Tehran and IAEA lock horns over inspecting Parchin facility
The top item on the agenda for the UN nuclear watchdog’s delegation that arrived in Tehran for talks early Thursday is getting access to the Parchin military base southeast of Tehran. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) suspects that once it was used as a military testing ground for components needed to make a nuclear weapon.
"We hope that Iran will allow us to go to the site of Parchin," said Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts, who is heading the IAEA delegation in Iran. He also shared plans to get access to information "related to possible military dimensions" of Iran's nuclear program.
IAEA inspectors have been trying to get access to Parchin over the past year.
The organization says the Islamic Republic is busying eliminating evidence of the tests, pointing to satellite photos that purportedly captured suspicious activities at the facility. IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said that while any chance of finding evidence of Iran’s nuclear program at Parchin are diminishing, a visit there would still be ‘useful’.
During talks with the IAEA, Tehran has insisted on the implementation of an inspection framework as an indispensable condition for any inspection granting the watchdog access to the facility, relevant documents and Iranian scientists.
Iran holds nuclear ground
Iran has been consistently denying its nuclear program has any military application.
When Iran first started its nuclear science program in the 1970s, Western countries were eager to help the country develop its own nuclear program, supplying Tehran with technology with no stings attached.
That changed following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, when the west's attitude towards Iran's atomic energy program significantly changed.
Iranian international affairs expert Hassan Beheshtipour, told RT’s Maria Finoshina that “Many billions of dollars [were] pumped into the nuclear industry before the revolution, at the time of the Shah. Why they should give up now? Just because western powers say that?”
Iranian officials believe all this tension has been fabricated with the sole purpose to demonize them in the eyes of international community. Iran points out that its nuclear program has been targeted without internationally-recognized evidence that the country is moving towards the construction of a nuclear weapon.
“If you have a knife in your kitchen, some western countries come to your home and say ‘Oh, a knife is very dangerous! Maybe you want to use it to kill people.’ This idea is a joke,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ramin Mehmanparast told RT.
Tehran has long insisted that Parchin is a conventional military complex and plays no role in the country's national nuclear program regardless of the IAEA's statements to the contrary. Despite the nuclear watchdog's demand for full access, Iran insists on its right to protect the secrecy of a crucial military facility just as any other state would.
Sanctions better than bombs
Israel, which is suspected of possessing a true nuclear arsenal, has been threatening to make a unilateral military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities for years. Being the only nuclear country in the Middle East, Tel-Aviv believes Iranian possession of nuclear weapons would pose an existential threat to the Jewish state.
But the US, Israel’s natural ally, has so far been opting for economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Western diplomacy is relying on crippling international sanctions to make Tehran give in and open the doors to its military facilities.
The main demand of the international community to Tehran is to not produce weapons-grade enriched uranium. To make sure Iran is not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, the UN wants full access granted to IAEA inspectors everywhere it considers necessary.
The international pressure on Iran has been mounting gradually since 1979, but recent years have witnessed a number of the UN-approved international sanctions imposed on Tehran. To a certain degree, the sanctions have served to isolate the Islamic Republic from the wider world. The latest set of EU sanctions introduced in mid-2012, which prohibit EU-member states from buying crude oil from Iran, have pushed the country into a serious economic crisis.
Iran has been reluctant to make concessions despite the visible impact sanctions have had on the country's economy. Even in the face of the continued threat of direct military intervention, Tehran remains adamant that a peaceful nuclear program is an inalienable right for a state. All sessions of the international 5+1 talks with Iran on its nuclear program in 2012 failed to deliver a breakthrough.
Not only sanctions
Iran is not merely sustaining increased diplomatic pressure. The country’s nuclear facilities have been subject to cyber attacks on multiple occasions. A number of tailor-made cyber worms that reportedly infected computers at multiple nuclear facilities struck a blow to the country's uranium enrichment program.
But while cyber warfare entails a financial toll, outside pressure on Iran has resulted in a human cost as well. Since 2010 at least four leading Iranian physicists connected with the national nuclear program were blatantly murdered in organized terror acts. Tehran suspects Israelof being behind the attacks on Iranian scientists.
Mansoureh Karami, wife of the scientist Massoud Ali Mohammadi who was murdered in 2010, told RT: “They were working hard so that their country did not have to beg other nations for know-how. We have the right to acquire this knowledge and feel independent.”
Professor Seyed Mohammad Marandi from the University of Tehran says Iranians are willing to show the IAEA the Parchin military complex, but want to get a comprehensive deal in return. He questions why Iran should trust the IAEA given the past experience.
The US is after any intelligence on Iran’s defense capability including conventional weapons. Iran cannot let IAEA inspect Parchin every three months as the agency has been passing info to the West leading to the assassinations of nuclear scientists, alleges Marandi.
“Why should Iranians trust them not to pass on this information to the United States and what is the endgame?”
Vladimir Kremlev for RT