According to a paper published last week by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), documents recovered by Israeli intelligence from Iran’s hidden nuclear archive and revealed by Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu in April show that Iran conducted more tests at the Parchin nuclear site than previously understood.
Which means that Iran has already overcome some of the obstacles that experts thought they had not yet mastered. This new paper tells us that Iran was a lot closer to a nuclear weapon than we thought, and the work at Parchin may still be going on.
The report, authored by ISIS director David Albright, former Deputy Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Olli Heinonen and other top experts, said, “The additional evidence specifically mentions explosions and radioactivity at the Parchin site, and this information far more vividly establishes Iran’s nuclear weapons-related activities there.”
Parchin is a crucial part of Iran’s nuclear program whose operations remained relatively secret despite the JCPOA nuclear deal and assurances made by the previous administration. The UN’s nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, has long sought access to Parchin. In October 2014 Iran admitted to using it to test exploding bridge wires as nuclear detonators, but they claimed the tests were not for weapons development.
However, the documents prove that Iran was testing weapon detonators at Parchin. They show labs and pressure rooms at the base, experiments on explosion chains, and further work on nuclear bomb components at the site.
“This report, in particular, for the first time publicly correlates photos from inside the main building, called Taleghan 1 by Iran, to satellite imagery, updates previous discussion of the purpose of the second major building at the site, called Taleghan 2, and touches upon the operation of the facilities, including confirmation that Iran was testing in Taleghan 1 a specialized, difficult to develop, neutron initiator to start the chain reaction in a nuclear explosion.”
This new information about Parchin shows that Iran conducted far higher explosive tests at the site than previously understood. But more importantly, the pictures indicate that even after the nuclear agreement, Iran may have maintained equipment for later use, and resumed activities related to nuclear weapons development under a new organization run by the Iranian military.
Even worse, the IAEA has been ignoring the documentation and data retrieved by Israeli spies that Netanyahu presented to the world last April.
Per ISIS, that new material still needs vetting by the IAEA. The IAEA needs to visit Parchin, the nuclear archive, and the warehouse sites discovered by Israel. It needs to take additional samples for analysis. If Iran considers this allegation baseless, sampling is the best way to remove doubt.
The images published by ISIS expose the Parchin site’s laboratory, where Iranian scientists developed and tested neutron initiators, which start the nuclear reaction inside the bomb, setting off an explosion. This work continued even after the JCPOA was finalized in October 2015.
A separate document shows that work continued under “Project 110,” which focused on developing nuclear warheads. However, to better hide the project, the work was divided into two parts — a secret part at Parchin, and a public program based at different universities.
The Obama administration promised lawmakers that IAEA inspectors would be able to inspect Parchin and resolve all possible military dimension issues before any final deal was inked. But instead, US negotiators allowed Iran to sign a secret side deal permitting them to self-inspect the facility rather than granting IAEA inspectors access.
In world politics, few secrets stay secret. This particular deal was revealed by the AP. From them, we learned that Iranians would get to collect their own samples at Parchin, from mutually-agreed upon areas under photo and video surveillance, and the number of the samples would be limited.
An Iranian statement confirmed the AP report was correct: “Iranian experts took samples from specific locations in Parchin facilities this week without IAEA inspectors being present.”
ISIS head David Albright explained at a 2015 Hudson Institute panel discussion that Iran’s self-sampling, even under video surveillance, is inadequate. He insisted the IAEA needed eyes there. “Inspectors need to be on the ground to identify dusty nooks and corners where violators forgot to dust; the mutually agreed upon areas are by definition the ones that violators know have been sanitized.”
The hapless IAEA concluded at the end of 2015: “A range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003 as a coordinated effort, and some activities took place after 2003. The Agency also assesses that these activities did not advance beyond feasibility and scientific studies, and the acquisition of certain relevant technical competencies and capabilities. The Agency has no credible indications of activities in Iran relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device after 2009.”
But according to the new ISIS report, they couldn’t have looked too hard. IAEA’s access at Parchin was limited to only one of the buildings, but even there some uranium particles were detected.
“It is also important to note that the IAEA did not find that Iran’s explanations for the use of the Taleghan 1 building match the IAEA’s findings on the ground. Again, Iran did not address all the questions the IAEA had raised about this site. Moreover, the 2015 IAEA assessment is at odds with information in the archives revealed by Prime Minister Netanyahu, and potentially with the discoveries revealed by the Prime Minister to the UN General Assembly in September 2018 about equipment and material being present in a Tehran warehouse is related to Iran’s nuclear weapons effort. None of the IAEA safeguards and JCPOA-related reports reflects whether the IAEA has, at a minimum, asked for clarifications from Iran about any of these allegations in writing, which is a well-established IAEA practice when such concerns have emerged.
For example, the IAEA quickly sent a letter to Iran following allegations by the Iranian opposition group National Council of Resistance of Iran in August 2002 about a secret nuclear site near Natanz, an allegation that turned out to be true.”
In September, at the United Nations General Assembly, Netanyahu called out the IAEA for its lack of action.
“I provided hard evidence of Iran’s plans to build nuclear weapons and its plans to deceive the international community,” he said. “Months have passed, the IAA has still not taken any actions. It has not posed a single question to Iran. It has not demanded to inspect a single new site discovered in that secret archive.
“So given this inaction, I decided to reveal today something else that … has not been shared publicly before. Today I’m disclosing for the first time that Iran has another secret facility in Tehran. A secret atomic warehouse for storing massive amounts of equipment and material for Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program.”
Folks, the IAEA is a joke, as is the JCPOA shoved down our throats by the Obama administration, and thankfully vacated by President Trump.
The part that’s not funny is that the lack of inspections, and the ignoring of new information, may lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths, not just in Israel but throughout the Sunni Muslim world, and in the United States, which Iran calls “the great Satan.”