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How The Media Got The Iran Inspections at Parchin Access Story Wrong

News media reported last week that Iran had flatly refused the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to its Parchin military test facility, based on a statement to reporters by IAEA Deputy Director General, Herman Nackaerts, that “We could not get access”.

Now, however, explicit statements on the issue by the Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA and the language of the new IAEA report indicate that Iran did not reject an IAEA visit to the base per se but was only refusing access as long as no agreement had been reached with the IAEA governing the modalities of cooperation.

That new and clarifying information confirms what I reported February 23. Based on the history of Iranian negotiations with the IAEA and its agreement to allow two separate IAEA visits to Parchin in 2005, the Parchin access issue is a bargaining chip that Iran is using to get the IAEA to moderate its demands on Iran in forging an agreement on how to resolve the years-long IAEA investigation into the “Possible Military Dimensions” of the Iranian nuclear program.

In an email to me and in interviews with Russia Today, Reuters, and the Fars News Agency, the Iranian Permanent Representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said Iran told the high-level IAEA mission that it would allow access to Parchin once modalities of Iran-IAEA cooperation had been agreed on.

“We declared that, upon finalization of the modality, we will give access [to Parchin],” Soltanieh wrote in an email to me.

In the Russia Today interview on February 27, reported by Israel’s Haaretz and The Hindu in India but not by western news media, Soltanieh referred to two IAEA inspection visits to Parchin in January and November 2005 and said Iran needs to have “assurances” that it would not “repeat the same bitter experience, when they just come and ask for the access.” There should be a “modality” and a “frame of reference, of what exactly they are looking for, they have to provide the documents and exactly where they want [to go],” he said.

But Soltanieh also indicated that such an inspection visit is conditional on agreement about the broader framework for cooperation on clearing up suspicions of a past nuclear weapons program. “[I]n principle we have already accepted that when this text is concluded we will take these steps,” Soltanieh said.

The actual text of the IAEA report, dated February 24, provides crucial information about the Iranian position in the talks that is consistent with what Soltanieh is saying.

In its account of the first round of talks in late January on what the IAEA is calling a “structured approach to the clarification of all outstanding issues”, the report states: “The Agency requested access to the Parchin site, but Iran did not grant access to the site at that time [emphasis added].” That wording obviously implies that Iran was willing to grant access to Parchin if certain conditions were met.

On the February 20-21 meetings, the agency said that Iran “stated that it was still not able to grant access to that site.” There was likely a more complex negotiating situation behind the lack of agreement on a Parchin visit than had been suggested by Nackaerts and reported in western news media.

But not a single major news media report has reported the significant difference between initial media coverage on the Parchin access issue and the information now available from the initial IAEA report and Soltanieh. None have reported the language of the report indicating that Iran’s refusal to approve a Parchin visit in January was qualified by “at that time”.

Only AFP and Reuters quoted Soltanieh at all. Reuters, which actually interviewed Soltanieh, quoted him saying, “It was assumed that after we agreed on the modality, then access would be given.” But that quote only appears in the very last sentence of the article, several paragraphs after the reiteration of the charge that Iran “refused to grant [the IAEA] access” to Parchin.

The day after that story was published, Reuters ran another story focusing on the IAEA report without referring either to its language on Parchin or to Soltanieh’s clarification.

The Los Angeles Times ignored the new information and simply repeated the charge that Iran “refused to allow IAEA inspectors to visit Parchin military base”. Then it added its own broad interpretation that Iran “has refused to answer key questions about its nuclear development program”. Iran’s repeated assertions that the documents used to pose questions to it are fabricated were thus dismissed as non-qualified answers.

The Parchin access story entered a new phase today with a Reuters story quoting Deputy Director General Nackaerts in a briefing for diplomats that there “may be some ongoing activities at Parchin which add urgency to why we want to go”. Nackaerts attributed that idea to an unnamed “Member State”, which is apparently suggesting that the site in question is being “cleaned up”.

The identity of that “Member State”, which the IAEA continues to go out of its way to conceal, is important, because if it is Israel, it reflects an obvious interest in convincing the world that Iran is working on nuclear weapons. As former IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei recounts on p. 291 of his memoirs, “In the late summer of 2009, the Israelis provided the IAEA with documents of their own, purportedly showing that Iran had continued with nuclear weapon studies until at least 2007.”

The news media should be including cautionary language any time information from an unnamed “Member State” is cited as the source for allegations about covert Iranian nuclear weapons work. It could very likely be coming from a State with a political agenda. But the unwritten guidelines for news media coverage of the IAEA and Iran, as we have seen in recent days, are obviously very different.



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Ah sweet, we got Gareth

Ah sweet, we got Gareth posting articles here now? One of America's only remaining JOURNALISTS and a frequent on antiwar radio.

So glad to have you Mr Porter and another brilliant article. Thank you

Thank you

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it is called stalling

by the way, you don't have to be in love wiht Iran to agree that starting a war over this stuff is the wrong thing to do. It really amazes me the continued outpouring of support for the government of Iran on DP. https://www.amnesty.org/en/region/iran

gedankenexperiment.dk views on finance, politics and science

Isn't Amnesty International

a globalist front agency? In other words are they not used by the globalists to advance their agenda? In fact the entire alphabet soup of international human rights agencies appear to have been co-opted by the globalists. They were used to great effect in providing cover for the No-Fly Zone Resolution that led to the Libyan atrocity.

This leads one to take everything they say very circumspectly. Of course the same might be said about the Iranian government. The one consideration with regard to the present crisis that weighs in favour of the Iranians is that it is they who are surrounded by 45 American bases, the US navy and a blockade of US and EU sanctions. This makes the US and the EU the aggressors and therefore more likely to be seeking a casus belli.

The IAEA appears to have acted in a very peremptory fashion without due regard for the sensibilities of the Iranians. The only way to proceed is according to an agreed step by step inspection conducted according to existing protocols. I believe that is what the Iranians are requesting and it should be granted. Further allegations that they are hiding something should be disregarded until the inspection has been completed. The only purpose in doing otherwise would be to foment a war crisis. This would appear to be the actual agenda of the US and its allies.

"Jesus answered them: 'Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.'" (John 8:34-36)