The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) reported that Iran built an extension onto its Parchin military site since May. In the report, the agency responsible for verifying Iran’s compliance to nuclear agreements also demanded access to the site. The new report threatens to cancel out the deal between Iran and the P5+1 powers before the ink is even dry.
The IAEA report stated, “Since (our) previous report (in May), at a particular location at the Parchin site, the agency has continued to observe, through satellite imagery, the presence of vehicles, equipment, and probable construction materials. In addition, a small extension to an existing building appears to have been built.”
Iran has dismissed the intelligence as “fabricated”.
Last month, satellite imagery revealed construction at the site, which Iran reported as road work near the Mamloo Dam. The Iranian explanation was received with skepticism since the dam, three kilometers from the Parchin site, showed no signs of construction or vehicles, and independent satellite imagery was not consistent with their claim.
The Parchin army base has long been suspected to be the site for testing nuclear detonators, an essential part of a nuclear weapons program and unnecessary for a peace-oriented nuclear program. Last October, Iran admitted testing exploding bridge wires, used as nuclear detonators, at the site. Nonetheless, they have denied numerous requests to inspect the site and the last IAEA inspection was in 2005.
On Thursday, US State Department spokesperson John Kirby denied claims of nuclear foul-play by Iran. “There wouldn’t be any IAEA or other restrictions on new construction at that site were they to occur,” he said.
“It’s important to remember that when you’re talking about a site like Parchin you’re talking about a conventional military site, not a nuclear site.”
At the press conference, Kirby was asked the glaringly obvious question: If it is a conventional military site, why does it appear in an IAEA report with a request for access? Kirby refused to answer the question, suggesting the inquiry be posed to the IAEA.
The IAEA request to inspect the site is doubly confusing since in its side deal with Iran, the IAEA allows Iran to inspect the Parchin site itself. It should be noted that many aspects of the agreement between the IAEA and Iran are considered secret and will not be divulged.
The latest IAEA development has left many wondering how the revelation will affect the upcoming vote in the US Congress on the nuclear deal. Proponents of the nuclear agreement with Iran base their support on claims the agreement is enforceable and verifiable, a claim this recent development challenges.