Satellite images suggest Iran cleaning up past nuclear weapons-related work (CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR) By Scott Peterson ISTANBUL, TURKEY 05/31/12)
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR Articles-Index-Top
A report by the Institute for Science and International Security says
a new image of Iran´s Parchin military complex ´raises concerns that
Iran is attempting to raze the site prior to allowing an IAEA visit.´
United Nations weapons inspectors yesterday shared satellite images
that suggest Iran may be cleaning up evidence of past nuclear weapons-
related work, at a suspect military site inspectors have been seeking
At a closed-door briefing in Vienna, the deputy head of the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) showed diplomats several
satellite images taken over the past half-year of Iran´s sprawling
Parchin military complex.
The latest image, dated May 25, showed the apparent destruction of
two or possibly three small buildings relatively close to the main
structure – which had all been intact in earlier images.
“Iran is worried that the agency might find something there.
Otherwise it wouldn’t be going through the sanitization process,” a
senior Western official told Reuters.
Similar satellite images were later published by the Institute for
Science and International Security (ISIS), a Washington think tank
that tracks nuclear developments, and is used by the IAEA as a
conduit for making "restricted" reports public.
The latest image appeared to show "further sanitization activity,"
ISIS said in a brief analysis about the “razed” buildings. "There are
visible tracks made by heavy machinery used in the demolition
process," and "extensive evidence of earth displacement."
But Olli Heinonen, the IAEA´s head of safeguards until two years ago,
says it´s hard to know for sure the nature of those activities.
"Without having actual access to Parchin, one cannot say much what is
really happening there," says Mr. Heinonen, now at Harvard
University´s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in
"It is important that the IAEA has the access soon to the site to
establish facts, but the Agency should, in my view, also think at the
same time how to approach such confrontational topics without
sacrificing the success of the mission," says Heinonen. "A lower key,
less specific request could have perhaps been more beneficial, but
the Agency may have had its reasons to proceed this way."
Iran: Western fears ´childish´
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran´s representative to the IAEA, has said in
the past that Western and IAEA fears about Parchin were "childish"
and "ridiculous." After yesterday´s presentation in Vienna, Mr.
Soltanieh told journalists that "this kind of noise and allegations
are baseless," according to Reuters.
The latest images were presented by Herman Nackaerts, who led the
previous two UN inspections to Parchin – both in 2005, though to
different buildings. The IAEA has repeatedly asked this year to visit
the military site again, in search of a containment chamber it
believes may have been used more than a decade ago for nuclear
weapons-related high explosives testing.
Iran has said it will grant access to Parchin, but only in the
context of a framework agreement to resolve all remaining questions
about Iran´s controversial nuclear program.
IAEA chief Yukiya Amano was on the verge of signing that agreement
during a visit to Tehran on May 21. But contentious nuclear talks in
Baghdad between Iran and world powers just two days later appear to
have delayed the deal.
Increased pressure on Iran to provide access
The head of Iran´s nuclear energy agency, Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani –
survivor of a November 2010 assassination attempt, of the type which
has claimed the lives of five other Iranian scientists – said last
week the IAEA had yet to "convince" Iran it had reason enough to
The new satellite imagery will raise pressure on Iran to provide
access, and to explain the situation at Parchin.
The IAEA´s most recent quarterly report on Iran, dated May 25,
referenced satellite data of Parchin, and noted that "where virtually
no activity had been observed for a number of years, the buildings of
interest to the Agency are now subject to extensive activities that
could hamper the Agency´s ability to undertake effective
That IAEA report said more information had been obtained that linked
the site to possible past high explosive tests, which it stated in
November 2011 would be "strong indicators of possible [nuclear]
Razing Parchin prior to IAEA visit?
Last month ISIS published an April 9 image of the site, which
appeared to show that streams of water had poured from the building.
Iranian officials at the time dismissed the claims of an attempted
clean-up as a "joke." Experts say any past use of nuclear material
there would be virtually impossible to hide from IAEA inspectors.
Two smaller structures near the main building were intact in the
early April image, but appear to have been broken apart in the new
image from May 25. Certain dirt roads in the latest image also seem
to have been subject to fresh heavy use.
ISIS in its analysis said the new image "raises concerns that Iran is
attempting to raze the site prior to allowing an IAEA visit."
The IAEA has reported that Iran in late 2003 and early 2004 razed a
site at Lavisan-Shian, where the Physics Research Center was once
located. In subsequent reporting, the IAEA said the center was set up
in 1989 as the first of several administrative structures designed to
manage “systematic” alleged weapons-related work. The bulk of that
work was halted "rather abruptly" by late 2003, though may have
continued episodically since then, says the IAEA. (© The Christian
Science Monitor. 05/31/12)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY