Omri Ceren writes to comment on the Bloomberg View story reporting that President Obama’s friends in Iran are destroying evidence at the Parchin site in broad daylight. Omni comments by email:
The Obama administration has spent the last two years assuring lawmakers and reporters that any deal with Iran would have to include the Iranians allowing IAEA inspectors robust access to the Parchin military base. The Iranians used the facility to conduct hydrodynamic experiments relevant to the detonation of nuclear warheads, and the IAEA needs to resolve the nature of the work and figure out how far they got in order to set up a reliable verification regime.
The requirement was never, ever up for debate: Sherman in 2013: the JPOA requires Iran to “address past and present practices… including Parchin” [a]; Sherman in 2014: “as part of any comprehensive agreement… we expect, indeed, Parchin to be resolved” [b]; Harf in 2015: “we would find it… very difficult to imagine a JCPA that did not require such [inspector] access at Parchin” [c]; etc.
Then two weeks ago Sen. Risch revealed in an open Foreign Relations Committee hearing that U.S. negotiators had collapsed on the demand, and that the Iranians would be allowed to collect their own samples instead of the IAEA collecting the evidence. Sen. Menendez followed up with “chain of custody means nothing if at the very beginning what you’re given is chosen and derived by the perpetrator” [d]. Kerry responded by declaring that the information was classified, but the AP ran down and confirmed the story out of Vienna [e].
Now the punchline: Bloomberg View revealed this afternoon that the Iranians have spent the last few weeks busily trying to sanitize Parchin. So the administration blessed a deal in which they trusted the Iranians to provide evidence from Parchin, and the Iranians turned around and started destroying evidence at Parchin.
The U.S. intelligence community has informed Congress of evidence that Iran was sanitizing its suspected nuclear military site at Parchin, in broad daylight, days after agreeing to a nuclear deal with world powers… Intelligence officials and lawmakers who have seen the new evidence, which is still classified, told us that satellite imagery picked up by U.S. government assets in mid- and late July showed that Iran had moved bulldozers and other heavy machinery to the Parchin site and that the U.S. intelligence community concluded with high confidence that the Iranian government was working to clean up the site ahead of planned inspections by the IAEA…
Several senior lawmakers, including Democrats, are concerned that Iran will be able to collect its own soil samples at Parchin with only limited supervision, a practice several lawmakers have compared to giving suspected drug users the benefit of the doubt to submit specimens unsupervised. Iran’s sanitization of the site further complicates that verification.
A few hours after the Bloomberg View article The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) published one of its Imagery Briefs with photos showing the new destruction. ISIS assessed “the renewed activity occurring after the signing of the JCPOA raises obvious concerns that Iran is conducting further sanitization efforts to defeat IAEA verification… this renewed activity may be a last ditch effort to try to ensure that no incriminating evidence will be found” [f].
In the last few weeks, some skeptics of the deal have suggested that the JCPOA’s flaws are becoming borderline-comical (or at least they would be if the deal wasn’t such a catastrophe). Revelations like this are the reason why: the White House is telling Congress that Iran can be trusted to turn over evidence from Parchin while the intelligence community is telling Congress that Iran is destroying evidence at Parchin.