Several years ago, this author conducted an interview with Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the subject of Parchin. Mr. Ali Asghar Soltanieh recounted the two IAEA visits at Parchin in January and November, 2005 and the fact that they found nothing suspicious and it was embarrassing for the agency, and he laughed at the fact that the IAEA inspectors went on the roof of a building to inspect what they had reported as suspected missile, only to find a chimney!
Unfortunately, history sometimes repeats itself and ten years later Parchin is again in the news, first over the wild claims of a Washington think tank based on some satellite photos — that turned out to show nothing suspicious except a couple of trucks in front of a building, and a oi spill on the ground (!) attributable to one of the cars, and, more recently, over the “big news” story by Associated Press (AP) that claims to have the confidential Iran-IAEA agreement that the AP insists shows the agency has agreed that Iran conducts its own environmental sampling at Parchin.
As expected, the AP story has been exploited by the congressional opponents of the Iran nuclear deal and their supporters in the Iranian media. But, Mr. Yukiya Amano, the head of IAEA, quickly issued a statement that expresses his profound disappointment, and disagreement, with the AP story, which questions the soundness of IAEA inspections in Iran. Mr. Amano has defended the agency’s sound agreement with Iran and in his statement refers to the “sound technical” aspects without revealing the content of the confidential bilateral agreement that aims to resolve the outstanding issues including what is referred to as Possible Military Dimensions (PMD).
In addition to Mr. Amano, Mr. Tariq Rauf, a former head of verification and security policy coordination at IAEA has cited 13 inconsistencies in the document produced by AP, calling it a fake document that has been created in order to give ammunition to the critics of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (barjam). As expected, the hawkish members of US Congress who are opposed to barjam have continued citing the AP story without even bothering with Mr. Amanao’s disclaimer. In other words, disinformation is in full swing and will perhaps even intensify further as we get closer to mid-September deadline for Congress’s vote on barjam. According to Nanci Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, the backers of the deal have the necessary votes to scuttle the rejectionists’ plan to kill the deal. That is certainly a good news that gives hope barjam will survive the current ferocious campaign against it that involves untold millions of dollars in political advertisements and lobbying efforts and a great deal of disinformation.
With respect to the allegations that Iran back in the year 2000 conducted some nuclear-weapons related tests inside a metal cylinder at one of the buildings in Parchin, it is instructive to re-read this author’s interview with Mr. Soltanieh mentioned above. Mr. Soltanieh rightly states that the IAEA selected the buildings at both visits in 2005 and there was no limitation and the IAEA had access to the whole complex and was only asked to divide it into specific ‘areas’. Iran has never opposed another IAEA inspection of Parchin but has insisted that it should be done within a proper framework with clear parameters that are consistent with the IAEA’s own norms and standards.
On the whole, what the fuss about Parchin reveals is actually the tremendously weak hand of the opponents of barjam who are on the defensive, even in Israel, and yet who are determined to defeat it any price, even if it implies high profile disinformation funneled through the mainstream media in the West. But, the world community has grown smarter since the disastrous Iraq war and recognizes that this is not healthy and only unnecessary conflicts and crises are pushed forward by such sinister and calculated attempts that smear barjam as a bad deal. The truth however is that barjam has the essential ingredients of a deal that can remake regional relations for the better, that is, a major plus for regional peace and stability in a volatile and war-torn region.