Saturday, September 06, 2014

06-Sep-14: Iran, US and opening up a new path toward a more secure world: how well is that going?

Iran's Parchin complex, in a Google Maps 2012 aerial view:
40 square kilometers of secret military facilities dedicated to explosives,
scattered across the desert and mountains [Image Source
Are we closer to achieving supervision and control of Iran's no-longer-so-secret nuclear weapon ambitions? Or further away?
Iran fails to address nuclear bomb concerns - IAEAFri Sep 5, 2014 | REUTERS | Fredrik Dahl
VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran has failed to address concerns about suspected atomic bomb research by an agreed deadline, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Friday, a setback to hopes for an end to an international stand-off over Tehran's atomic activity.
The lack of movement in an inquiry by the International Atomic Energy Agency will disappoint the West and could further complicate efforts by six world powers to negotiate a resolution to the decade-old dispute with Iran over its nuclear ambitions.
An IAEA report obtained by Reuters showed that little substantive headway had so far been made in the U.N. agency's long-running investigation into what it calls the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear programme.
The International Atomic Energy Agency published its latest report [online here] yesterday. The Reuters report above intimates, though it could have said it more clearly, that the IAEA's probe into Iran's campaign to become a nuclear weapons power is completely stuck. The reason is Iranian non-cooperation. You might also call it stone-walling.

The report's Section H, the part dealing with those "possible military dimensions" (PMDs), makes clear that what has been happening and not happening is extremely disturbing. The PMDs are key to the IAEA getting a good sense of "the scope of the program... and set the baseline for the successful monitoring", in the words of Olli Heinonen, formerly the IAEA deputy director. They are quoted in an email we received today from Omri Ceren (@cerenomri) at The Israel Project, where they do invaluable work staying on top of the Iran/Nuclear issue,

As the BBC reported back on March 9, 2012, the so-called P5-plus-1 partner countries
the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China - said in a statement: "We call on Iran to enter, without pre-conditions, into a sustained process of serious dialogue, which will produce concrete results." They called on Iran to co-operate fully with UN inspectors and allow them to visit the Parchin military site. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has previously said it suspects the Parchin site may be being used for nuclear weapons-related testing. [BBC]
President Obama, in a speech [video here] delivered in November 2013, described newly agreed "substantial limitations" with the Ayatollah-rich regime in Teheran that "cut off Iran's paths to a nuclear bomb":
Since I took office, I’ve made clear my determination to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  As I’ve said many times, my strong preference is to resolve this issue peacefully, and we’ve extended the hand of diplomacy... Today, that diplomacy opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure - a future in which we can verify that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon... Over the next six months, we will work to negotiate a comprehensive solution.  We approach these negotiations with a basic understanding:  Iran, like any nation, should be able to access peaceful nuclear energy. But because of its record of violating its obligations, Iran must accept strict limitations on its nuclear program that make it impossible to develop a nuclear weapon.
In these negotiations, nothing will be agreed to unless everything is agreed to.  The burden is on Iran to prove to the world that its nuclear program will be exclusively for peaceful purposes... As President and Commander-in-Chief, I will do what is necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon... Through strong and principled diplomacy, the United States of America will do our part on behalf of a world of greater peace, security, and cooperation among nations." ["Statement By The President On First Step Agreement On Iran's Nuclear Program", White House, November 23, 2103]
Talks with the Iranians then followed, along with a deadline for results. And for going down that "path", the Iranians received rich rewards: $1 billion just this past Friday, another $1 billion in April 2014, before that $8 billion in November 2013. And an end to most of the sanction-driven angst caused by the West's response to Iran's ongoing nuclear crusade.

Seven weeks ago, the NY Times reported that
Iran, the United States and the five other countries negotiating the future of the Iranian nuclear program have agreed to a four-month extension of the talks, giving them more time to try to bridge major differences over whether Tehran will be forced to dismantle parts of its nuclear infrastructure... ["Negotiators Agree to Extend Iran Nuclear Talks Four More Months, Diplomats Say", NY Times, July 18, 2014]
So with those talks going (as it appears) essentially nowhere, where have those IAEA investigations led?

In its Friday report, the IAEA says that the Iranians are continuing to destroy and pave over Parchin. Parchin is key to the whole matter: it's the Iranian military complex 30 kilometres southeast of Tehran covering some 40 square kilometres of desert and mountains with "hundreds of buildings and test sites" that are "dedicated to research, development, and production of ammunition, rockets, and high explosives... The IAEA continues to call on Iran to grant inspectors access to the site, although as of the spring of 2013, Iran had refused IAEA access while continuing to reconstruct the site. " [Source: ISIS] There's an aerial view in the photo above.

Here's part of what the Friday report says:
At the Parchin site, the Agency has observed through satellite imagery ongoing construction activity that appears to show the removal/replacement or refurbishment of the site’s two main buildings’ external wall structures. One of these buildings has also had a section of its roof removed and replaced. Observations of deposits of material and/or debris, and equipment suggest that construction activity has expanded to two other site buildings. These [Iranian regime] activities are likely to have further undermined the Agency’s ability to conduct effective verification. It remains important for Iran to provide answers to the Agency’s questions and access to the particular location in question. [Report by the IAEA Director General, September 5, 2014, page 12]
And here's how, in the same report published yesterday, the Director General of the IAEA sums out his organization's suspicions and Iran's 'helpfulness':
Previous reports by the Director General have identified outstanding issues related to possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme and actions required of Iran to resolve these. The Agency remains concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile. Iran is required to cooperate fully with the Agency on all outstanding issues, particularly those which give rise to concerns about the possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme, including by providing access without delay to all sites, equipment, persons and documents requested by the Agency. The Annex to the Director General’s November 2011 report (GOV/2011/65) provided a detailed analysis of the information available to the Agency at that time, indicating that Iran has carried out activities that are relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device. This information is assessed by the Agency to be, overall, credible. The Agency has obtained more information since November 2011 that has further corroborated the analysis contained in that Annex. [Report by the IAEA Director General, September 5, 2014, page 12]
And Iran's response till now?
In February 2012, Iran dismissed the Agency’s concerns, largely on the grounds that Iran considered them to be based on unfounded allegations. In a letter to the Agency dated 28 August 2014, Iran stated that “most of the issues” in the Annex to GOV/2011/65 were “mere allegations and do not merit consideration”.
If, like us, you are depressed by the brief chronicle above, you might think these two news items from the past 24 hours deepen the gloom. We certainly do:
  • Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that the world is entering a “new order” as the West's influence wanes and that officials in the Islamic Republic need to be aware of the changes and prepare to play a role in the new context... “When the world is changing, when global order is changing and a new order is being formed, naturally we have a more important duty.” The first thing to be done is to understand the new world order correctly, Khamenei said. “The power of the West on their two foundations — values and thoughts and the political and military — have become shaky. We have to understand this” rather than submitting to the idea of Western superiority". ["Ayatollah Khamenei urges Iran to prepare for 'new world order'", Al-Monitor, September 6, 2014]
  • A charter airplane carrying American military contractors through Iranian airspace was instructed to land in Iran on Friday. The airplane, chartered by the international military coalition in Afghanistan, was flying from Bagram Air Base north of Kabul to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates when it ran into trouble with Iranian air traffic controllers over its flight plan. The plane was rerouted to the coastal Iranian city of Bandar Abbas, where it landed pending a resolution of the issue. It was later allowed to depart Iran, and by Friday night, the plane had landed in Dubai, officials said.“This is nothing to get alarmed over,” said an Obama administration official, who like other American officials insisted on anonymity to discuss a potentially delicate diplomatic situation. “This is a bureaucratic problem with the flight plan, and it’s going to be resolved shortly. This is not a political statement.” The administration denied initial media reports that Iranian jets had forced down the plane. “It was all done on the radio,” a senior Pentagon official said. “It was just a bad flight plan.” ["Jet Carrying Contractors Is Ordered to Land in Iran", NY Times, September 5, 2014]

No comments: