Parchin and Iran’s nuclear program

With all the overwhelming evidence against it, Iran must not be given the chance to again mislead the world.

ISIS: Two buildings razed at Parchin 370 (photo credit: DigitalGlobe - ISIS)
ISIS: Two buildings razed at Parchin 370
(photo credit: DigitalGlobe - ISIS)
According to the May 25, 2012, report of the director- general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), his agency requested access to the Parchin site in Iran, long suspected of hosting a test facility related to the development of nuclear explosives. This was also one of the topics discussed between the director-general and the Iranian delegation during the well-publicized May 14-15 Tehran meeting. Although both sides said that an agreement was imminent, no details were available. The Iranians also said that no access would be granted to Parchin without an agreement on a “structured approach to the clarification of all outstanding issues related to Iran’s nuclear programme.”
Even prior to the IAEA report, there have been reports that Iran was carrying out cleaning operations at the Parchin site, apparently with the aim of removing any evidence of work related to the development of nuclear weapons. A later report by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) presented satellite evidence that two small buildings, in the vicinity of the suspect larger test building, were razed. This, the report said, was reminiscent of the 2004 activity that took place at the Tehran Lavizan- Shian site, where a complete R&D site was razed to the ground and all topsoil removed to an unknown site. This happened because the IAEA had proven its ability to take environmental samples that proved that Iran was conducting illicit, undeclared activities that proved its non-compliance with its NPT obligations.
It is therefore reasonable to assess that the Iranians had learned their lessons, and will not permit any visits to any suspect site until it is convinced that no negative evidence would be uncovered as a result of that visit. They would also delay signing the agreement with the IAEA on the “structured approach” until all cleanup operations were completed.
Moreover, it is reasonable to guess that the Iranians would use these negative results, if the visit took place, to demonstrate their cooperation, and to claim that they convincingly proved that Iran had no military nuclear program.
This would become a no-win situation for the IAEA, with a certain win for Iran.
The IAEA must avoid this.
But this is not the only pitfall for the IAEA and the international community. A very old statement used by the previous director-general, picked up by the international organizations, and by many politicians the world over, including US politicians, is the reference to the need of Iran “to establish international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.”
This is a tongue-in-cheek expression that is illusionary and useless at the same time. At this late stage of the game, recalling the director-general’s report of November 2011, with all its evidence of a military nuclear program, and recalling all the auxiliary evidence that has appeared from time to time in the media, this call must be changed. The call must be now to dismantle all the components of the Iranian military-related nuclear program, to convincingly prove that all components have been done away with and only then assume that Iran’s nuclear program is probably dedicated to peaceful uses.
In order to achieve this, Iran must agree, unconditionally, to provide access to all suspect facilities, those known at present and those that will be uncovered in the future, and to all documentation and personnel involved in these programs.
To be realistic, Iran will never permit this. Iran will try to avoid this sort of inquiry and will try to convince the world of its peaceful intentions, while avoiding the need to answer uncomfortable questions. A visit to Parchin that will discover no untoward evidence will certainly help Iran in this attempt. With all the overwhelming evidence against it, Iran must not be given the chance to again mislead the world and go on its way toward achieving the potential of producing nuclear weapons in short order when it so desires.
The ongoing uranium enrichment program will certainly let it achieve this.
The writer is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS).