Amano Visits Parchin

Just a quick post to note that IAEA DG Amano announced on Sunday that he has personally visited the Parchin facility, including the building that has been the subject of so much speculation regarding it’s alleged use as a testing space for nuclear explosive initiators.   In a statement about his visit, he said that he and his team were allowed into the building, and that environmental tests were performed in collaboration with Iranian technicians.  This was the first time that the IAEA had visited this particular building, though it had visited the Parchin facility twice previously.

The political significance of the DG’s visit to this part of the Parchin facility is huge. It is almost certainly supposed to represent the capstone being placed upon the IAEA’s investigation of the site and it’s role in the agency’s PMD inquiry.  And as the Parchin facility has been the most visible and specific part of the agency’s PMD allegations against Iran since the DG’s November 2011 report, this visit appears highly politically symbolic in also marking the beginning of the end of the IAEA’s PMD inquiry as a whole.  The JCPOA, of course, provides that the DG must submit a report on the PMD issue to the IAEA BOG by December 15, 2015, upon receipt of which the BOG is supposed to act “with a view to closing the issue.”  So the DG’s visit to Parchin would seem to be a communication that everything is moving forward toward this outcome, as planned.

I and others have written a lot about the PMD issue, and the Parchin facility specifically, on this blog over the past few years.  I’ve argued all along that the PMD issue was both inappropriate as a subject for the IAEA to be investigating, and overblown in the significance attached to it by many observers (e.g. David Albright, Mark Hibbs).  It has been very gratifying to me over the past year or so to see that my view of the PMD issue – i.e. that it should be pragmatically dealt with and the IAEA investigation expeditiously ended – has been the view adopted by the P5+1 negotiators, and eventually by the IAEA itself.  This outcome will certainly not satisfy those who pushed so hard for Iran to be required to completely capitulate and confess every detail of its nuclear research programs.  But it is the right outcome of an issue that should never have been made into an issue by the IAEA in the first place, and which has demonstrated serious problems regarding the IAEA’s own understanding of its legal mandate, and its utilization of third-party intelligence information.

I will be very pleased to see the PMD issue put to rest, so that the more meaningful and productive issues of forward-looking safeguards on Iran’s nuclear program can be focused on.

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29 Comments on “Amano Visits Parchin”

  1. Johnboy says:

    Not to mention, of course, that Amano entered that building and found that….. it was empty.

    No Honkin’ Big Explosive Chamber.

    No. Nothin’.

    I suppose we now have to listen to David Albright and Mark Hibbs endlessly speculate about how the Iranians smuggled a Honkin’ Big Explosive Chamber out through that Teeny Tiny Front Door without anyone noticing.

    Albright’s probably already going through his satellite photos trying to work out which building now houses that (slightly dented, no doubt) chamber, as if he were playing the world’s biggest Pea And Thimble game.

    A sideshow indeed. Of the carnival variety.

    • Dan Joyner says:

      Oh yes. No doubt we’re going to hear that they found nothing there because Iran went to great lengths to “sanitize” the site of any trace of evil. A very convenient unevidenced but at the same time non-disprovable theory.

      • Meandmyself says:

        Hopefully covered in your book — how is that coming along btw?

      • Johnboy says:

        I actually posed this to Yousaf in his previous article i.e. that explosive chamber was supposed to be huge. Not just dimensionally “big”, but “massive” in the sense that it was required to contain explosive testing.

        Just how plausible is it to claim that such a container can be smuggled out through the front door?

        After all, nobody ever suggested that the Iranians constructed that building and *then* wheeled the chamber in on a trolley, did they?

        The Iranians would have had to built such a chamber first and then constructed that building around it (which does rather beg the question of why nobody has ever released sat photos of that building during its construction)

        But if that would have been the case then I assume (again, nobody has contradicted me on this) that the only way to remove such a chamber would be to first demolish the building in order to get at the damn thing.

        I suspect that Albright would have noticed that…..

        The building is demonstrably intact, and certain consequences flow from that i.e. if the chamber ain’t there now then it was *never* in there, otherwise an explanation has to be put forward explaining how they got it out.

        After all, I do not believe that the Iranians possess a magician’s wand. Nor do they appear to have mastered the technology behind teleportation. And it is most unlikely that IAEA soil samples will reveal the presence of magic fairy dust.

        My own pet theory is that the Iranians played rope-a-dope with Albright, and the Pink Tarps were put there for no other reason but to fixate his attention onto an empty building.

        After all, “deception is built into their DNA”, right, Wendy?

      • Meandmyself says:

        Johnboy

        To be fair to Wendy Sherman, she said “deception is built into THE DNA,” not “Their DNA”

      • Johnboy says:

        I stand corrected.

        I didn’t realize she was making a deep philosophical observation on the Human Condition, rather than a barbed comment on the untrustworthiness of the Iranian political leadership class.

        Or maybe she was just letting a recently-failed personal relationship get the better of her as she reflected bitterly on how betrayal is the inevitable outcome of opening your heart to another human being.

        Damn you, Brad! Damn you, damn you – and with the maid, of all people!

    • Dan Joyner says:

      Hi Meandmyself, thanks for asking about my book. Oh yes, PMD is in there. I turned in the manuscript to the publisher last month. It has passed peer review. Now I’m making some final revisions to flesh out the coverage of the JCPOA. I hope the book will come out early in the new year, maybe February or March. And I’m trying to work with the publisher to get it to come out in both hardback and paperback initially, so there will be a more affordable paperback version available from the start.

  2. Meandmyself says:

    It is a great rhetorical trick, to force your opponent to have to disprove whatever allegations you make up. And now: to get an entire international body to make up laws and procedures as they go along and to even misrepresent Board resolutions regarding the extent of their own legal authority. It all was accomplished far too easily.

  3. Nick says:

    So Albright just explained in his latest article how that big chamber was shipped out of the building in Parchin that he has been writing about all these years.

    Here is what he said:

    ..”This chamber was visibly absent during Amano’s visit. Earlier commercial satellite imagery from 2012 showed water flowing along the ground near the suspect building. Given that the suspect building is now empty, a reasonable conclusion is that the water could have been related to cooling the equipment used to cut up the chamber inside the suspect building. Such cutting can generate a considerable amount of heat which must be removed, and this is often done with water. After the chamber is dismantled and cut-up, the removal of the pieces of the chamber could be carried out in a manner that would not be visible in satellite imagery.”

    You have to give to him, he does not give up. Writing about and analyzing Parchin alleged activities have been great source of funds for his organization.

    • Dan Joyner says:

      Because water on the ground could only possibly mean that it’s being used to cool power cutting equipment. Amazing.

    • Johnboy says:

      I’d love to ask him three questions:
      1) Do you have any satellite photos showing that building during its construction?
      2) Bringing in the “cutting up equipment” and then removing it afterwards are also activities that would have been visible in satellite photos, so where are those photos?
      3) What do you actually mean by “in a manner that would not be visible in satellite imagery”?

      Nobody can remove a massive Concrete-Collared Steel Implosion Chamber – even one that has been chopped up – without the removal of those pieces being recorded by satellite photos.

      And, sure, sure, the Iranians can remove those pieces in a “manner” that seeks to disguise what that activity is i.e. David’s Eagle-Eyed Interns(tm) see it happening, but don’t understand what it is that they are seeing.

      But, really, Albright is being very lazy here.

      He appears to be claiming that there was activity but at the time he though nothing of it,. interpreting it as – oh, I dunno, it’s hard to think like an Albright – The Delivery Of Takeaway Pizza.

      But he now realises he’d been tricked: what those photos reveal is that the Iranians were removing the cut-up segments of that chamber by hiding them in the panniers of Parchin Pizza(tm) delivery scooters.

      Or some-such.

      But, really, there is a gaping hole in the Albright’s argument.

      He can point to those “water on the ground” photos, and he now reinterprets that activity as evidence that the chamber was being cut up inside the building.

      Okay. That gets you half-way there, David.

      But those chopped-up-bits still have to get out of the building, and he needs to show us the photos that he originally thought nothing of but which he *now* reinterprets to be the removal of those bibs and bobs.

      Albright: “in a manner that would not be visible in satellite imagery”.

      So that’d be a “no”, would it…….

    • Johnboy says:

      Nick: “So Albright just explained in his latest article how that big chamber was shipped out of the building in Parchin that he has been writing about all these years. ”

      Actually, no, if you read Albright’s words again you’ll see that your statement is not actually true.

      Abright offers an explanation, sure, he does, but it is for how the Iranians managed to chop up that chamber in situ.

      As in: according to his “water on the tarmac” photo they ran a garden hose over the chamber to keep it cool while some uber-blowtorch got to work chopping it down to size.

      But that still leaves the chopped up bits inside the building, so that isn’t actually an explanation as to how those bits were “shipped out of the building”.

      All he offers by way of “explanation” for that is a wave of his hand and a very curt “in a manner that would not be visible in satellite imagery”.

      In a word: magic.

      • yousaf says:

        “The Good ISIS” earlier claimed the water might have been to wash away trace nuclear materials. Interesting how water on the ground can be repurposed retroactively.

      • Dan Joyner says:

        I can’t believe they actually changed their Twitter handle to “The Good ISIS”! What a joke.

      • Meandmyself says:

        Heck I’m chopping up explosives chambers every time I water my lawn. No other explanation is possible. In a manner not visible to anyone else. Now, prove me wrong.

      • Johnboy says:

        That still only gets you half-way there, because all that explains is how you managed to cut up that steel chamber without setting your garden shed on fire.

        After all, those pieces are still sitting there in your (now-very-soggy) backyard.

        You still have to explain how you got those chopped-up-bits out of your garden shed, which you have conspicuously failed to do.

        That’s the problem with Albright’s theory i.e. there is a big ol “… and then a miracle happens…” stuck smack in the middle of it.

        Though in this case the label reads “… in a manner that would not be visible in satellite imagery …” but it still amounts to exactly the same thing i.e. Albright can’t explain how the Iranians spirited those pieces out of the building, so he simply posits that the Iranians performed a miracle.

      • yousaf says:

        In his report he says Iranians could smuggle out pieces when sats were not overhead and looking at Parchin but this assumes IRI knows orbits of all US and allied spy sats and commercial ones too.

      • Johnboy says:

        Yousaf,
        Two points about your comment:
        1) I am under the impression that Albright does not have access to military satellite intel. He only has access to commercial photos, and he has to purchase those.

        So perhaps Iran knows about the cash-flow situation at ISIS, and only sneaks those bits out when they know that Albright is strapped for cash.

        2) The statement he used was actually “in a manner that would not be visible in satellite imagery”, he was very careful not to come out and say “at a time when that would not be visible in satellite imagery”.

        The phrase he used amounts to a hand-waving, dismissive, don’t-you-worry-about-that gaping big hole in his “explanation”.

        I don’t doubt that he left that phrase intentionally vague, and I don’t doubt for a second that he did so because he knows that any specifics would not stand up to scrutiny.

        As you mentioned, one possibility is that he meant that the Iranians were sprinting out of the building when satellites were not overhead, then throwing bits of chopped-up-chamber into the flat-bed of trucks as they sped past. And all done quickly enough that those trucks had time to roar out of sight before the next satellite arrived overhead.

        Okaaaaay, at least that’s a theory, and it can be tested.

        First and foremost: how often do those satellites pass overhead, David?

        David?

        David?

        Much better to be vague, and just wave your hands about with a don’t-you-worry-about-how non-explanation.

      • masoud says:

        I’m just kind of impressed Albright didn’t go with the “They dug a giant tunnel underground, and spirited away the the chamber mexico narco trafficker prison break style.” The water captured on the images? Used to wash out all the dust kicked up!

        Though maybe I souldn’t be offering him any ideas. It’s still early days, relatively speaking.

  4. Nick says:

    Johnboy, your points are well taken, regarding it will be very hard to remove those pieces from a building that is being monitored probably more than any other building on earth.

    Then, one could conclude that those cut up pieces that Albright fantasized are still there, but perhaps buried underground. Kind of a Hoffa disapperance under the Giant’s Stadium!

    Those that are still stuck on the Parchin situtaion should finally move on, if the results of those samples are negative. This chapter is finally closed.

    • meandmyself says:

      This isn’t how the echo chamber in Washington works. How many times have stories of Bigfoot been debunked, and yet they persist. Note this was the third inspection at Parchin. Twice before when no evidence of nukes turned up, ISIS and Albright simply doubled-down and insisted that yet more inspections are necessary. The facts are not relevant, as long as you can simply promote speculation, which after enough repetition becomes conventional wisdom. The entire point is to promote hype not find hidden nuclear material.

  5. yousaf says:

    Why was a special protocol used at Parchin where Iranian technicians took the samples with remote monitoring by the IAEA? Possibly because the previous head of safeguards’ track record is not great:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-yousaf-butt-/iaea-iran-inspections-parchin_b_8016656.html

    • Johnboy says:

      Holy crap! Have you confirmed that story, Yousaf?

      I had no idea that the only “positive result” from Syria came from a swipe that was pulled from an IAEA inspector’s pocket i.e. from a sample whose chain of custody is entirely based upon the say-so of someone who cheerfully admits that he took that sample When Nobody Else Was Looking and then handled it like it was a used handkerchief.

      What sort of Mickey Mouse organization is the IAEA if it allowed *that* result to make it into its reports?

      Any organization that valued its reputation would have hung, drawn and quartered that inspector. And then shoved that swipe in his mouth as they left him out to dry.

      Well, maybe not that, but at the very least a responsible organization would make an example of such a person, and they certainly would disown any results obtained in that manner.

      Apparently not…

      • yousaf says:

        Not sure about hung drawn etc. but one might notice former head of safeguards responsible for overall stewardship of safeguards dept is just that, former.

      • Johnboy says:

        Yeah, I get that bit.

        What staggers me is that the result from that swipe made its way into the IAEA report, when it should be obvious to all that the chain-of-custody for that swipe fails even the most cursory sniff-test.

        The IAEA should have told that head of inspections to feed that swipe to that rogue inspector. it most certainly should not have allowed that swipe to be sent off for testing.

        And if that head of inspections did allow that swipe to be sent off then the IAEA officials above him should have informed the test laboratory that they were wasting their time, because the IAEA was going to refuse to take delivery of the test results.

        After all, according to the story that inspector have no evidence – none whatsoever – to back up his claim that this swipe ever left that hotel room.

        It’s not just that there was a failure of procedure at the level of inspections.

        That’s the least of it. The real outrage is that the IAEA secretariat didn’t repudiate the test results obtained from such tainted “evidence”.

  6. Yousry Abushady says:

    Concerning the samples taken from AlKibar site in Syria and the role of IAEA in that illegal procedure followed. In my view this failure should not be addressed entirely to the IAEA. If a senior head of Safeguards at that time with support or at least no objection from his boss acted in this way they should be personally responsible of their actions and IAEA should clarify the matter and close its file. I agree that this behavior of one or two IAEA senior officers could affect the IAEA neutrality, but we should not ignore the important roles of the IAEA in many fields including safeguards. I believe a legal investigation should be opened for Alkibar matters to confirm the details and the size of violation followed by a limited number of IAEA senior officers.
    Pl. note also that the violation for Alkibar was not only how one or more samples taken, but also how after the confirmation of three randomly selected labs of no presence of any U particles in any sample analyzed, It was decided by one senior IAEA staff (contrary to IAEA procedure) to send other samples to a fourth lab which claimed to find many U particles? no one asked why such clear contradiction and what is this fourth lab that suddenly found all these U particles contrary to the first three Labs. Anyhow, I am certain if an investigation is opened, tens of violations by these former senior IAEA responsible officers will be detected.

  7. yousaf says:

    Albright’s statement ” “in a manner that would not be visible in satellite imagery” is wrong. Even at night IR and SAR can be used to monitor important sites via satellites.

    • Johnboy says:

      Not so much “wrong” as “mealy-mouthed”.

      That phrase amounts to nothing more than David Albright’s very good impersonation of Humpty-Dumpty.

      “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less”

      “in a manner” could mean:
      a) At a time when no satellites are overhead
      b) At a time when those satellites are overhead but can’t see
      c) In plain view of those satellites, but done so you can’t be sure what it is you are seeing.

      It could mean any of those things.
      It could mean all of those things.
      It could mean something else entirely.

      Albright simply throws those words out like a loose bowel movement, and does so “in a manner” that allows him to give those words whatever meaning he choses to give to them.

      Or not.

      After all, to David Albright water on the tarmac *used* to mean that the Iranians were washing away all the radioactive particles from around the building. But that water *now* means that the Iranians were keeping the chamber cool while they were cutting it up in situ.

      Because that’s the thing: once we go through the ISIS looking-glass we find that satellite imagery means whatever it is that David Albright wants them to mean, neither more nor less, and their meaning changes whenever it is convenient for him.


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