Iran’s Cat and Mouse Game at Parchin Continues; Albright Takes Bait Yet Again

After a disappointing ending to yesterday’s final session of the P5+1 talks in Moscow, we now must deal with even more of the cat and mouse game Iran is playing at Parchin. I have posted on this issue a number of times, so I won’t go back into the complete details of what is going on, but the primary issue here is that the West has accused Iran of carrying out work at the Parchin military site that is aimed toward developing a trigger for a nuclear bomb. Specifically, Iran is accused of using a high explosives chamber to research the use of uranium in high explosions to generate the neutrons needed to trigger a nuclear bomb. “Western diplomats”, aided by gullible reporters and especially by David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security are now claiming that Iran is trying to scrub the site of evidence from this work.

The problem is that it is impossible to scrub evidence of this sort of work. As I showed in this post, if Iran actually carried out the work for which they are accused, the steel chamber where the explosions occurred and all of the structural steel in the surrounding building would be radioactive due to neutron activation. This would not be surface contamination of the steel but would be distributed throughout the entire thickness of the steel. Therefore, if Iran carried out the accused work, the only way to hide the evidence would be to destroy the steel tank and the building in which it is housed.

In a game of cat and mouse, Iran destroyed buildings nearby the building in which the steel tank is said to be housed and did extensive earthmoving work in outlying areas away from the building. Albright dutifully took that bait and said this work was evidence of cleansing activity and did not mention that the chamber and its surrounding building were still standing and should still carry all of the radioactive earmarks of the accused activity.

Today, Albright has taken the next round of bait offered up by Iran. More earthmoving activity is seen in new photos and there are even new puddles to go along with the first puddles Albright found.

Here is Albright’s description of the new activity:

The latest satellite imagery from June 7, 2012 shows continued activity at the site where the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) suspects Iran may have conducted high explosive compression related to the development of nuclear weapons. The image shows heavy machinery tracks and earth displacement throughout the site. The debris from one of the razed buildings visible in the imagery from May 25, 2012 has now been consolidated into piles just north of the site of the former building (figure 1). There is evidence of earth moving machinery and excavation activity near the second demolished building north of the building suspected to contain the high explosive testing chamber.

Clearly defined roads that previously led to several of the buildings (figures 2 and 3) are no longer discernible due to machinery traffic or earth removal. The security barrier that previously ran along the perimeter of the site has also been removed.  Areas close to the suspect building that contained access roads and vegetation now appear to have been bulldozed or disturbed by machinery (compare figures 1, 2, and 3).

The latest imagery also shows a notable amount of water flow from nearby an object placed next to the alleged high explosive testing building. It is hard to distinguish what the object is or the purpose of the water. The water flows into areas that have seen considerable activity due to heavy machinery traffic or earth removal, activities which appear likely to persist.

Iran’s activities at the Parchin site have raised concerns about Iranian efforts to destroy evidence of possible high explosive tests at this site. The IAEA has asked repeatedly to visit this site, but so far Iran has refused. In the May 25, 2012 IAEAsafeguards report on Iran, the IAEA stated that “based on satellite imagery, at this location, where virtually no activity had been observed for a number of years, the buildings of interest to the Agency are now subject to extensive activities that could hamper the Agency’s ability to undertake effective verification.”

Once again, Albright fails to point out that there should be radioactive signatures of neutron work throughout the building housing the steel explosive chamber and that the building still appears to be intact. It is especially fun that in previous posts and discussions, it was pointed out here that the first puddles Albright found would have indicated to the IAEA exactly where to dig for any radioactivity that may have been washed out of the building in question and that Iran had not yet made any effort to excavate the parking lot where the puddles were. In this new photo, the parking lot has been excavated at the site of the first puddles, but new ones overlay it.

Very well played by Iran.

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.
15 replies
  1. Jim White says:

    @avelna: My guess is that the Parchin site that everyone is so worked up about is totally irrelevant to any weapons development work that they may have had in the past or even have going on now (despite the NIE that says they have stopped and not restarted). If that is the case, they are having a very good time provoking diplomats, the press and experts into making accusations that will be proven to be baseless. This of course diverts attention from any real sites that may exist.

    If they had really done the accused work there, the first move would have been to remove every scrap of the building and its contents and to remove all of the surrounding soil to a depth of several feet. Since they haven’t, I’m assuming they are having a very good laugh today.

  2. jo6pac says:

    Iran (Persia) played this same game with Athens and Spartacus, worked that time to. They’ll still be around long after this nation slides into 3rd world space.

  3. MadDog says:

    Albright sure likes his Iranian satellite image porn. And it sure looks like the Iranians love posing for him.

  4. spanishinquisition says:

    “The problem is that it is impossible to scrub evidence of this sort of work”

    Well we can’t claim they have Biological Warfare Trucks since we did that in Iraq as an excuse, so we’ve gotta come up with some other excuse.

  5. TarheelDem says:

    I find this interesting:
    “Instead, technical experts from both sides will convene early next month to determine whether there are grounds for further high-level contact.”

    What exactly are the technical experts discussing? I’m sure that means of verification might be one issue that has some technical wrangling, but what else?

  6. Jim White says:

    @TarheelDem: My take on that would be that they don’t want to take the time from the higher-level “important” people and so the technical folks get the short end of the straw for spending time in meetings that are likely not to go anywhere–unless those “important” people suggest a new proposal for them to float.

    An optimist, though, would suggest that with the bigger egos out of the room, the clever technical folks might actually have some productive discussions.

  7. TarheelDem says:

    @Jim White: That’s pretty much where I came out too. I don’t think it’s either/or at this point. And the “principals” are going to be reading the politics as much as anything. For the US, that’s going to include public anxieties about military action and fears of “looking weak”. Don’t know where that’s going to come out in an election year.

    I have no idea of the political drivers on the Iranian side.

  8. Kathleen says:

    If the P5+1 come to the table having all ready decided that there will be no give and take who is playing the “cat and mouse game?” If P5+1 =0 before they even come to the table and the message is “Israel’s game or the highway” who is playing the game?

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