Wednesday’s massive scandal surrounding IAEA access to Iran’s Parchin military site, stemming entirely from an Associated Press story by George Jahn, was already falling apart by evening, with the AP cutting many of the bogus allegations from the initial story.
In the initial version, Jahn claimed the number of samples from the site would be limited to seven, and that Iranian scientists would be the ones to analyze those samples. He went on to allege that no IAEA inspectors would be allowed in Parchin at all, and that Iran would “inspect itself.”
A few hours later, the AP overwrote the initial story with one removing many of the claims. By evening, the article consisted of a single sentence accusing self-inspection, and a bunch of statements from US hawks condemning the “revelation.” This reporter was already pointing out that claim was false.
When the IAEA finally chimed in today, they confirmed as much, with IAEA Chief Amano Yukiya saying he was “disturbed” by the false claims and attempts at “misrepresentation” of the deal, saying that the IAEA actually would be given access to Parchin.
Jahn’s allegations appear to have stemmed from a claim last month that Iran would be collecting soil samples at Parchin, which the AP reporter incorrectly identified as a “nuclear site.” This part was itself misleading, but partially true given the current, admittedly limited understanding of the IAEA-Iran agreement.
Parchin is a conventional military site, and Iran is accused of having once performed explosive tests there on potential triggers for a nuclear explosion. Iran denies this too, but has provided the IAEA with access a few times in the past to Parchin.
The problem is that access to the conventional military site can quickly turn into espionage against Iran’s conventional defense forces, and much of the late discussion on the P5+1 deal centered on how Iran could provide limited, but sufficient, access to such sites.
The IAEA was never expected to get full access to Parchin, with US officials saying they wouldn’t let international inspectors have unrestricted access to their military sites either. The IAEA will be given direct access to many of the parts of the massive facility they seek, but some samples may be provided by Iran to limit inspectors’ access to classified, but perfectly legal, weapons research.
The biggest scandal remaining appears to be from the Associated Press itself, which quietly overwrote most of Jahn’s allegations, but never offered any sort of retraction, let alone any statement explaining how a series of false, unsourced claims came to be published in the first place.