Conservative media are seizing on a flawed, and later revised, Associated Press report to claim the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will allow Iran to conduct investigations of its own nuclear sites, leaving out important context that explains the agreement does not compromise the long-term inspection regime agreed upon in the international Iran nuclear deal, nor the ability of inspectors to observe the rest of the country's nuclear facilities, and pertains only to past nuclear activity at the Parchin military site. In fact, the agreement still requires “confirmation that Iran is keeping promises” for the country to receive international sanctions relief.
The Associated Press Reports That Iran Will Inspect Its Own Nuclear Facility
The Associated Press Reports Iran Will Be Allowed To Inspect Its Own Military Site. On August 19 the Associated Press reported the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would allow Iran “to use its own inspectors to investigate a site it has been accused of using to develop nuclear arms.” The article claimed that Iran would only provide the IAEA with photographic and video evidence from areas Iran determined were not “off-limits” and the IAEA would be “barred fromphysically visiting the site”:
Iran will be allowed to use its own inspectors to investigate a site it has been accused of using to develop nuclear arms, operating under a secret agreement with the U.N. agency that normally carries out such work, according to a document seen by The Associated Press.
Iran has refused access to Parchin for years and has denied any interest in -- or work on -- nuclear weapons. Based on U.S., Israeli and other intelligence and its own research, the IAEA suspects that the Islamic Republic may have experimented with high-explosive detonators for nuclear arms.
The IAEA has cited evidence, based on satellite images, of possible attempts to sanitize the site since the alleged work stopped more than a decade ago.
The document seen by the AP is a draft that one official familiar with its contents said doesn't differ substantially from the final version. He demanded anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the issue in public.
The document is labeled “separate arrangement II,” indicating there is another confidential agreement between Iran and the IAEA governing the agency's probe of the nuclear weapons allegations.
Iran is to provide agency experts with photos and videos of locations the IAEA says are linked to the alleged weapons work, “taking into account military concerns.”
That wording suggests that -- beyond being barred from physically visiting the site -- the agency won't get photo or video information from areas Iran says are off-limits because they have military significance.
While the document says the IAEA “will ensure the technical authenticity” of Iran's inspection, it does not say how. [Associated Press, 8/19/15]
Haaretz: AP Altered Initial Report, “Overwriting Some Of The More Troubling Issues Pertaining To The Inspection Of Parchin.” On August 20, Haaretz reported that the initial AP expose was edited, removing a number of claims explaining the specific inspection procedures:
An AP expose of the draft agreement reached between Iran and the IAEA initially said Wednesday that Iranian representatives would be able to inspect Parchin without any intervention by UN inspectors, who would not even be allowed into the suspected compound.
A few hours after AP released the initial details of the agreement, a revised report emerged overwriting some of the more troubling issues pertaining to the inspection of Parchin.
For instance, the news agency removed from its report the claim that it was Iranian scientists themselves who would be inspecting the air and soil samples at Parchin, rather than UN inspectors. It also removed the claim that the number of air and soil samples taken from within suspected nuclear sites would be limited to seven.
It is not clear why the original report was updated to this extent, with some of the original points removed. The Associated Press did not release a statement of clarification or explanation regarding the updates of the report, which it has presented as an exclusive expose based on the agreement reached between Iran and the IAEA. [Haaretz, 8/20/15]
Conservative Media Uses Flawed AP Report To Attack The Iran Nuclear Deal, Leaving Out Important Context To Claim Iran Will Inspect Its Own Nuclear Sites
Fox's Bret Baier: IAEA Says “Iran Can Do Its Own Inspections Of Its Own Nuclear Facilities.” On the August 19 edition of Fox News' Special Report, anchor Bret Baier claimed “the IAEA [is] now apparently saying Iran can do its own inspections of its own nuclear facilities.” [Fox News,Special Report, 8/19/15]
Fox Business' Melissa Francis: “The IAEA Has Agreed To Let Iranian Inspectors Inspect Their Own Site.” On the August 19 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Fox Business Network's Melissa Francis claimed “the IAEA has agreed to let Iranian inspector inspect their own site”:
O'REILLY: Let's turn to Iran nukes. Reports today, Melissa, by the Associated Press saying there was a side deal that nobody mentioned, not John Kerry, not President Obama, not anybody, that the Iranians themselves will police a serious nuclear facility in conjunction with the U.N.. Do I have that correct?
FRANCIS: Pretty much. The International Atomic Energy Agency operates out of Vienna. They have set up a side deal with Iran. For years, they've been trying to get a baseline on what the heck has been going on in Iran, where are they in this program. We don't even know what they really have there. So as part of this deal, as a side to it, that agency is supposed to be able to figure out what has been going on, and that was a party of the deal that the U.S. signed. Within this now, someone has leaked an unsigned document that shows that the IAEA has agreed to let Iranian inspectors inspect their own site, which makes no sense. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 8/19/15]
Hot Air: UN Will “Have To Submit To Iran's Authority Over Various...Aspects Of Inspections.” On August 19, Hot Air wrote that Iran was being permitted to “report on its own facilities” because “there was a complete cave” in the negotiations:
And now here's the AP confirming that not only will the UN have to make do with samples provided by the accused cheaters themselves, it'll have to submit to Iran's authority over various other aspects of inspections. Which raises the question: Why is this a secret? I could understand keeping it under wraps if the secret side deal amounted to a huge capitulation by Iran; in that case, you'd want to keep it out of the media so that Iran's hardest fanatics don't revolt against the deal as a national humiliation. But in reality, the side deal is a huge capitulation to Iran. What reason is there to keep it classified except to spare Obama and his European partners some enormous political difficulty in selling this deal to the suckers in their electorates? [Hot Air, 8/19/15]
The Deal Refers Only To Past Activity At Parchin, Does Not Impact Inspectors' Ability To Monitor Other Nuclear Sites In Iran, And Still Requires Confirmation Iran Is Meeting Promises Of International Nuclear Deal
IAEA Director Is “Disturbed” By Reports That Iran Would Conduct Nuclear Inspections Itself. In an August 20 press release, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said he was “disturbed by statements suggesting that the IAEA has given responsibility for nuclear inspections to Iran,” and such statements “misrepresent” the verification inspection agreement between the IAEA and Iran:
I am disturbed by statements suggesting that the IAEA has given responsibility for nuclear inspections to Iran. Such statements misrepresent the way in which we will undertake this important verification work.
The separate arrangements under the Road-map agreed between the IAEA and Iran in July are confidential and I have a legal obligation not to make them public - the same obligation I have for hundreds of such arrangements made with other IAEA Member States.
However, I can state that the arrangements are technically sound and consistent with our long-established practices. They do not compromise our safeguards standards in any way. The Road-map between Iran and the IAEA is a very robust agreement, with strict timelines, which will help us to clarify past and present outstanding issues regarding Iran's nuclear programme. [International Atomic Energy Agency, 8/20/15]
Reuters: IAEA Says Terms Of The Arrangement With Iran Meet Verification Requirements Of International Iran Deal. According to Reuters, the IAEA said suggestions that “Iran would inspect its own Parchin military site on the agency's behalf” are “a misrepresentation,” and “it is satisfied with access Iran will grant it to the Parchin military site.” The international monitoring organization also notes that it must provide “confirmation that Iran is keeping promises” as a part ofthe larger P5+1 deal for the country to receive international sanctions relief:
The U.N. nuclear watchdog chief on Thursday rejected as “a misrepresentation” suggestions Iran would inspect its own Parchin military site on the agency's behalf, an issue that could help make or break Tehran's nuclear deal with big powers.
Without International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmation that Iran is keeping promises enshrined in the landmark July 14 nuclear accord, Tehran will not be granted much-needed relief from international economic sanctions.
Any indications that Iran's part of the accord - strict limits on its atomic energy program and explaining its past nuclear activity - cannot be directly verified by the IAEA could make it harder for President Barack Obama to secure crucial ratification by the U.S. Congress by a Sept. 17 deadline.
An unconfirmed Associated Press report had cited a draft document suggesting the IAEA would not send its own inspectors into Parchin but would instead get data from Iran on the site.
Under a roadmap accord Iran reached with the IAEA alongside the July 14 political agreement, the Islamic Republic is required to give the IAEA enough information about its past nuclear program to allow the Vienna-based watchdog to write a report on the issue by year-end. [Reuters, 8/20/15; 8/20/15]
NBC News: Deal Between Iran And The IAEA Aims To “Close The File” On Past Activity At Parchin Only, And Not The Long-Term Inspection Regime As Part Of The Landmark Deal. According to NBC News, the deal between IAEA and Iran pertains only to past military nuclear activity at the Parchin military site, and not the long-term inspection regime agreed to for the remainder of the nuclear deal":
Iran is required to “close the file” on past military dimensions of its nuclear program before it can get sanctions relief and proceed with the long-term nuclear deal negotiated in Vienna.
But, Wednesday night, two senior U.S. officials told NBC News that the unusual arrangement between the IAEA and Tehran relates only to past military activity and that UN inspectors, including IAEA Director Yukiya Amano, would be on site to supervise the Iranians at every step of the way.
Both sides agree the controversial arrangement only involves Parchin and its past military activity -- not the long-term inspection regime agreed to for the remainder of the nuclear deal. The administration claims the future inspection regime is unprecedented in its intrusiveness. [NBC News, 8/19/15]
Wall Street Journal: Deal Between Iran And IAEA, Does Not Impact Ability Of Inspectors To Observe Country's Other Nuclear Facilities, And Meets Requirements For Completing IAEA Study. On August 19, The Wall Street Journal explained that the agreement negotiated between Iran and the IAEA will contribute to the conclusion of a study of Iran's Parchin military base, and that the inspections in this case are not essential because the intelligence community “wouldn't require a full accounting of Iran's past work to assess how Iran would comply with the July agreement in the future”:
Allies of the White House said IAEA access to Parchin wasn't essential to ensuring Iran complies with the core of the agreement, and that IAEA inspectors would be observing the rest of the country's nuclear facilities, along with overseeing any work done at Parchin.
On Wednesday, the State Department spokesman, John Kirby, said the U.S. had an understanding of Iran's past program. “It's not as if we unilaterally in the United States don't have an idea of what that activity has been over the years,” he said.
“I trust the technical experts on this, not the same handful of people committed to opposing the deal,” said Jamal Abdi of the pro-agreement National Iranian American Council. “The notion that this means it is not the IAEA but Iran who is conducting the investigation is a laughable distortion.” [The Wall Street Journal, 8/19/15]
Vox: Nonproliferation Expert Says “Parchin Is A Red Herring.” On July 20 Vox's Max Fisher published an interview with nuclear nonproliferation expert, Aaron Stein, who explained that the IAEA would not find anything at Parchin, saying, “it's completely stripped of anything of value,” and emphasized that “The intention of this agreement is to take the weapons option off the table for the next 25 years, and the agreement does that” :
Max Fisher: Right, PMD -- “possible military dimensions,” the idea that Iran has to reveal any past work it's done on military elements of a nuclear program. In other words, to disclose any past work specifically on getting a bomb. I know that was a big issue in the negotiations, and it looks like it's going to be a big political issue now. How important is that?
Aaron Stein: A lot of it has focused on Parchin. [Iran had conducted some past nuclear work at its military facility at Parchin.] Parchin is a red herring; I have no idea why the IAEA is so hung up on Parchin. They won't find anything there -- it's completely stripped of anything of value.
The real concerns about Iran's PMD were weapons-specific tests. I'm talking about the development of a shock implosion system to generate a nuclear explosion and the conducting of weapons-specific mathematical and computer modulate tests.
Max Fisher: So the issue for the nuclear deal is that, in order for the deal to go forward, Iran has to satisfy the IAEA that they have sufficiently disclosed information about past weapons research?
Aaron Stein: Yes. They'll find some creative language to get around this, there's no doubt in my mind. There are very few people who seriously believe that Iran wasn't up to no good between 1985 and 2003. The intention of this agreement is to take the weapons option off the table for the next 25 years, and the agreement does that.
In the past, the way the IAEA resolved this is by using language that didn't call Iran a liar flat-out, but rather said that Iran's explanation is not inconsistent with how this may have happened, something along those lines. The agency will basically cast out on Iran's explanations without saying so, or say so in a very diplomatic language. [Vox, 7/20/15]
Arms Control Association's Tariq Rauf Explains The IAEA Deal With Iran Is Aimed At Determining Past Activity “Under Direct Supervision And Control Of IAEA Supervisors.” On August 20, the Arms Control Association's Tariq Rauf clarified that the inspections at Iran's Parchin military basewould determine past activity and that the IAEA would have “managed access” to the site. He added that the sampling procedures “carried out at Parchin by Iranian technicians under the direct supervision and control of IAEA inspectors would not necessarily compromise the environmental sampling exercise.”
Under the 'road map, the IAEA and Iran also concluded separate arrangements to address the issues of (a) a possible military dimension to Iran's nuclear programme as set out in the Annex to the November 2011 IAEA report and (b) activities at Parchin, a large military-industrial factory in Iran.
IAEA monitoring and verification in Iran at Parchin as recently reported, concerns two separate but related issues (1) IAEA environmental sampling and (2) IAEA (managed) access, to sites and locations at the Parchin military-industrial facility.
The “rocket-science” comes into play at the labs where through very sophisticated analyses using electron microscopes and mass spectrometers nuclear material can be detected at the nano-gram level. There is no way an inspected State confidently can “sanitize” or erase all signs of nuclear material where it has been used at a location.
Under regular IAEA safeguards inspections, Agency inspectors carry out the swiping and collection of samples, as at Bushehr, Esfahan, Natanz, Fordow and elsewhere in Iran. Parchin being a military industrial facility is not subject to regular IAEA safeguards as it is not a “nuclear facility” as defined for purposes of IAEA safeguards. The IAEA, however, can request and obtain access to a facility such as Parchin under “managed access” provisions of Iran's Additional Protocol (AP) to its safeguards agreement with the IAEA. It would be unusual but by no means technically compromising to have Iranian technicians collect swipe samples at sites and locations at Parchin in the physical presence and direct line of sight of IAEA inspectors, including filming, and using swipe kits and collection bags provided by the IAEA. The Agency inspectors then would seal the bags containing the swipe samples; they could leave behind one sealed bag at the IAEA Office in Iran as a “control” to be used if there is a dispute later about the results. The other three or four bags of swipe samples would be taken by the IAEA to NML/ESL and the analytical procedures described above would come into play. The results from all three or four labs to have analyzed the samples must match to give a positive or a negative finding on the presence and isotopics of uranium and/or plutonium. Given the sensitivity of the Iran nuclear file, it is not unreasonable under the circumstances for Iran to insist on following the sampling taking by its technicians in the presence of Agency inspectors noted above, mainly to guard against the risk of inadvertent contamination from nuclear material traces on the clothing of the inspectors which might have been worn at some other location in another country at a previous inspection. Such contamination while rare is not unknown and has occurred in a few cases elsewhere.
To conclude, the environmental sampling taking carried out at Parchin by Iranian technicians under the direct supervision and control of IAEA inspectors would not necessarily compromise the environmental sampling exercise. [Arms Control Association, 8/20/15]