CONFIRMED -- Iran allowed to collect own samples at nuclear military base -- Verification expert on self-inspection deal: "You need the eyes and the brain to look where to sample... video camera opens up additional methods of deceiving"
The Israel Project's Omri Ceren reports that it has now been confirmed that Iran was in fact allowed to 'inspect
' its own nuclear military facility at Parchin. I received this by email.
Reuters this morning conveyed Iranian
media reports establishing that the Iranians recently took their own
environmental samples at their Parchin military facility, where they
conducted tests relevant to the detonation of nuclear warheads, in lieu
of having IAEA inspectors take the samples (Reuters story below;
original IRNA story here [a]).
The IAEA has long sought access to Parchin: the agency needs to
clarify the nature and scope of Iran's past nuclear weapons work - the
possible military dimensions (PMDs) of Iran's atomic program - to
establish what the Iranians did and how far they got, which are the
prerequisites to setting up a verification regime against future
violations. The Obama administration had promised lawmakers that IAEA
inspectors would be able to inspect Parchin and resolve all PMD issues
before any final deal was inked [b][c][d][e][f].
Instead the JCPOA
allowed Iran to sign a secret side deal with the IAEA permitting the
Iranians to self-inspect the facility rather than grant IAEA inspector
That side deal was subsequently revealed and published by the AP: the
Iranians would get to collect their own samples, those samples would
have to come from mutually agreed upon areas under overlapping photo and
video surveillance, and the number of the samples would be limited
[g][h]. An Iranian statement this morning confirmed that the Iranians
collected their own samples: "Iranian experts took samples from specific
locations in Parchin facilities this week without IAEA inspectors being
present" [i]. An IAEA statement confirmed the sampling was done from
mutually agreed upon areas under overlapping photo and video
surveillance: "the determination of the spots where the samples are
taken is a separate, important, careful activity…. [that] have to
satisfy our requirements… the actual swiping or other sample taking
[place] under redundant continuous surveillance" [j]. It's not yet clear
whether the AP was also correct about the number of samples being
The arrangement means that the IAEA will not be able to establish what happened at Parchin.
David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and
International Security, explained at a panel hosted earlier this month
by the Hudson Institute that self-sampling under surveillance is
inadequate. Inspectors need to be on the ground to identify dusty nooks
and corners where violators forgot to dust; the mutually agreed upon
areas are by definition the ones that violators know have been
What you have is, is the situation where there'll be videotaping
of the potential locations where sampling would take place. Then the
IAEA would direct the Iranians to take the samples. And that's not the
normal way to do things.
If I could give the example in Iran of Kalaya Electric, a secret
centrifuge research and development facility that Iran denied was such a
thing. The IAEA got access and it brought in a very top level
centrifuge expert with that access, who looked around. And when they did
the sampling finally they didn't find any trace of enriched uranium in
the areas that had been heavily modified. But in a another, a secondary
building they found in a ventilation duct - which had not been modified -
they found traces of enriched uranium...
You need the eyes and the brain to look where to sample.
I brought an example of sampling in North Korea... they sampled
in the Yongbyon reprocessing plant in the early 90s... you can see in
the sampling they're looking behind this box... Look for where it's
dusty. The idea is that it's not been disturbed. In the case of Parchin,
it would be look for where the paint doesn't look solid. And so, that's
very hard to do with a video camera. So I think the video camera opens
up additional methods of deceiving the IAEA. And it's not the normal way
they've been doing it. And so I think that's a problem...
The sampling would be done, and then the IAEA access would
follow. And so the access is coming at a point where it's not as
useful... You want it to drive the inspection effort and the
environmental sampling effort, not be done at the end of the process [7:29].
The arrangement was also read more broadly as kneecapping the IAEA.
On the experts side, CNN got analysis from Olli Heinonen, former
director of the IAEA's verification shop, as Albright, president of the
Institute for Science and International Security: "It is very unusual...
I find it really hard to understand why you would let someone else take
the samples and only see through the camera" and "It's really not
normal... I don't know why they accepted it. I think the IAEA is
probably getting a little desperate to settle this" [l]. On the
Congressional side, a visit by Amano to the Hill on the side deals left
Senators fuming [m].
The IAEA reacted to this morning's leak by issuing more assurances
about the adequacy of Iranian self-inspections. White House validators
have already picked up the "redundant continuous surveillance" theme and
you're likely to hear more of it [n].
The problem is that the IAEA assurances read a little bit like a
hostage note: lawmakers, experts, and journalists know that the
arrangement is unprecedented and that inspectors need to be on the
ground, so the IAEA statements may be read as evidence that the agency
has bent to political pressure.
What could go wrong?
Labels: IAEA, inspection, Iran Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Iran sanctions regime, Iranian nuclear threat, nuclear weapons, Parchin, Possible Military Dimensions (PMD), uranium enrichment