During a closed-door meeting today, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) deputy director general Herman Nackaerts conceded that the long-sought search of Iran’s Parchin military base might not actually turn up anything, comments which diplomats spun as proof of an Iranian “clean-up” operation.
The IAEA has been seeking access to Parchin for years despite being unable to prove that anything related to the nation’s nuclear program is going on there. Iran is under no obligation to provide access to conventional military sites, and has expressed concern at the number of times IAEA visits have spawned leaks to Western nations or media outlets, saying the visits amounted to letting spies have full access to the important site.
Parchin’s role in Iran’s missile and explosives programs have sparked speculation that it might conceivably have been used in undeclared nuclear research. US officials have cited Iran’s refusal to open Parchin to inspectors, which again Iran is under no obligation to do, as proof they are “hiding something,” and satellite photos of construction at or near the base have been spun as meaning Iran is “covering it up.”
In the end, the reaction to Nackaert’s comments underscores why Iran is unlikely to bother opening Parchin up, as nothing is gained either way. Even if nothing is found there diplomats are just going to assume Iran somehow managed to pull the wool over the inspectors’ eyes, and cite that as justification for more sanctions and demands for more access at other random sites.