New Report Debunks Conservative Media Myth That Iran Will Inspect Itself

Reuters is reporting that inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will be present while samples are taken from an Iranian military site suspected of harboring past work on nuclear weapon activities, citing two Western diplomatic sources. This new report debunks claims from conservative media outlets that a deal between the IAEA and Iran bars international inspectors and allows the Iranians to inspect their own sites.

In August, the Associated Press published a flawed report that claimed an agreement between Iran and the IAEA allowed Iran to use its own inspectors to take samples at the Parchin military base, and that the agency would be “barred from physically visiting the site.” Right-wing media figures used that report to attack the landmark Iran nuclear agreement, claiming that, in the words of Fox News anchor Bret Baier, “the IAEA [is] now apparently saying Iran can do its own inspections of its own nuclear facilities.”

The IAEA disputed the AP report, while experts pointed out that even if the AP's report was accurate, it would not undermine the long-term inspection regime. 

On September 11, Reuters reported that according to two Western diplomats “familiar with details” of the agreement between Iran and the IAEA, instead of being barred from visiting Parchin, IAEA inspectors “would be physically present” and have full access to the Iranians who would take samples from the site. The wire service quoted a diplomat who criticized earlier “distortions and inaccuracies in the media that made it look like Iran would simply inspect itself” :

An August report by the Associated Press, in its original version, said the agreement on Parchin suggested that IAEA inspectors would be barred from the site and would have to rely on information and environmental samples provided by Iranian technicians. The AP later published what it said was the text of an early draft of the agreement that remains unconfirmed.

The report was seized on by Republicans in the U.S. Congress as proof that President Barack Obama's administration gave in to Iran on the sensitive issue of inspections to check on Tehran's suspected ambition to build a nuclear bomb.

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Western diplomats told Reuters that while Iranians would be allowed to take the samples themselves, the agency's inspectors would be physically present and would have full access to their activity.

“There was a compromise so the Iranians could save face and the IAEA could ensure it carried out its inspections according to their strict requirements,” said one of the diplomats. Inspections at the Parchin site, which is about 30 km (19 miles) southeast of Tehran, would by carried out by mixed IAEA and Iranian teams coupled with cameras overlooking and recording the process, the other diplomat said.

“The IAEA will be present when the Iranians take the samples (at Parchin). This approach to managed access is something that's fairly standard in the IAEA toolbox. Nothing to worry about really,” the diplomat said.

“Unfortunately there have been distortions and inaccuracies in the media that made it look like Iran would simply inspect itself. That's not how it works,” the diplomat added.