Settlement of Parchin question can be a milestone in Iran-IAEA ties

An Iranian expert in international affairs has said that the confidentiality of the roadmap agreement between Iran and the IAEA does not mean that it is a strange deal.

Ever since Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) signed a roadmap agreement for the clarification of past [and present] outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear program, many have tried to fathom out the content of this agreement.

Western media too have not stopped crafting newsworthy headlines. Reuters released a report a few days ago saying “United Nations inspectors will be present with Iranian technicians as they take samples from a key military site [Parchin]” [Reuters, September 11].

The news release was timed to coincide with a trip by IAEA inspectors to Tehran, but Deputy Director of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Asghar Zare’an has said that the inspectors’ Tehran visit is part of normal interactions between Iran and the agency.

Etemaad daily on September 14 published an interview with Hassan Beheshtipour, an expert in international affairs, on the news items Western media have released on Parchin and what should be done in that regard. The following is the translation of the interview:

Q: What should Iran do specifically to close Parchin’s case forever?

A: Parchin is a military, and non-nuclear, center to begin with. If it were a nuclear site, the UN nuclear agency would inspect it under the Safeguards rules. The fact is that Parchin is not a military center, so what has been envisioned in the Safeguards agreement is not applicable to Parchin.

This site was on everybody’s lips when attempts were launched in the 2000s to create a crisis out of Iran’s nuclear case. The site was inspected twice in 2005 and the IAEA announced that it had found nothing suspicious in it.

Notwithstanding, in recent years the agency has built on the intelligence it has been given to claim that the intelligence it has about Parchin should be reviewed. Iran has rejected the intelligence as fabricated. What is the solution? The agency should do environmental sampling in the area by collecting water, soil or plant samples. Radioactive isotopes stay in the environment for years and tests will show if nuclear activities have been done in the area or not.

Iran has a concern. Thanks to the record of IAEA inspectors in other countries, Iran is concerned that they may get access to confidential information which may prove problematic [down the line]. Parchin is a military center where conventional military work is being done. That said, the two sides [Iran and the agency] are likely to have struck a happy medium to solve the question(s) surrounding Parchin.

Q: What kind of approach, for instance?

A: Sampling can be done by Iranian technicians and the IAEA can be assured that sampling is done for the Parchin case.

Q: Was it what Iran agreed to in its roadmap agreement with the IAEA?

A: I have no knowledge of the mechanism the roadmap agreement has offered to settle the Parchin case. The roadmap is a secret agreement between Iran and the UN nuclear agency. Its confidentiality does not mean it is a strange agreement. Iran has insisted on the confidentiality of the agreement because IAEA rules and regulations call for executive arrangements between countries and the agency to remain confidential. That is particularly true about this [roadmap] agreement which is very significant at this historic juncture.

Now we need to wait and see if the agency will pass this test with flying colors or it will flunk it. [The disclosure of the countries’ intelligence has drawn negative reactions.] Even the Russians have voiced their protest at and concern about the disclosure of state intelligence.

Q: A while ago, the Associated Press reported that environmental sampling will be done by the Iranian technicians in the absence of UN inspectors. Is it possible to do so without the IAEA inspectors present?

[In a departure from the usual procedure, Iran will be allowed to use its own “experts and equipment” to provide international inspectors with environmental samples from the military base and suspected nuclear site Parchin, the Associated Press (AP) reported on August 19, citing a classified draft of a side agreement between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that its reporters had seen.]

A: What matters for the IAEA is proper sampling where the agency wants it to be done. There are multiple ways to do so. Let me elaborate a bit on the AP report here. The report came out when the US Congress was reviewing the Iran nuclear deal.

There were also reports saying that [IAEA Director General Yukiya] Amano was present in the congressional debate. The AP report was released at that time simply to create a politically charged atmosphere that favored hardliners. Unfortunately, certain media outlets in Iran got caught in this trap [set by Western media] and magnified the news item.

Q: Can the report Reuters released on the inspection of Parchin be a measure by the IAEA to calm down the Republicans [on Capitol Hill]?

A: Reuters is a British news agency whose background spans more than one hundred years. Its main concern, or focus for that matter, is not the United States or the Republican and Democrats. It releases authentic and unauthentic news items in a way that true and fabricated news cannot be easily told apart.

This news agency has repeatedly resorted to powerful rhetoric on Iran’s nuclear case to influence the public opinion. We cannot make straightforward comments on this [Reuters] report [on Parchin inspection], but we need to be vigilant in the face of the game media circles are playing.

Q: Do you think the agency can do this to calm the Republicans down?

A: The UN nuclear agency is not concerned about the Republicans and the domestic issues of countries. The agency has to undertake its responsibility within the framework of its own principles and regulations. What Iran and the IAEA have signed is confidential.

The agency will not resort to such measures because it does not want to put its credibility at stake. I want to recall the remarks of Josh Earnest, the White House Press Secretary. When asked about Iran-IAEA confidential agreement, he said he knows nothing about that.

Q: How can the settlement or closure of the Parchin case contribute to the final resolution of past issues? 

A: It will have a great effect. I should remind you that all outstanding issues from the past nuclear activities are not about Parchin. However, Parchin is an important matter because it is a military site with no declared nuclear activities.

I think if Iran and the agency can properly cooperate and the roadmap agreement the two sides inked for the speedy settlement of the past issues can proceed smoothly, this can be a turning point in their relations and a good model for bilateral cooperation. It can also be effective for the broad, comprehensive reports the agency will release on Iran’s nuclear activities in the future.

Q: IAEA inspectors are expected in Tehran on Tuesday. Is this trip in line with efforts to resolve the outstanding issues of Iran’s nuclear activities? Or is it done to pave the way for implementing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)?

A: I don’t know anything about it, but I guess the trip aims to deal with the questions related to the roadmap agreement, especially because Yukiya] Amano has found ambiguities – in the seasonal meeting of the IAEA’s Board of Governors – about Iran’s answers to the agency’s questions on the outstanding issues.

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