Crisis Group expert: Parchin symbolizes three-fold problem between Iran and IAEA

Posted on August 24, 2012

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Ali Vaez Crisis GroupThe Parchin military complex symbolizes a three-fold problem between Iran and the IAEA, Senior Iran analyst at International Crisis Group, Ali Vaez said.

Visiting the Parchin complex has become a priority for the International Atomic Energy Agency as it seeks to end what the West sees as prolonged Iranian stonewalling of its investigation into allegations of attempts to design a nuclear weapon.

Iran denies accusations that it wants to develop nuclear weapon technology.

But its refusal to limit and be more transparent about its nuclear activity has led to increasingly tough sanctions and sparked renewed speculation that Israel, Tehran’s arch-enemy, might bomb Iranian nuclear installations.

Citing satellite images, Western diplomats say Iran has demolished some small buildings and moved earth at Parchin in an apparent attempt to purge any incriminating evidence from a site where the IAEA believe tests in a steel chamber relevant to nuclear arms were carried out, possibly a decade ago.

Iran says Parchin, about 30 km (20 miles) southeast of the capital Tehran, is a conventional military site and has dismissed allegations aired about it as “ridiculous”.

Speaking of the problems that Iran and UN’s IAEA cannot agree upon, Vaez noted that Iran and the agency and have different interpretations of rights and responsibilities under the NPT, its subsidiary protocols, and the UN Security Council resolutions.

“While Iran’s rejects any IAEA demands for inspection of non-nuclear sites – such as Parchin, the agency’s interpretation is that if there is suspicion of a link between a military site and the nuclear program, the IAEA has the right to investigate it and the UNSC resolutions have also empowered the IAEA to do so,” Vaez said.

The expert noted that the method of investigation is also important in this case.

“Iran requires the IAEA to work within a structured framework that would not allow open-ended reinvestigation,” he said. “This is not acceptable to IAEA inspectors, who like to be able to return to a specific case once they obtain new evidence. Iran allowed the IAEA to visit the site twice in 2005 and considers the case closed.”

The last meeting between Iran and the IAEA collapsed on June 8. Inspectors want access to sites inside Iran beyond what is mandated by the IAEA’s agreements with the country.

While Iran’s declared nuclear facilities have been subject to about 4,000 man-days of inspections since 2003, the agency has repeatedly said it cannot ensure inspectors have seen the full scope of the country’s atomic work.

Ali Vaez believes Iran and the UN nuclear watchdog have always clashed over the sources of information, which the former maintains are fabricated and the latter contends are authentic.

“In case with Parchin, however, most of the information are obtained by the agency itself and thus are not forged,” Vaez noted.

Crisis group analyst said concern with Parchin were rekindled when Iran demolished some buildings and moved earth, after Parchin was named in the November 2011 IAEA report, which raised the possibility of existence of a high explosive testing chamber at the site.

“If indeed this chamber exists and Iran has used Uranium for testing an implosion device, removing its evidence is almost impossible,” Vaez noted. “So, I believe that rather than a mischievous act of obfuscation, the issue of Parchin is a contest of wills between the IAEA and Iran.”

Vaez believes for Tehran final resolution of its issues with the IAEA depends on the results of higher-level diplomacy with the P5+1 group.

“The world powers are not prepared to reward Iran with any inducements, unless IAEA testifies to the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program,” he said. “So, all sides find themselves in a unsolvable chicken and egg dilemma.”

The IAEA is expected to release its quarterly report on the Islamic Republic before its 35-member board of governors meets Sept. 10 in the Austrian capital.

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