Wherefore Parchin?

Just a quick reaction to media reports that there may have been paving and laying of asphalt at the Parchin military site, also (unsurprisingly) breathlessly reported with illustrations by ISIS here.

Reading these reports, it struck me how the whole Parchin issue appears to be being used by the IAEA so similarly to how the Benghazi consulate attack issue is being used by the US House of Representatives.  In both cases, I think we are seeing perfect examples of the use of investigation powers by a legal institution as a political weapon.  In both cases, the investigating authorities ask a neverending stream of questions, trying to get at “the truth,” which is really of course merely an attempt to confirm their own unsupported allegations against the target of the investigation. But the fact that no evidence is ever produced through these endless interrogatories that there is in fact anything “there” there, does not deter the investigators. Thats because the purpose of the investigation isn’t really, in the final analysis, a quest for truth. Its a procedural weapon that is being employed to harm the public perception of the adversary target, by maintaining an investigation ad infinitum, in the hopes that the absence of any actual incriminating evidence will be lost on a largely ignorant public audience, and that the fact alone of an ongoing investigation will be enough for media outlets like the Washington Post to parrot the unfounded accusations, keeping the perception of something “there” in the public consciousness.

I hope that readers will understand that the question of what may or may not have happened at the Parchin military base is UTTERLY IRRELEVANT to the current dispute between Iran and the IAEA/the West over Iran’s nuclear program. Even if all of the allegations made about what happened at the site are true – i.e. that experiments were carried on there 15-20 years ago that increased Iran’s understanding of how to construct a nuclear warhead – SO FREAKING WHAT?  As I’ve explained over and over, even if that’s all true, it wasn’t illegal in any way.**

And there is not even a scrap of evidence either that Iran actually constructed a nuclear warhead at any point in the past, or that they’ve done any work whatsoever on warhead R&D for the past 10 years – quite the contrary, as we all know.  All of the national intel agencies, including that of the US, have concluded that Iran stopped whatever warhead R&D work they were doing by 2003.

So again, THIS QUESTION HAS ABSOLUTELY NO RELEVANCE to the real issue of whether Iran is currently in compliance with its obligations under international law, including the rules of the NPT and its CSA with the IAEA.  The entire Parchin issue is a sideshow – a classic red herring.  And it’s really frustrating to see how much energy the IAEA keeps devoting to this irrelevant issue, including in its newest report on Iran, released today.

Again, the only sense I can make of it is that the IAEA is acting here per the direction of the US – not much of a stretch, knowing what we know about the amount of funding the IAEA receives from the US, the influence US labs have on the IAEA safeguards program, the amount of the intel  on Iran that’s coming from the US and its allies, and, from the WikiLeaks cables, about how closely aligned DG Amano is with the US .  And that the US wants this investigation to be used in exactly the same manner, and for the same purpose, that the US House of Representatives is using its investigation of the Benghazi incident – as a political weapon, pure and simple.

Is it any wonder that Iran doesnt trust the IAEA?

_________________________________________________________________

** After speaking to some colleagues today, I would make one minor caveat to this statement for the sake of thoroughness and precision. The only aspect of the alleged experiments allegedly conducted at Parchin – and this is only according to the most extreme allegations – that would, if it occurred, have violated international law, is if uranium of a type meeting the threshold criteria of Article 34(c) of the CSA was employed in the experiments.  If so, then the failure to declare that material, and the facility in which it was present, would have constituted a violation of Iran’s CSA.  That being said, if indeed this was the case, the amount of uranium present is likely to have been small, and it would almost certainly have been unenriched. As such, it would in my opinion have constituted a very minor violation of the CSA.  Similar but more serious CSA violations have been committed by a number of other states in the past, including Egypt and South Korea. The level of attention that has been paid by the IAEA to the Parchin issue is out of all proportion to the level of attention paid to these other, more serious instances of safeguards violation.  Thus I would maintain my overall argument in this post.

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16 Comments on “Wherefore Parchin?”

  1. yousaf says:

    I sent the following letter to the author of that WaPo piece:

    ========================

    Joby,

    saw you had a new article on Iran —

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/iran-paves-over-suspected-nuclear-testing-site-despite-un-protests/2013/05/22/5a25e3be-c304-11e2-914f-a7aba60512a7_story.html

    “show fresh asphalt covering a broad area where suspicious tests were carried out several years ago”

    I think “alleged to have been carried out” might have been more accurate?

    You might have mentioned that Iran is not allowed to see the evidence from Intel agencies being used against it.

    You might have mentioned that previous evidence was crap:

    http://wmdjunction.com/130205_graphic_distraction_iran_iaea.htm

    You might also offer a broader picture of what experts in the community — NOT JUST IRAN — think about the IAEA’s requests to visit Parchin, instead of propagating biased and one-sided views:

    http://armscontrollaw.com/2013/01/22/yousaf-butt-pretty-in-pink-the-parchin-preoccupation-paradox/

    and:

    http://armscontrollaw.com/2013/01/31/robert-kelley-next-steps-forward-for-the-iaea-and-iran/

    QUOTE: “The IAEA work to date, including the mischaracterization of satellite images of Parchin, is more consistent with an IAEA agenda to target Iran than of technical analysis.”

    You might also be interested in a University of Maryland report on media handling of the Iran issue — particularly relevant to you and WaPo:

    http://www.lobelog.com/framing-iran-media-coverage-echoes-some-iraq-problems/

    Kind regards,
    Yousaf

    =========================

    Y’all can do so also.

    His address appears at his piece, but in case needed it is:

    warrickj@washpost.com
    and the editors are:

    Douglas.Frantz@washpost.com

    and

    Martin.Baron@washpost.com

    make sure to cc their new ombudsman if you write them a note:

    readers@washpost.com

  2. Don Bacon says:

    I like the comparison to Benghazi, because the fabricated ‘talking points’ dispute is a red herring intended to distract people from learning Ambassador Stevens’ true activities in Benghazi — using Libyan terrorists to ship men and arms to Syrian terrorists (and it bit him).

    I would rather tend, though, toward a comparison to Syria, a situation where the supposedly beleaguered President Assad — his days are numbered! — is in the driver’s seat and the U.S., powerless to affect events, comes up with red herrings like chemical weapons, foreign involvement (imagine that) and continuing bogus massacres for lack of any interest in actually finding a peaceful solution, and Assad says ‘I’m the president, not you.’

    So with Iran — Iran is isolated! — which is mandated by “the international community” to suspend all its nuclear work, and Iran rightly says in effect ‘stuff it,’ I’m in charge and I’m legal.

    Anyhow, the quarterly report as usual states “the agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material at the nuclear facilities and LOFs declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement.”

    That’s all that counts, according to the treaty that Iran signed in good faith, which has not been reciprocated.

    NOTE: I’m sure I’m not alone in noticing that the IAEA will delay release its Iran quarterly report to the public for several weeks, even though it’s released immediately to the favored few like NYTimes and ISIS. We have to hope that we can get it from them.

    http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/focus/iaeairan/iaea_reports.shtml

  3. thepatentguynet says:

    Dan, right on the button. Just think of all the analogies one could make to the nonsense “reporting” on that area that is about 5 miles east of the Parchin Military Complex. Goebbels comes to mind, too.

    Have you noticed how the screams from Israel to attack Iran have about died out since about last Sept when Netanyahu stepped in front of the UN General Assembly and all the world with an Acme bomb diagram and commenced to make himself out to be a complete idiot by using lipstick to embellish the diagram with what was supposed to be a ominous “red line” but looked more like a clown’s bow tie?

    My guess is that the silence is a bad omen for Iran. The one thing GoI never does is signal to an enemy when an unprovoked attack is coming. They learned in 1967 that if you ignore international law and norms and human morals and just go ahead and kick the sh*t out of your enemy with a surprise attack, nobody will say a thing. The US, in particular, will not just keep sending you money; they will send you more.

    This Parchin propaganda is not just an annoyance to fair-minded people, it is getting very serious. Very serious. The American people have to be brought along on this war against Iran or the country will end up back in 1970 with another Kent State.

    Yousaf above links to (and rips apart) a WaPo article by Warrick that sounds like it was ghost-written by Albright. Then there was another AP article by Drum-beat Jahn on May22 that regurgitates all of this crap — a regurgitation based, as always, on Jahn’s anonymous “senior diplomat.”

    http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/diplomats-iran-expands-nuke-technology-19230931#.UaDnHJyvuSp

    Here’s the scary part. On May22 the Senate voted on a resolution co-sponsored by 91 senators, Res. 63. That sounds like about 91% to me — and that’s just the sponsors.

    Res 63 starts out like this:

    “Whereas, on May 14, 1948, the people of Israel proclaimed the establishment of the sovereign and independent State of Israel; Whereas, on March 28, 1949, the United States Government recognized the establishment of the new State of Israel and established full diplomatic relations . . . ”

    So, you know where this is going. The last of the 8 resolutions is much like the first 7 but more explicit:

    “(8) urges that, if the Government of Israel is compelled to take military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the United States Government should stand with Israel and provide, in accordance with United States law and the constitutional responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of military force, diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence.”

    IOW, the Senate supports [and is thereby encouraging] a preemptive attack.

    But that’s not the scary part, the scary part is the way the propaganda has driven this resolution. McCain in supporting the resolution read into the record both Warrick’s WaPo piece and Jahn’s AP piece as evidence that something needs to be done to get Iran under control. Like Iraq, the Iran war is going to be a propaganda-driven war.

    Here’s Res 63:

    http://origin.www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CREC-2013-05-22/html/CREC-2013-05-22-pt1-PgS3736.htm

    So while we’re talking analogies, this Res 63 is the clear analogy to the Oct2002 joint resolution of Congress authorizing war against Iraq. The Senate passed that fateful resolution 77/23. They passed this week’s resolution on Iran unanimously, with one senator not voting.

  4. Cyrus says:

    The rhetorical technique you’re writing about is the old “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” maxim which is being used to commit the fallacy of shifting the burdern of proof. The US/ISIS etc speculate on what “could” exist at Parchin, even though there’s no actual evidence to support their speculation, and then the onus is placed on Iran to disporove the speculation by the US/ISIS. This of course has no end, since you can’t really prove a negative, and new speculation is easy to cook up (indeed Parchin was already visited twice by IAEA inspectors, who took environmental samples that would have picked up the minutest evidence of nuclear material — so instead we are now treated to speculation that Iran *may have* used a uranium substitute like tungsten, etc. etc.)

  5. […] uranium, there is no need for Iran to declare what it is doing with tungsten, so there would be no legal safeguards issue even if Iran were to have done implosion tests with tungsten or other non-fissile […]

  6. […] so they start to pay closer attention to reports about how much of the IAEA’s budget is provided by the US and its allies; how closely aligned […]

  7. […] dimensions” in Iran, or anywhere else for that matter. But I’ve made this point so many times before that I didn’t really see it as worth the time or effort to do so again in comments to this […]

  8. […] military dimensions” in Iran, or anywhere else for that matter. But I’ve made this point so many times before that I didn’t really see it as worth the time or effort to do so again in comments to this new […]

  9. Sana Ghazi says:

    I had what may sound like an irrelevant question but I would appreciate a clarification. I’m currently writing a policy brief on the media construction regarding the illegality of Iran’s nuclear programme, to attempt to restore some sense of balance in the debate:
    It is indeed the assessment of all intelligence agencies that Iran has no nuclear *warhead* programme – but is there any evidence its nuclear programme has *elements of weaponisation*? (For instance, a large-payload missile?) If yes, is there anything in the NPT or the CSA that would suggest that such activity would be a violation/non-compliance of either treaty as applicable?

    • Cyrus says:

      A violation occurs if the IAEA cannot verify the non-diversion of nuclear material to non-peaceful uses. There are allegations of warhead designs but none that have been verified in any way but the IAEA has been demanding access to Iranian Shahab 3 missile warhead designs to “exclude the possibility” that they could be used for nukes — thus turning Iran’s Safeguards on its head (http://www.mepc.org/journal/middle-east-policy-archives/iran-nuclear-alleged-studies-documents?print)

      In any case, any sort drawing, calculating, modeling, etc. of nukes is not a violation, as long as it involves no diversion of nuclear material. Is there evidence that Iran has done any of this? Accoording to ElBaradei:

      “And I have been making it very clear that with regard to these alleged studies*, we have not seen any use of nuclear material, we have not received any information that Iran has manufactured any part of a nuclear weapon or component. That’s why I say, to present the Iran threat as imminent is hype.” http://svaradarajan.blogspot.com/2009/10/elbaradei-interview-language-of-force.html

      *The term “Alleged Studies” was changed to “Possible Military Dimensions” when Amano took over, though they still continue to be just allegations (and the leaked ones turned out to be bogus: the “AP Graph” http://www.fair.org/blog/2012/11/29/aps-iran-bomb-drawing-hoax/ and Oliver Kamm’s “Neutron Initiator” document (that elBaradei refers to in his book too)

  10. […] So is this yet another example of DG Amano dancing to the tune played by the USG, for the reasons I explained here? Did he quietly direct that the definition be removed from the report, assuming no one would notice […]


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