Analysts: Iran Halts Alterations at Suspect Military Base

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano, shown in June, has said that significant alterations at Iran's Parchin military base have undermined the ability of investigators to look for evidence of past nuclear weapon-related activities at the site.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
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Diane Barnes
Dec. 11, 2013, 9:02 a.m.

Ir­an stopped con­struc­tion at a mil­it­ary base that some ex­perts al­lege once hos­ted nuc­le­ar weapon-re­lated ex­per­i­ments, a Wash­ing­ton think tank says.

A Nov. 27 satel­lite im­age of the Parchin fa­cil­ity sug­gests that Ir­an made “no sig­ni­fic­ant al­ter­a­tions” at the loc­a­tion for more than three months, the In­sti­tute for Sci­ence and In­ter­na­tion­al Se­cur­ity said in its Tues­day ana­lys­is. That fol­lows a peri­od of more than a year in which the Middle East­ern na­tion pur­sued de­moli­tion, con­struc­tion and pav­ing activ­it­ies that or­gan­iz­a­tion ex­perts be­lieve were aimed at con­ceal­ing evid­ence of past on-site ex­per­i­ments rel­ev­ant to nuc­le­ar-arms de­vel­op­ment.

Ir­an, which in­sists that its atom­ic ef­forts have no mil­it­ary di­men­sion, began modi­fy­ing the Parchin site a month after the In­ter­na­tion­al Atom­ic En­ergy Agency star­ted push­ing to vis­it the base in Janu­ary 2012, ac­cord­ing to IS­IS ana­lysts Dav­id Al­bright and Ser­ena Kelle­her-Ver­gantini. The U.N. nuc­le­ar watch­dog’s in­terest in the site is part of a broad­er probe launched amid in­ter­na­tion­al skep­ti­cism about Tehran’s os­tens­ibly peace­ful atom­ic am­bi­tions.

The ap­par­ent halt in modi­fic­a­tions at Parchin “may mean that Ir­an has fin­ished mak­ing planned changes at the site,” the ex­perts wrote. They ad­ded, though, that the pause could al­tern­at­ively “rep­res­ent an ef­fort by Ir­an to freeze op­er­a­tions there.”

U.N. in­spect­ors re­main barred from the Ir­a­ni­an fa­cil­ity un­der a deal struck last month by Tehran and the Vi­enna-based U.N. or­gan­iz­a­tion. In an Au­gust safe­guards re­port, IAEA Dir­ect­or Gen­er­al Yukiya Amano said Ir­an’s “ex­tens­ive activ­it­ies [at Parchin] have ser­i­ously un­der­mined the agency’s abil­ity to con­duct ef­fect­ive veri­fic­a­tion.”

IAEA of­fi­cials sus­pect that the base hos­ted a struc­ture cap­able of fa­cil­it­at­ing nuc­le­ar-re­lated ex­plos­ives tests, as well as pos­sible de­vel­op­ment of a “neut­ron ini­ti­at­or” for ac­tiv­at­ing atom­ic det­on­a­tions.

Cer­tain spe­cial­ists, though, have ques­tioned the U.N. agency’s ra­tionale for press­ing to vis­it the Parchin com­pound. The evid­ence be­hind those re­quests — in­tel­li­gence gathered and fur­nished to the agency by IAEA mem­ber gov­ern­ments — re­mains con­fid­en­tial.

This art­icle was pub­lished in Glob­al Se­cur­ity News­wire, which is pro­duced in­de­pend­ently by Na­tion­al Journ­al Group un­der con­tract with the Nuc­le­ar Threat Ini­ti­at­ive. NTI is a non­profit, non­par­tis­an group work­ing to re­duce glob­al threats from nuc­le­ar, bio­lo­gic­al, and chem­ic­al weapons.

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