IAEA Document Reveals: Iran to Carry Out Own Inspection of Suspected Nuclear Site in Parchin

IAEA and Iran reached separate agreement alongside nuclear deal in which it was determined how the investigation into Parchin would be carried out; this agreement was kept classified, and its details were not revealed to the six powers.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
Satellite image from 2012 of Parchin military complex southeast of Tehran, Iran.
Satellite image from 2012 of Parchin military complex southeast of Tehran, Iran.Credit: AP
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

The draft agreement between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) published on Wednesday by the Associated Press reveals troubling details about the inspection procedures at the Parchin military base, where Iran is suspected of conducting experiments using the components necessary to build a nuclear weapon.

According to the document, Iranian representatives would inspect the site, without any intervention by UN inspectors, who would not even be allowed into the suspected compound.

The inspection of the suspected site in Parchin was one of the central issues underlining the IAEA's investigation into the military possibilities of the Iranian nuclear program – that is, suspicions that Iran has been carrying out a military nuclear weapons program to create an atomic bomb.

The conclusion of the IAEA's investigation was one of the conditions set in the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers for the removal of sanctions.

Alongside the nuclear deal, the IAEA and the Iranian government reached a separate agreement in which it was determined how the investigation into suspicions of a military nuclear program in Iran would be carried out. This agreement was kept classified, and its details were not revealed to the six powers, who received only an oral and general briefing on the matter from IAEA chief Yukiya Amano. Amano even briefed a number of senior American senators on the matter, but would not reveal details of the deal with Iran.

A few weeks ago, Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, who opposes the nuclear deal, revealed in the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee that he knew of certain details in the agreement, according to which Iran would be able to collect samplings from the ground of the suspected site in Parchin. His remarks have now been confirmed by the details of the agreement, which were published by the Associated Press.

In response to the publication of the details, the White House said that the Obama administration trusted the IAEA in its investigation, stressing that the procedure of the investigation and inspection on site dealt with activities Iran had carried out in the past.

"As the administration has said before - including in classified briefings for both chambers of Congress - 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," National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price said.

"Just as importantly, the IAEA is comfortable with arrangements, which are unique to the Agency's investigation of Iran's historical activities. When it comes to monitoring Iran's behavior going forward, the IAEA has separately developed the most robust inspection regime ever peacefully negotiated to ensure Iran's current program remains exclusively peaceful, the overarching objective of the JCPOA. Beyond that, we are not going to comment on a purported draft IAEA document," Price said.

According to the draft agreement, not only would the Iranians collect soil samples in Parchin themselves, but the unusual arrangement would also give the Iranians full authority to investigate the site. The result would be that the Iranians would be investigating themselves over the same issues for which they have been evading scrutiny and trying to cheat the world for the past 12 years.

According to satellite photography and intelligence, over recent years and again in the past weeks, Iran has been engaged in in a series of attempts to destroy evidence at the suspected site.

The draft says that UN inspectors would not inspect the Parchin site themselves and would not be allowed into the compound. Instead, they would supervise the Iranian experts carrying out the inspection. The Iranians would supply the UN inspectors with still photographs and video footage of several locations within the Parchin compound where components for the production of nuclear weapons are suspected to have been tested. The Iranians may use their own equipment, which will be examined by UN inspectors only to make sure it is in working order.

Even though Iran has been given widespread authority to inspect the site, they are still resisting an inspecting of the entire Parchin compound, terming several locations in it "out of bounds" - meaning no photographs or any other information about them would be handed over to UN inspectors.

Another troubling clause in the draft determines that even though Iranian scientists would be those who sample the soil and the air in Parchin, this activity would be limited, and UN inspectors would receive only seven soil and air samples from the building in which Iran is suspected of having tested the nuclear weapons components. UN inspectors could collect additional samples themselves, but only outside the compound's fence.

The publication of the draft is likely to affect the fiery public debate over the nuclear deal with Iran in the United States. The worrying details would add fuel to the fire of the political struggle between the White House, which is trying to get Congress to approve the deal, and the Republican Party and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who are trying to "kill" it.

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