Inspectors from the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are attending talks on the Iranian nuclear program in Tehran Thursday, but it remains unclear whether the government will grant them access to the Parchin military complex long suspected to be a center of nuclear weapons research, reported Reuters on Thursday.
Remember 2003, when UN inspectors were forced to leave Iraq in the prelude to a war that turned out to be over nothing? Those Iraqi WMDs never showed up.
Iran is almost unanimously agreed to be taking advances towards the construction of a nuclear weapon. The IAEA recently released documents hinting that Iranian scientists are planning a device three times the strength of the Hiroshima weapon.
It remains unclear how far along they are to developing such a weapon, however. The document released was later revealed to be scientifically inaccurate. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists criticized the report as a “massive error” which was “either slipshod analysis or an amateurish hoax,” explaining that the graphs released were comparable to graduate student work.
Only Iranian scientists, engineers, and political leaders know how close they are to a completed nuclear bomb. Despite this, on Monday Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu said that the Iranian nuclear program would have to be “confronted by 2013.”
One cannot reiterate enough how similar this is to the buildup before the war in Iraq. Political pressure for war built up faster than the logical case for it. Despite assurances that they existed, precisely zero weapons of mass destruction were ever found in Iraq.
With tensions in the Middle East dangerously high, any solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis needs to be conducted with an extreme amount of caution. Unfortunately, Netanyahu has continued with a militant focus on Iran. The Atlantic reported in early November that as early as 2010, Netanyahu had decided on a course of action to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities, but was unable to convince key military leaders that the operation was feasible or desirable.
The international community, and in particular the United States and Israel, needs to let the UN inspectors do their job and do anything possible to facilitate their ability to investigate the Iranian nuclear program.
The Parchin facility reportedly has been used by Iran to test explosive devices related to its nuclear weapons programme. The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) released statements on Wednesday indicating that serious reconstruction work has been done after major modifications to the base, hinting that the Iranian government is attempting to conceal research performed there. “Notable are further changes to the two major buildings at the site which appear to have been covered with white or grey roofing,” helping constitute a new security perimeter around the site, ISIS said.
None of this, though, is anywhere near a smoking gun. Security analysts still lack data crucial to assessing the threat Iran’s research poses to regional and international stability. Other than intelligence agents (who we can’t trust, alleges the Christian Science Monitor), international inspectors are the only persons able to provide that information
UN weapons inspectors have previously been peeved when their work was interrupted previously to the outbreak of conflict. In 2004, two top officials, inspector Hans Blix and former IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei, criticized the Bush administration for going to war before their investigation into the alleged Iraqi nuclear program was complete. "We learned from Iraq that an inspection takes time, that we should be patient, that an inspection can, in fact, work,” ElBaradei said.
Without that time and patience, we might see the debacle in Iraq repeat itself in Iran. We cannot take military action in Iran, or allow Israel to do so, without absolute certainty that it is necessary to prevent the development of a functional nuclear device.