Bloomberg ArticlePosted: January 16, 2013 Filed under: Nuclear 14 Comments
Sorry for the radio silence lately. First the new year, then the BCS national championship game (ROLL TIDE!), and then I’ve been in the third level of exam grading hell for the last several days. But I’ve got several posts coming in the next few days. In the meantime, here’s a bloomberg article on Parchin that quotes Bob Kelley and me:
Bob is really great, and I recommend all of his media interviews and writings. His most recent analysis of the Parchin issue is here. I find him to be objective and to consistently offer some of the most insightful, reasonable, and authoritative technical commentary on nuclear weapons inspection matters and the IAEA. His credibility of course comes from his long career both with the US DOE, and as a member of the IAEA Action Team in Iraq. So he was a real-deal IAEA weapons inspector, unlike some others who are sometimes mis-identified under that title.
Great article — good to see that Bloomberg News is being objective unlike large swatches of Western media which parrot official talking points.
Here is Kelley’s most recent interview:
Kelley is incorrect when in the last paragraph he says that the IAEA never said what they found at Parchin when they investigated the place back in 2005. The IAEA reports clearly stated that they found nothing:
GOV/2005/67, dated 2 September 2005, paragraph 41 “As described by the DDG-SG in his 1 March 2005 statement to the Board, in January 2005, Iran agreed, as a transparency measure, to permit the Agency to visit a site located at Parchin in order to provide assurance regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities at that site. Out of the four areas identified by the Agency to be of potential interest, the Agency was permitted to select any one area. The Agency was requested to minimize the number of buildings to be visited in that area, and selected five buildings. The Agency was given free access to those buildings and their surroundings and was allowed to take environmental samples, the results of which did not indicate the presence of nuclear material, nor did the Agency see any relevant dual use equipment or materials in the locations visited.”
The bigger question is why Iran would allow the IAEA to pick any random buildings and inspect them, if Iran was supposedly hiding a “nuclear testing chamber” on the site.
Also note that the IAEA does not claim that uranium was actually used in the alleged experiments conducted with the alleged explosives testing chamber. (That’s why the IAEA reports clearly refer to “nuclear RELATED” experiments not nuclear experiments — which brings up the question of the IAEA’s legal authority to inspect Parchin if there was no nuclear material used, since the IAEA’s inspection authority is limited to nuclear material and not merely “nuclear-related” activities.)
While I am delighted to see a MSM article raising important questions about the veracity of the IAEA’s reports and the trustworthiness of its conclusions, I am disappointed that Tirone’s Bloomberg article does not mention Amano even one time.
The reprehensible hide-the-ball games that have been going on with respect to data and sources should be attributed to the individual responsible for them – Amano – not to the agency as a whole. The agency comprises many honest, well-intentioned scientists who are playing no part in this nonsense, and to blame the IAEA for Amano’s disingenuous tactics is to denigrate these good people. If false IAEA reports based on faked or fraudulent data lead to another Middle East war, when the body counts hit 4, 5, and 6 digits, the world should be absolutely clear that Amano played a central role in ginning that war up. It is good to have you, Kelley, ElBaradei, and Blix give some principled counterweight to the smoke-and-mirrors nonsense that is coming from Albright and Amano, and I hope your trend will continue and gain momentum.
However, having said that, I would like to point out some errors in Kelley’s assertions about the Parchin Pink Site. I don’t by any means mean to imply that I agree with Albright’s fanciful interpretations of what is going on there, but I think the record needs to be scrubbed of all misstatements of fact regardless of their source.
I have access only to GoogleEarth and the sat-photos published by ISIS, all of which are available to anyone with an Internet connection. The Pink Site is at 35°33’32.83″ N 51°47’06.55″ E. The latest GE view is from Oct02.2012. There are historical views going back to Mar04.2004.
The term “Pink Site” comes from an Aug24.2012 report by Albright on activity at this site, including “pink tarps” put on the roofs of two of the buildings. Albright provided an Aug15.2012 GeoEye photo, which is not available on GE historical view. You can see it at ISIS. http://isis-online.org/isis-reports/detail/new-phase-of-suspect-activity-at-parchin-site/
I would respectfully disagree with Kelley’s assessment in the Bloomberg article that the pink material is insulating styrofoam. I admit, I thought it was “pink batts” type of rolled insulation when I first saw it. But close inspection of the shadows of Albright’s Aug15.2012 photo shows that the material is draped over the western and northern walls of Albright’s main target building, which I refer to as “S5.” Furthermore, the way the material is folded and wrinkled on the roof suggests a tarp, as Albright claims. Prior to the pink-roof shot, the roof of S5 was what looks like galvanized metal. In the latest view, Oct02.2012, the roof is covered with tar or a black tarp, most likely a tarp. So, there is no question that modifications have been made to the roof.
I have a more substantial disagreement with Kelley when he tells Bloomberg’s Tirone that the land immediately adjacent to the “targeted building”, S5, is “untouched.” That is not true according to the publicly available GE photos. All of the GE photos prior to the latest one, Oct02.2012, show that land immediately adjacent to all of the buildings at the Pink Site was paved and landscaped. With respect to S5, the pavement surrounded the building, going right up to the walls.
In the latest GE photo all of the asphalt and landscaping has been removed, including an entire road adjacent to the buildings. From the dates of the GE photos and Albright’s photo, we can deduce that virtually all of this earth-moving was done after May25.2012 and before Aug15.2012. Numerous electrical poles have also been moved to the east, along the highway.
But to return to Kelley’s assertion, I don’t think there can be any question that the land adjacent to all of the buildings has been altered. My guess is that Kelley had not seen the Oct02.2012 GE photo when he was interviewed by Bloomberg. But while there is no doubt that changes have been made to the Pink Site, if you give me 10 minutes I can show you a dozen areas in Iran – or any other country – where there has been comparable or more extreme modifications to the land. It’s what people with bull-dozers do.
[I have viewed the RealNews interview of Kelley provided by yousaf – thank you – after writing the above, Kelley clearly moves away from the assertion that land adjacent to the buildings is “untouched.” ]
The problem is that all of this detailed analysis of the Pink Site detracts us from the important question: Why are we looking at these buildings anyway? All we have is Albright’s and Amano’s allegations that S5 contains, or once contained, an explosion chamber. Albright has alleged that there is a 2000 sat-photo of a “cylinder” where the building S5 now is and that the building was built around that cylinder. That photo is the crux of this argument because you are certainly not going to get a sat-photo of what’s inside the building. Albright and Amano need to put up or shut up about what they allege is going on, and that alleged photo of the alleged cylinder is one way to put up. As of the present, the only “evidence” Albright or Amano have provided to support their very serious allegations is an absolutely absurd Google Sketch diagram of the alleged explosion chamber, a diagram so crude that it could have been produced by the same 14 year old kid who produced the recent energy yield bell-shaped curve.
As one trained in medical science I am certain that if any medical researcher ever published such potentially important conclusions based on such incredibly laughable “evidence,” he or she would lose every shred of credibility they ever had. But then again, maybe professional standards and ethics are a lot looser in the field of nuclear non-proliferation, at least since Blix and ElBaradei left the IAEA.
Thanks for your comment, Denis. Very useful.
“The problem is that all of this detailed analysis of the Pink Site detracts us from the important question: Why are we looking at these buildings anyway? All we have is Albright’s and Amano’s allegations that S5 contains, or once contained, an explosion chamber.”
If Gareth Porter is right, then the reason is embedded in your rhetorical question: because its pink. Porter maintains Iran is deliberately keeping the target buildings in satellite crosshairs to extract concessions from IAEA. E.g. get IAEA to disclose the documentry evidence that underlie their suspicions.
Iran and IAEA have now spent 48 hours trying to hash out a ‘structured approach’ to granting access to Parchin. If evidence is shared, and access is granted, and nothing is found, then ISIS’ unbiased scientific credibility will become something of a joke.
Perhaps in anticipation of such embarrassment, Albright recently signed onto a 154 page report demanding more indiscriminate sanctions and military threats against Iran immediately as punishment for the future possibility that Iran may be able to build covert enrichment sites, possibly starting in 2014. By signing onto this overtly political paper, he has little ‘unbiased’ scientific credibility left. Perhaps he did so, knowing Iran was about to make a disclosure/inspection deal with IAEA.
If access is granted and nothing is found, ISIS will simply make an allegation about yet another site. Lets remember the sole reason why Albright initially focused on Parchin was that in his opinion, if Iran had a nuclear weapons program, Parchin would be a “logical candidate” to hide it. That’s all. That was the sum total “proof” that Albright provided for why Parchin deserves so much attention. And when the IAEA visited Parchin, though they found nothing, Albright demanded yet another visit by the IAEA to yet another site in Parchin …because some construction work was going on there. That’s all. “Some construction work” going on someplace was all that Albright needed to justify suspicions that Iran was hiding nukes. Albright is basically playing the mole in a game of whack-a-mole.
It should also be pointed out that whatever was going on in that building — if anything — as long as it involved no “diversion of nuclear material for non-peaceful uses” then it is not any of the IAEA’s business in the first place.
True — that is the bottom line. Even if all the assertions about the tank and conventional explosive testing is true, it may be against the spirit of the NPT but would not be a violation of the Safeguards agreement whose “exclusive purpose” is to ensure no diversion of nuclear material.
And if nothing is found at Parchin, Amano and Albright will say that that is because the site has been “cleaned”.
The IAEA already visited the site twice and found nothing.
That’s what I was thinking too about the cleaning excuse.
Dan, yes — even Olli in this case thinks the preoccupation with Parchin is weird:
“veteran inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) say the singular focus on visiting Parchin is a departure for the Agency that could jeopardize its credibility, considering the host of issues that remain between the IAEA and Iran. Also unusual is how open and specific the IAEA has been about what exactly it wants to see, which could yield doubts about the credibility of any eventual inspection.
“I’m puzzled that the IAEA wants to in this case specify the building in advance, because you end up with this awkward situation,” says Olli Heinonen, the IAEA’s head of safeguards until mid-2010.
“First of all, if it gets delayed it can be sanitized. And it’s not very good for Iran. Let’s assume [inspectors] finally get there and they find nothing. People will say, ‘Oh, it’s because Iran has sanitized it,'” says Mr. Heinonen, who is now at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. “But in reality it may have not been sanitized. Iran is also a loser in that case. I don’t know why [the IAEA] approach it this way, which was not a standard practice; but they may have a reason.”
@yousaf: The IAEA already visited the site twice and found nothing.
This is an important point, but I can see scenarios in which it is not relevant to IAEA’s (and Obama’s and Netanyahu’s) demands to inspect the Pink Site. I think it is absolutely imperative that one keep the history of inspections of the Parchin Military Complex (in the general area of 35°31’53.27″ N 51°45’07.66″ E) separate from “the Pink Site” (at precisely 35°33’32.66″ N 51°47’09.02″ E) or whatever better name may be used. These are separate places and separate issues.
As I understand the history, Iran has allowed IAEA access to the PMC, but it has never given permission to inspect the Pink Site. I don’t think the Pink Site even hit the world’s radar screen until Albright started barking about it in an ISIS article dated Mar13.2012, long after the IAEA inspected PMC.
The reason to avoid conflating the two sites is that if there is a reasonable suspicion that activity in violation of NPT is occurring or has occurred at the Pink Site, it is totally irrelevant whether or not IAEA ever inspected the PMC. The fact that the cops may have reasonable suspicion to justify a search warrant for your house, doesn’t necessarily mean they have grounds to get a search warrant for your office or car. Conversely, the fact that they searched your home in the past and found nothing does not mean they should not be permitted to search your car in the future, as long as they articulate a distinct and valid probable cause. And so the history of searching the PMC is irrelevant to the question of whether a search of the Pink Site is warranted, so long as there is evidence of treaty violations at the Pink Site.
OTOH, if there is no reasonable suspicion to search the Pink Site (and there appears to be no grounds for such suspicion), then the PMC inspections become highly relevant. First of all, the periodic, continuing, demands by IAEA when the prior search was negative makes it look like IAEA is carrying out a fishing expedition. Which it is. If such arrogance goes unchecked, it becomes SOP, much to Iran’s detriment.
Second, based on prior experience at the PMC Iran knows that IAEA is likely to refuse to publicize negative results from any search of the Pink Site, thereby leaving the world to doubt Iran’s “innocence,” as Yousaf notes. This is the equivalent of withholding exculpatory evidence, and, again, the tactic becomes SOP, much to Iran’s detriment.
Worse — there is no doubt that everything IAEA saw when it inspected PMC was reported to Israel, and the same would happen for any inspection of the Pink Site, or any other site in Iran, much to Iran’s detriment.
So, in the absence of reasonable suspicion or probable cause, Iran’s prior experience with the IAEA at the PMC more than justifies Iran’s refusal to cooperate at the Pink Site.
It seems to me that if everything is referred to as “Parchin,” a lot of these important historical, technical, legal, and geographic distinctions are lost, particularly on a public who wouldn’t know Parchin from Fordow from Cany-Cane Mountain b/c they’ve been dumbed down by the MSM.
thank you for your input. I think the point is that the earlier visits had randomness built into them so that the IAEA *could* have picked the pink site, and the Iranians would never have taken such a risk unless they are sure there is nothing that contravenes the Safeguards agreement anywhere at Parchin.
Please see the whole article:
“Previous inspections at Parchin
IAEA inspectors in January and November 2005 were given access to Parchin, a sprawling military base so large that it includes hundreds of buildings and underground structures.
At the time, it was divided into four geographical sectors by the Iranians. Using satellite and other data, inspectors were allowed by the Iranians to choose any sector, and then to visit any building inside that sector. Those 2005 inspections included more than five buildings each, and soil and environmental sampling. They yielded nothing suspicious, but did not include the building now of interest to the IAEA.
“The selection [of target buildings] did not take place in advance, it took place just when we arrived, so all of Parchin was available,” recalls Heinonen, who led those past inspections. “When we drove there and arrived, we told them which building.”
No Parchin deal:
To my knowledge Bloomberg News is the only mainstream news outlet that has examined the legal issue of IAEA trying to gain access to Parchin — does anyone know of any other news outlet that has done this type of simple investigative reporting on this very important issue?
“While IAEA officials routinely inspect Iran’s declared nuclear facilities, such as enrichment plants at Natanz and Fordo, existing treaty arrangements don’t compel the country to open up peripheral facilities such as Parchin.”