The organization’s quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear activity was released on Friday, but in a crucial sense it served only to kick the issue further down the road, stating that it would conduct a comprehensive “system assessment” at a later date. The trouble is that the negotiators are facing a self-imposed July 20 deadline. Even if Iran shows itself as willing to cooperate on the topic of missiles, uranium enrichment quantities, or centrifuge possession, the West will have a hard time deciding what sort of stance they should take if they have not yet received the IAEA’s assessment.
Even considered in isolation, the current quarterly report can hardly be said to show that Iran has a spotless record. Most media reports seem to state that it indicates that Iran is complying with the agency’s requirements, but this is not the entire picture. The IAEA is still examining Iran’s claims that its exploding bridge wire detonators were used only for civilian purposes and not as part of nuclear weapons research. The regime had repeatedly stalled on providing information about the detonators.
The report also indicates that Iran has not yet begun the process of converting its enriched uranium to a form that would increase the time required to ready it for use in a nuclear weapon.
But a key sticking point that remains in terms of assessing both Iran’s past and future nuclear ambitions is the Parchin military base, which has been under IAEA suspicion for some two years, with access being continually denied by the regime. Reuters reports that the IAEA identified satellite images showing extensive construction and cleanup going on at the site, which strongly suggests that Iran is trying to cover up evidence of former activities before allowing inspectors inside.
The Towerpoints out that the latest agreement between Iran and the IAEA requires Iran to provide information about large-scale high explosives experiments that it is suspected to have carried out at the Parchin site. But this information isn’t due until August 25, more than a month after the deadline for the P5+1 negotiations. What’s more, the announcement of this agreement does not specify that an inspection of the Parchin site will be carried out. These facts leave open significant opportunities for Iran to feign cooperation while keeping crucial information and evidence secret.