The Iran Agreement and Impossible Things: The Parchin Inspections


“One can’t believe impossible things,” Alice objected. “I dare say you haven’t had much practice, the Red Queen replied. “When I was your age, I sometimes did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Major media outlets, including Reuters, NBC and the BBC, have reported in the last week that in accordance with a secret sidebar agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran has independently collected environmental samples from its weapons facility at Parchin and handed them over to the IAEA for analysis. The Iranian media stated that neither UN nor IAEA inspectors were present at the site. Later the IAEA confirmed the Iranian report.

Those secret sidebars only came to light when Associated Press reporters uncovered them in August. When the AP was criticized for not offering proof of its assertion, it published the terms of the secret agreement.

In what is titled, “Separate Arrangement 2,” between the IAEA and the Republic of Iran, the following salient points are included:

1.       Iran will provide to the Agency photos of the locations including those identified in paragraph three below, which will be mutually agreed between Iran and the Agency taking into account military concerns.

2.      Iran will provide to the Agency videos of the location including those identified in paragraph three below, which will be mutually agreed between Iran and the Agency, taking into account military concerns.

3.      (Paragraph three): Iran will provide to the agency seven environmental samples taken from points inside one building already identified by the Agency and agreed by Iran, and two points outside the Parchin complex which would be agreed between Iran and the Agency.

IAEA chief, Yukiya Amano, said that the he was satisfied with the Iranian self-inspection because the process was carefully monitored by video and still cameras.

Amano, who was brought to Parchin within the past week for what was termed a “ceremonial tour” by Iranian state run media, reported that he was allowed access into one building, which he said was completely lacking in any equipment. In essence, the Iranians permitted Amano to “inspect” an empty building. He did, however, note clear indications of recent landscaping, demolition and new construction at the industrial complex. This assessment comports with media reports in August. CNN stated, for example: “The intelligence community believes Iran has been attempting to clean up the suspected nuclear site at Parchin… based on new satellite imagery.”

While the IAEA has said that it has a legal obligation to keep details of the arrangement confidential, it insists that the inspections regime is technically sound. Amano stated: “The agency can confirm the integrity of the sampling process… which were taken at places of interest to the agency…” He then informs us that the samples cannot be compromised.

But herein lies the rub. While the collecting of samples at Parchin can be monitored by cameras, their transport to the IAEA representatives cannot. No details were offered by Amano as to how the IAEA can be certain that the samples collected and monitored are the same ones delivered to the agency. In this regard we are offered no specifics. Mere verbal assurances that the samples cannot be corrupted in transit are wholly inadequate, especially since the IAEA has said in the past that there are “strong indicators” that secret nuclear weapons development has occurred at Parchin.

As to why the Obama administration did not release these sidebars for consideration by congress and the American public, I will leave for the reader to discern. The best the administration has offered to date is that it did not have a copy of the IAEA/Iran agreement.

It seems baffling, no inconceivable, that the P5+1 nations would even consider signing an agreement when those states are admittedly unaware of the details of the inspections regime and verification process – a component at the very heart of the agreement. This is compounded by the fact that the IAEA has stated that Iran has been caught cheating by the agency twenty times in the past.

Unless and until the IAEA clarifies how it can be certain that the environmental samples cannot be compromised during transport, we are asked to put our faith in a non-intrusive inspections regime and rely on the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism to honorably abide by the integrity of the process.

And no, “One can’t believe impossible things” before or after breakfast.