarding the IAEA’s response, the sources said the only way to clarify matters is for the P5+1 countries to publish all appendices to the nuclear accord. “The more that we are exposed to more details of the agreement, we see that our concerns were right and justified,” one of the sources said.
Statements from Republican lawmakers issued back in July, however, suggest that this information has been available, in a classified setting, for some time. At a Senate briefing on July 23, GOP committee members questioned why Iran would be allowed to collect its own samples at Parchin.
“Even the NFL wouldn’t go along with this,” Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) said, referring to the National Football League’s methods in policing steroid use by its athletes.
One day before the AP published its story, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) made note of these concerns.
“Why would our negotiators decide to negotiate access to other IAEA documents, but not these documents?” Menendez asked. “Maybe the reason, as some members of Congress and public reports have raised, is because it will be the Iranians and not the IAEA performing the tests and providing the samples to be analyzed, which would be the equivalent of having an athlete accused of using performance enhancing drugs submit an unsupervised urine sample to the appropriate authority.
“Chain of custody doesn’t matter when the evidence given to you is prepared by the perpetrator,” he said US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter declined to comment on the Parchin report when asked by a reporter on Thursday. He did say, however, that the US military posture around the Persian Gulf would remain intact throughout the life of the Iranian nuclear deal, and that the US will preserve its military options with respect to Iran’s nuclear program.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said in response to the reports on Thursday, “The IAEA is not giving over responsibility for inspections to Iran.
“We’re confident, and more than comfortable, with the technical arrangements that the IAEA has to assure that they can properly address concerns with possible military dimensions to Iran’s program in the past,” Kirby said.
Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, a spin-off group from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee devoted to killing the deal, called the revelation a “classic case of the fox guarding the chicken coop.”
“The stunning revelation that the United States government will allow Iran to self-inspect the Parchin site – where the regime likely tested nuclear weapons components – underscores the fatal weakness of the Iran deal,” CNFI said. “It essentially trusts the Iranian regime to gather the evidence at the very site where it has concealed its illicit activities for years.”
Ned Price, a spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council, was quoted on Thursday as saying “We are confident in the agency’s technical plans for investigating the possible military dimensions of Iran’s former program, issues that in some cases date back more than a decade.
“The IAEA,” he added, “has separately developed the most robust inspection regime ever peacefully negotiated to ensure Iran’s current program remains exclusively peaceful.”