When International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director Yukiya Amano declared Friday, May 4, that
“Parchin (the suspected site of nuclear-related explosion tests) is the priority and we start with that,” he may have missed the boat. As he spoke, Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak said it was possible that Iran was already putting in place the infrastructure for building a nuclear bomb in 60 days.
In this regard, DEBKAfile’s military sources disclose that Iran had by the end of 2009 early 2012 completed the construction of a new chain of underground facilities deep inside the Dasht e-Kavir (Great Salt Desert) - all linked together by huge tunnels.
Nevertheless, Tehran keeps on putting off nuclear watchdog inspections at Parchin for three reasons:
1. To carry on squeezing concessions from the US in private talks between the Obama administration and Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as from the Six Powers at their formal negotiations. Iran has won permission to enriching uranium up to 5 percent purity and is after approval for the 20 percent which is close to weapon grade.
2. The Iranians can’t be sure they have scrubbed out every last trace of the nuclear explosives and detonators tested at the Parchin military base – even after clearing away the evidence and relocating the facility in the salt desert wastelands.
Asked to define the activities he wanted inspected in Parchin, Amano said: “We do not have people there so we cannot tell what these activities are.” According to DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources, while the IAEA may want hard physical evidence collected by its inspectors, US and Israeli intelligence have long possessed solid information on the illicit activities in Parchin collected by the nuclear-sensitive instruments carried by their military satellites.
3. To guarantee that the IAEA inspection at Parchin will be the last and there will no further demands for visits to any more suspect sites.
Tehran cannot tell exactly what data on additional facilities has reached US or Israeli intelligence and at what moment they may pull their discoveries out of their sleeves with fresh demands. Iran is therefore bargaining for a line to be drawn at Parchin to close any future road for good so that it can carry on nuclear work at the new Great Salt Desert locations safe from discovery.
DEBKAfile’s Iranian sources report that American negotiators in their private exchanges have thrown out hints about limiting IAEA inspections. But Tehran is holding out for a more solid commitment from the US and Europe to halt all demands for IAEA visits and for the Six Powers to veto inspections at any new nuclear locations Israel may expose.
This was what Ali Asqar Soltaniyeh, Iranian ambassador to the IAEA Vienna headquarters, was driving at when he stipulated Friday that that talks with the six powers must be limited to negotiations on “a modality and framework to resolve outstanding issues and remove ambiguities.”
To arrest the perilous slide toward letting Iran off the hook, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sent his National Security Advisers Yaacov Amidror to the capitals of four of the six powers, Moscow, Berlin, London and Paris last week. His mission was to persuade their governments not to allow international inspections to stop at Parchin but to keep Iran’s nuclear activities under tight supervision.
Netanyahu has used his own contacts in Washington for warnings of what was afoot.
This week, the House Armed Services Committee’s Strategic Forces passed a resolution requiring the Pentagon Missile Defense Agency to have an operational plan ready by 2015 for posting a missile shield on America’s east coast to protect New York, Washington and Boston against Iranian missile attack. $100 million was earmarked for this purpose.
Our Washington sources note that this step opened the way for a drive by the Obama administration to have any deal the Six Powers may reach with Iran cover Iran’s clandestine underground Salt Desert nuclear locations.
One of the biggest, our sources disclose, is managed by the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group, manufacturers of the ballistic missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads. US intelligence discovered in November 2010 that North Korea had transferred to Iran 19 nuclear-capable BM-25 ballistic missiles with a range of 2,500 kilometers.
On April 13, a dozen Shahid Hemmat missile experts attended the test fire of the North Korean long-range, three-stage Unha-2 missile. That test failed but the North Koreans and Iranians are pressing on together with work to extend the range of those missiles to America.
However, like the Netanyahu government, Washington is under constant assault by vocal lobbies opposed to a preemptive attack on Iran. They open fire on any suggestion that such an attack is on the cards, and pounced on the congressional resolution as a scheme for torpedoing US-Iranian diplomacy.
Israeli leaders battling Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon therefore find themselves fighting to keep their military option from being snatched off the table by antagonists at home.
Tehran is cannily exploiting the diplomatic track to get rid of international inspections after Parchin and so gain the freedom to proceed with building a nuclear arsenal in the Salt Desert far from the world’s sight.
The Israeli ex-security chiefs and former politicians are focusing on preventing an Israeli attack to pre-empt a nuclear Iran. They know exactly what is at stake but are so eager to topple Netanyahu and Barak that they are more than ready to pay the price of letting Iran get away with acquiring a nuclear bomb.