I’ve looked for the best commentary I could find for and against the Joint Plan of Action the United States arrived at with Iran. I have read the document itself and sat in on briefings provided by David Albright, Emily Landau, senior officials of the Obama administration and others. Familiarity with the text of the short document seems to me one touchstone of intelligent commentary.
One item I have not previously read or heard — even from the Obama administration officials — is this, conveyed by Washington Post foreign affairs columnist David Ignatius in his column on the agreement:
[T]he U.S. will aggressively pursue Iran’s commitment in the interim deal to inspection of possible weaponization and military activities at Parchin and other bases. As inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency gain access, they may discover other issues for negotiation.
I don’t know what Ignatius is talking about here. The preamble of the poorly written agreement contemplates a devoutly wished “comprehensive solution” (“where nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”) some time in the future:
There would be additional steps in between the initial measures and the final step, including, among other things, addressing the UN Security Council resolutions, with a view toward bringing to a satisfactory conclusion the UN Security Councilˈs consideration of this matter.
It says nothing regarding inspection of Parchin or other military facilities. The AP anatomy of the agreement makes me think this must be the language from which Ignatius derives his fantasia, but it doesn’t support it.
The document’s “Enhanced monitoring” section states:
Provision of specified information to the IAEA, including information on Iran’s plans for nuclear facilities, a description of each building on each nuclear site, a description of the scale of operations for each location engaged in specified nuclear activities, information on uranium mines and mills, and information on source material.
This provision may also be in the general vicinity of Ignatius’s assertion, but it’s not really close.
Parchin is expressly unmentioned in the agreement. Is Ignatius repeating something he heard from his friends in the Obama administration? I wonder if he has read the agreement and, if so, where he finds “Iran’s commitment in the interim deal to inspection of weaponization and military activities at Parchin and other bases.”
The White House fact sheet on the agreement asserts: “The Joint Commission [to be established by the P5+1 and Iran under the agreement] will also work with the IAEA to facilitate resolution of past and present concerns with respect to Iran’s nuclear program, including the possible military dimension of Iran’s nuclear program and Iran’s activities at Parchin.” Well, goody, but the agreement is silent on any Iranian “commitment” regarding inspection of possible weaponization and military activities at Parchin or other military bases.
Over on the news pages of the Post, Joby Warrick previously reported that Parchin is kind of important: “Western intelligence agencies believe that Iran tested detonation systems for a nuclear bomb at Parchin as recently as 2003. Under mounting international pressure, government officials ordered a halt in weapons-related research late that year, U.S. intelligence officials say.” Warrick added: “U.N. officials have said they hope to eventually gain access to Parchin and other alleged research sites, as well as to the scientists who carried out the experiments.” Here’s hoping. (The New York Times has more here and, most recently, here.)
I think Ignatius is something of a case. I wrote about him at length last year in “The case of David Ignatius.”