Thursday, August 06, 2015

06-Aug-15: Parchin: Keep the name in mind

On the devastating nuclear war and terror issues, they lead the US
negotiating team: Secretary of State John Kerry, Energy Secretary
Ernest Moniz [Image Source]
It's now summer vacation time in Washington DC where the Congress is part-way through a 60 day-review of a transaction that has deep and irreversible consequences for the struggle against Islamist terror and for the well-being of us here in Jerusalem and all of our neighbours - among many others.

But first: one of the core motives for us writing this blog and digging through publicly available open-source materials for insights is the gnawing sense that terror, and especially the activities of those who make it possible, is consistently misunderstood by most people. Iran and its nuclear plans constitutes a clear instance of the problem.

Much about the Iran Nuclear Enablement Deal™ - not its official name - seems bizarre to us, starting with how it is embodied in an unsigned agreement which most of the news media keep calling "signed" [we offered the evidence a week ago: "29-Jul-15: Built not on trust but on... verification", and suggested why this is important - and we remain totally perplexed by how little noticed this reality is].

And though it was immediately endorsed unanimously by the United Nations, it's an agreement which one of the sides (Iran) says to its people is non-binding; in fact, they're already saying they will walk away from it.

Despite the heat and the laid-back mood in evidence at the US Congress, the news from Iran continues to happen. They're not on vacation:
Iran Already Sanitizing Nuclear Site, Intel Warns Bloomberg View | August 5, 2015 | Eli Lake and Josh Rogin |
The U.S. intelligence community has informed Congress of evidence that Iran was sanitizing its suspected nuclear military site at Parchin, in broad daylight, days after agreeing to a nuclear deal with world powers... Intelligence officials and lawmakers who have seen the new evidence, which is still classified, told us that satellite imagery picked up by U.S. government assets in mid- and late July showed that Iran had moved bulldozers and other heavy machinery to the Parchin site and that the U.S. intelligence community concluded with high confidence that the Iranian government was working to clean up the site ahead of planned inspections by the IAEA... For senior lawmakers in both parties, the evidence calls into question Iran’s intention to fully account for the possible military dimensions of its current and past nuclear development... Secretary of State John Kerry has said that the U.S. government has “absolute knowledge” about what Iran has done in the past. Ahead of the vote on the agreement next month, many lawmakers don't share Kerry's confidence. Iran would seem to have its doubts as well, since it's still trying to cover its tracks...
There's substantiation for this in a just-published Institute for Science and International Security (the other ISIS) brief that terms the Iranian cover-up
"a last ditch effort to try to ensure that no incriminating evidence will be found..." [ISIS Imagery Brief: Renewed Activity at the Parchin Site in IranDavid Albright and Serena Kelleher-Vergantini, August 5, 2015]
That same Bloomberg View report points back to one of the most humiliating and disturbing aspects of United States confidence that they have Iran's penchant for making serious trouble under control. It involves Parchin, a vast Iranian military complex with dozens of structures above ground and an unknown number below.

Back in 2004
Images of Parchin base show buildings that could be used to test nuclear bomb components, the Institute for Science and International Security said. A US official said concern about the site should be included in a UN report on Iran's nuclear activities. Iran says allegations it is hiding nuclear facilities at Parchin are lies. [see "Suspicion over Iran arms facility", BBC, September 16, 2004]
Three years after that, a U.S. National Intelligence Assessment determined "with high confidence" that 
in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program... the halt, and Tehran’s announcement of its decision to suspend its declared uranium enrichment program... was directed primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure resulting from exposure of Iran’s previously undeclared nuclear work. [New York Times, December 4, 2007]
But, as later emerged, this high U.S. confidence was (ahem) misplaced, and
it turns out the NIE was misleading even on its own terms: Iran did have a covert facility, perhaps for enrichment, and the intelligence community knew or at least strongly suspected it. We are also learning that the NIE's judgment puts the U.S. intelligence community at odds with its counterparts in Britain, Germany and Israel, which have evidence to show that Iran resumed its weaponization work after 2003... [Intelligence Fiasco Footnote | The authors of the 2007 Iran NIE have some explaining to do", Wall Street Journal, October 8, 2009
The Obama White House naturally knows all of this, including the intelligence failure (if that's what it was) and has been telling analysts and lawmakers for the past two years that the deal on which they were working to stop Iran's nuclear weapons plan would absolutely have to include "robust access" by IAEA inspectors to Parchin. To illustrate:
  • Wendy Sherman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Department of State, told Congress on December 12, 2013 that Iran would be required to "address past and present practices... including Parchin" [source]
  • State Department spokesperson Marie Harf (about whose self-described difficulties we have commented frequently) confidently stated to reporters on April 3, 2015 that we, meaning the government of the United States, "would find it... very difficult to imagine a JCPA that did not require such [inspector] access at Parchin" [State Department transcript
Unjustified hubris notwithstanding, that too turns out to be misleading and wrong.

In a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing about Parchin, Senator James Risch of Idaho revealed two weeks ago that it will not be the inspectors of the IAEA but Iran's own military who will be taking and providing soil samples from Iran:
"How in the world can you have a nation like Iran doing their own testing? ...[Are we going to trust Iran to do this? This is a good deal? This is what we were told we were going to get when we were told that don't worry, we're going to be watching over their shoulder and put in place verification that are absolutely bullet proof. We're going to trust Iran to do their own testing? This is absolutely ludicrous." [Senator James Risch speaking in Congress (video here), July 23, 2015]
That's how the world's public learned that negotiators for the United States had covertly abandoned the requirement that we were told had been central to the US negotiating position - a surrender, in simple terms. And evidently one of many. (YouTube has a video on this from Fox News.)

A little more food for thought: when the IAEA's inspectors went to Parchin in 2012, they were blocked at the gates and did not get in.

In some ways, what's worse than critically key information being withheld from the public (concealed is not too strong a word in our view) is that the US Secretary of State, along with his key negotiating colleague, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, answered (it's in the same video link) the Congressional committee and for the record that the relevant information, essentially a side-agreement, was classified (secret?). In fact, the source documents are not even in the possession of the US, though it's obvious to anyone who thinks about it that the US could get the documents if they wanted, and without having to threaten anyone with violence.

In any event, reporters from Associated Press ["Officials: Iran may take own samples at alleged nuclear site", AP, July 28, 2015] tracked the source down without too much trouble, and confirmed that Sen. Risch's astounding disclosure is entirely factual.

Now we see evidence that the Iranians, without little effort at disguising the dirty-doings, have been busily sanitizing Parchin for at least several weeks.

Congressman Jim McGovern who, way back in 2009 when this
picture was published, rightly insisted on truth [Image Source]
If US voters and their Congressional representatives were to keep this tiny slice of the appalling marketing of the Iran Nuclear Enablement Deal (again, not the official name, but an honest title, given its effect) in mind, it might cause them difficulty in digesting self-parodyingly confident assertions like those made yesterday by a Congressional supporter of the Obama Iran deal. 

As only uber-confident politicians canRep. James McGovern of Worcester, Massachusetts declared [source: his media release issued yesterday]
Since this agreement was submitted to Congress, I have carefully reviewed the details, attended classified briefings with White House and State Department officials, met with nuclear experts, and heard from constituents – both those who are in favor of and opposed to the agreement. Above all else, this deal must be judged on its merits and whether it is the strongest available option to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. I firmly believe that it is. With a strong set of comprehensive restrictions, this agreement will take the clear and concrete steps needed to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. The diplomatic solution before us is not perfect, but it provides the robust framework we need to monitor Iran’s nuclear program and ensure that it remains peaceful. This agreement would establish the most intrusive inspections regime ever negotiated. And if Iran cheats...
and so on. 

Nothing personal against Representative McGovern but does he know about the surrender on Parchin? Does he have a view? Is it something that fits well with his view of a "robust framework"? Is his view on the agreement based on his insistence that the US public work from truth and full disclosure, or is it more, how to say this?, nuanced than that. (Again, nothing personal.)

We think that if Congressman McGovern fully appreciated how exposed he and his constituents are to the existential threat facing us in far-off Israel, he might have given expression to a touch more humility and recognition of how some issues go well beyond party politics. (And for the record, though we are sure we are in serious danger here, we're not at all sure Americans are in much better shape.)

And we're wondering whether he agrees that he and his parliamentary colleagues are being exposed to an incomplete segment of the available evidence. Also: that being opposed to the dangerous, defective and misleadingly marketed Iran deal - as we certainly are - doesn't mean people want war - as we certainly do not.

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