Images Appear to Show Iran Test Site Cleanup


iran-nuclear-enrichment-plant-qomNew satellite photographs published by a Washington think tank appear to show intensified efforts by Iran over the past week to cleanse a military site south of Tehran suspected of being used for nuclear-weapons research.

The Iranian actions could affect a tentative deal reached last week between Tehran and the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog that was aimed at granting inspectors expansive access to facilities, scientists and documents allegedly related to nuclear-weapons work.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has specifically been pressing Iran to allow inspectors to visit the military site, known as Parchin, which the agency believes may have been involved in the testing of high explosives used to simulate a nuclear detonation.

IAEA officials have increasingly cited access to Parchin as a key barometer to gauge Iranian willingness to address the international community’s concerns that the country is seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran says its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful purposes and that Parchin is a conventional military site.

On Wednesday, the Institute for Science and International Security posted satellite photos taken on May 25 that appear to show the razing of two buildings at the Parchin site and the deployment of heavy machinery to move earth and equipment.

The activities are in the area where the IAEA believes there was a containment vessel used to conduct high explosives testing.

ISIS has also posted photos from April that apparently shows Iranian efforts to wash the Parchin site with water.

“The newest image raises concerns that Iran is attempting to raze the site prior to allowing the IAEA visit,” said ISIS in its report. “The razing of the two buildings may also indicate that Iran has no intention to allow inspectors access soon.”

Iran in recent weeks has denied that it has sought to sanitize Parchin. But the IAEA last week publicly raised its concerns about recent activities at the site.

“The buildings of interest to the agency are now subject to extensive activities that could hamper the agency’s ability to undertake verification,” the IAEA’s director-general, Yukiya Amano, wrote in a report last week.

Mr. Amano visited Tehran last week for a day of meetings with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili.

The Japanese diplomat said he reached a tentative deal with Mr. Jalili to allow access to Parchin and other sites. And U.S. and European diplomats hoped to build on the agreement during talks with Iran last week in Baghdad that were also focused on containing Iran’s nuclear program.

The talks in Iraq were concluded without any agreement to limit Tehran’s nuclear work. And U.S. and European officials are worried that the stalemate could also result in Iran backing out of its deal with the IAEA.

In recent days, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, appeared to back out of any commitments to allow the IAEA into Parchin.

“The reasons and document have still not been presented by the agency to convince us to give permission for this visit,” he told Iranian state media on Saturday.

{The Wall Street Journal/ Newscenter}