Thursday, October 09, 2014

09-Oct-14: Iran's optimism-fuelled march towards nuclear bombs continues unhindered

IsraelDefense has the satellite images [Source]
The Iranian stonewalling goes on.

They have been in the news this week for two reasons. First, something massively damaging appears to have happened in the vicinity of their Parchin military weapons complex, the very site about which United Nations inspectors said "It is very clear that Iran doesn't want the agency to go to Parchin because it has something to hide" in 2012 [Reuters] and to which the International Atomic Energy Agency's people have been refused inspection access since 2005 [BBC] up to and including this past month [ISIS]. And secondly, because an IAEA inspection team is in Iran right now, having arrived there according to plans that were announced months earlier, on Monday.

So here is what we know today.

Explosion: As we said on Monday ["06-Oct-14: Iran's nuclear project has experienced an explosion"], two people were officially announced to have been killed but the official Iranian government reports were thin and opaque. Non-government sources said it was so powerful that windows were blown out in a 15 km radius of Parchin, the heavily-secured and vast facility about which the suspicions of everyone paying attention have been focused, and which is universally believed to be where the Iranian nuclear bombs are being brought to readiness. 

Turns out there are now pre- and post-explosion satellite images via the French satellite Pleiades. They confirm significant pieces of the speculation. An IsraelDefense article makes plain that the photographic evidence shows the denials of the Iranian government are lies:
Satellite images of the Parchin area, to the east of Tehran, prove: the explosion reported by the Iranian media had, indeed, occurred inside the military compound in Parchin, where, according to western intelligence agencies, trials are being conducted on nuclear missile fuzes. Satellite images obtained by Israel Defense and analyzed by specialist Ronen Solomon clearly show damage consistent with an attack against bunkers in a central locality within the military research complex at the Parchin military compound... The locality consists of a sizable testing center and what appears to be an area with bunker-shaped structures. "Before and after" images indicate that a complete section of structures was simply eliminated by an unexplained explosion. The explosion wiped several testing units off the face of the earth while inflicting collateral damage on adjacent buildings...
Iran's "disarmament" expert Najafi: Image Source
Talks: According to a Reuters report today, those scheduled talks in Tehran during Tuesday and Wednesday
appear not to have substantively advanced an investigation into suspected atomic bomb research by Tehran, potentially dimming chances for a broader deal between the Iranians and big powers... The IAEA has for years been trying to get to the bottom of Western intelligence reports suggesting that Iran has worked on designing a nuclear warhead. Iran has denounced the intelligence as fabricated, but has promised to work with the IAEA since last year when Hassan Rouhani, seen as a pragmatist, became president on a platform to overcome his country's international isolation...  The International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement... that discussions would continue. But it did not announce a date for the next round of talks focused on the Vienna-based IAEA's concerns that Iran had initially been supposed to address by late August. Diplomats in the Austrian capital said it seemed that very little, if any, progress had been achieved... [By contrast] Tehran's envoy to the Vienna-based U.N. agency, Reza Najafi, said the discussions had been "very constructive", according to Iran's ISNA news agency, which did not elaborate.
How constructive? An AP report today, quoting the same Reza Najafi, Iran's "ambassador" to the IAEA, says he
confirmed that an International Atomic Energy Agency staff member was refused a visa. Najafi didn't identify the person, but told Iran's Fars news agency that he had a "particular nationality."
A Washington Post article today makes clear the "particular nationality" was, not exactly surprisingly, of the United States:
Two diplomats from IAEA member nations who spoke to The Associated Press demanded anonymity because their information is confidential. They said the U.S. expert first applied for a visa eight months ago and had been turned down several times since. [Washington Post]
Just six days ago, Najafi accused the IAEA of espionage and leaking classified information on its nuclear program:
"It is unfortunate that, once again, the agency has failed to protect classified information. While Iran and the agency made plans, news of these plans have been published in the middle of the West," Najafi said in remarks reported by the Iranian state news agency IRNA. The diplomat, who did not specify what information or what average meant, felt that this event "reconfirms the Iranian concerns about the existence of espionage activities in the agency." [Source: EFE]
When Najafi was appointed a year ago, a Reuters report fairly gushed about how the new man was a "disarmament expert" and that his appointment extended "a reshuffle of top officials dealing with its disputed atomic program since new President Hassan Rouhani took office vowing to improve Iran's foreign relations.... Rouhani has vowed Iran will be more transparent and less confrontational in talks both with the IAEA and the big powers." A year further along, and this can be filed away in the rapidly overflowing self-delusionally-optimistic drawer.

Meanwhile: In November 2013, the six major powers -- the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia -- said they had reached some kind of temporary agreement with Iran in Geneva, as a result of which all sorts of very substantial benefits immediately became available to the Iranian regime. A long-term understanding about nuclear weapons was supposed to follow by July 2014. Nothing of the sort happened. Now there's vague talk of a November 2014 deadline.

As today's developments demonstrate, there's zero likelihood of that. producing anything useful.

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