Amano Visits ParchinPosted: September 21, 2015
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.