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Iran, IAEA Ink Agreement, But Was Slain Deputy Minister Part of P5+1 Negotiations?

Despite the near-miss over the weekend of an agreement between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries aimed at diffusing the crisis over Iran’s nuclear technology, an agreement was announced today in Tehran between Iran and the IAEA. The text of the agreement and its annex is quite short. Significantly, it grants access to and monitoring of the new heavy water reactor at Arak and to a uranium mine that has recently started producing yellowcake.

The Arak reactor is important because it was seen as one of the major sticking points in the P5+1 talks. Reactors of this type produce large amounts of plutonium that can be reprocessed into a nuclear weapon. France appeared to be insisting that this plant not begin operations. However, even those who accuse Iran of seeking to develop a nuclear weapon readily admit that Iran does not have the equipment or technology required for reprocessing spent fuel from this reactor into weapons-grade plutonium. Iran explains that this reactor is meant to take over for the aging Tehran research reactor in production of radioactive isotopes for medical applications. Presumably, IAEA monitoring of the reactor would be to confirm this process and to track the materials produced as they are shipped to hospitals for use in imaging and treatment.

No direct mention of the Parchin site is made in the document, and the New York Times speculates that Parchin is not part of the agreement. However, I suspect that Parchin will be the topic of an additional agreement to come, based on Amano’s comments in today’s press conference:

Amano, for his part, described the signing of the joint statement as “an important step forward,” adding that more work needed to be done.

“Under the framework of cooperation, Iran and the IAEA will cooperate further with respect to verification activities to be undertaken by the IAEA to resolve all present and past issues,” Amano said.

The IAEA chief said these “substantial measures” will be implemented in three months “starting today.”

There is no way that Amano would be talking of resolving “all present and past issues” if he didn’t believe there would eventually be agreement on access to Parchin.

Don’t panic on the bits in the document about laser enrichment or new enrichment sites. Although it hasn’t been discussed much, Iran’s previous efforts at laser enrichment of uranium (a separate technology from the centrifuge-based enrichment they currently employ) was known and appears to have been completely shut down in 2003 when all aspects of their nuclear work that could have weapons applications were shut down. Also, it is clear that the agreement only speaks of obtaining further clarification on already disclosed new enrichment facilities, so there is no disclosure of a previously unannounced facility.

Note also that the agreement makes reference to a “step by step” process. This is somewhat of a slap to France and the US (and of course, Israel), because the Russians first proposed a plan they called a step by step process back in July of 2011. And, of course, the agreement is significant because by signing this agreement, the IAEA is getting ahead of the US and the rest of the P5+1 group despite the Wikileaks cable that described Amano as eager to do the bidding of the US while running the IAEA.

The other huge news over the weekend out of Tehran is the assassination of Safdar Rahmat Abadi Sunday evening. PressTV reports that he was the Deputy Minister for Parliamentary Affairs in the Iranian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Mine. The Reuters article on the killing has this bit:

There was no immediate indication that the killing had anything to do with Iran’s nuclear dispute with the West.

However, there is this very interesting announcement just prior to the most recent round of P5+1 negotiations. On October 29, we learned this about an experts-level meeting that was to be held on October 30-31 which was meant as preparation for the high level meeting that wrapped up over the weekend: Read more

Parchin Asphalt: Obstructing Sampling or Sealing the Record?

With the opportunity for significant progress in negotiating a peaceful settlement regarding Iran’s nuclear activities looking better than it has in a long time, I had intended to ignore the latest bleating over developments at Parchin. The complaints did even make their way into the New York Times earlier in the week, so they probably do deserve a response.

Here is how David Albright and pals frame the latest developments:

Recent commercial satellite imagery of the Parchin site in Iran shows the extent of new paving as well as the extent of other alternations undertaken at the site over the past year and a half starting in February 2012.  Iran appears to be in the final stages of modifying the suspected high explosive test site at the Parchin complex, having recently asphalted large sections of the site.  As noted in several of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA’s) quarterly Iran safeguards reports and in numerous ISIS satellite imagery reports on Parchin, asphalting and the other documented activities have significantly changed the site and impacted the ability of IAEA inspectors to collect environmental samples and other evidence that it could use to determine whether nuclear weapons-related activities once took place there.  Asphalting an entire area in this manner would make it very hard to take soil samples and likely be effective at covering up environmental evidence of nuclear weaponization-related experiments.

Throughout this process of cat and mouse games with Iran over their work at the Parchin site, I have maintained that if the work Iran is accused of carrying out there did indeed take place, and if they have attempted clean-up procedures as accused, there still is a reasonable chance that appropriate sampling of the equipment and the area would detect vestiges of the radioactivity that cannot be removed. In addition to the interior of the suspect building and the blast chamber itself likely being made radioactive due to neutron activation throughout the entire thickness of the steel (and thus unable to be scrubbed), satellite imagery has been used to document what appeared to be potential wash water being allowed to run outside the building of main interest. There has been movement of some soil, but the likely deposition site of that soil has been documented in the satellite photos.

Throughout all of this activity, the satellite photos have provided a record from which a team would know the most likely sites to sample if they wish to know how much radioactivity may have been washed out of the building. This latest accusation that paving the site over with asphalt would make sampling harder simply rings hollow. A team that has been allowed access to the site would hardly find a layer of asphalt to be a significant obstruction if they are determined to sample the locations that satellite imagery has told them should be an informative location for sampling.

Paving the area with asphalt actually has the potential to preserve the site for sampling in the future. Although Parchin is in desert with little rainfall, percolation of water through the soil would remain as one the largest factors making sampling less informative over time. Asphalt paving has been used (pdf) to seal areas against movement of radioactivity through soil: Read more

Jahn Does Complete Reversal, Questions Sources Instead of Transcribing Iran Nuke Propaganda

Man Bites Dog

It was a development worthy of the proverbial mythical headline reversing the natural order of the world. For a very long time, I have mercilessly attacked George Jahn of the AP for the role he has played while serving to move anti-Iran propaganda into newspapers across the globe. Here’s how I described his usual role in my most recent post about him:

I have often described the process of “diplomats” close to the IAEA’s Vienna headquarters gaining access to documents and other confidential information relating to Iran’s nuclear activities and then selectively leaking the most damaging aspects of that information to George Jahn of AP. Sometimes, the information also is shared with Fredrik Dahl of Reuters, who, like Jahn, is also based in Vienna. Many believe that Israeli diplomats are most often responsible for these leaks and for shaping the stories to put Iran in the worst possible light.

Another key aspect of Jahn’s role has been his reliance on David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security, whom Jahn has relied on regularly for adding that special “think-tank aura” to the propaganda that has been funneled to him.

Yesterday, the stage was set for Jahn to transcribe more propaganda into the record. A new IAEA report was available (pdf; I see that there is a typo on the date on the cover page, it is a 2013 report instead of the 2012 appearing there, note 2013 embedded in the document ID code) and David Albright had already taken to the fainting couch, proclaiming the evil portents of the sudden appearance of New Asphalt (!) at the Parchin site in Iran where the US and Israel claim Iran has carried out blast chamber experiments to develop a trigger for a nuclear weapon (and where the suspect building, and presumably the blast chamber itself, itself remains standing, despite a hilarious cat and mouse game Iran has played at the site). But, in true “man bites dog” fashion, Jahn chose not to play the New Asphalt game and instead published an article that puts much of the intelligence gathering of the IAEA into a perspective that calls into question the motives of those who supply the bulk of that intelligence to the UN’s nuclear watchdog agency.

Jahn wastes no time, opening the article by proclaiming that the US supplies the bulk of intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program to the IAEA and that US credibility on weapons intelligence took a huge hit in 2003 with the Iraq fiasco:

The U.N. nuclear agency responsible for probing whether Iran has worked on a nuclear bomb depends on the United States and its allies for most of its intelligence, complicating the agency’s efforts to produce findings that can be widely accepted by the international community.

Much of the world looks at U.S. intelligence on weapons development with a suspicious eye, given American claims a decade ago that Iraq had developed weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. used those claims to justify a war; Iraq, it turned out, had no such weapons.

Jahn even went so far as to get IAEA sources to provide an estimate of how the US and its allies dominate the intelligence that is provided: Read more

Will North Korean Bomb Test Provide Opening for Nuclear Negotiations with Iran?

Shortly after we learned last night that North Korea had carried out a nuclear weapon test, I saw some suggestions along the lines of “this may as well have been an Iranian test since Iran and North Korea are sharing data”. I wonder, however, whether the outcome of this test will in fact provide more room for Iran and the West to make real progress in negotiations that have been stalled for over a year.

Perhaps the most encouraging development after the test became known was this from Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman:

Iran said on Tuesday that all the world’s nuclear weapons should be destroyed, shortly after North Korea said it had conducted its third nuclear test in defiance of United Nations resolutions.

“We think we need to come to a point where no country will have any nuclear weapons,” Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told a weekly news conference when asked about the test. “All weapons of mass destruction and nuclear arms need to be destroyed.”

Mehmanparast added that all countries should be able to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

That is not a new position for Iran, but the timing for reiterating it is encouraging.

Of course, those who want war with Iran (and especially Israel, with Netanyahu continuing to use inflamed rhetoric) will dismiss such a statement quickly, but this statement from Iran actually comes with concrete actions to back it up. I have yet to see Western media sources acknowledge that in addition to Iran’s claims that it is using nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, it actually is taking steps to expand its production of medical isotopes (see this post where I point out Iran’s plans to construct four new research reactors for production of medical isotopes). We see more evidence of those concrete steps today, with Iran confirming in a news conference today that more of the stockpile of 20% enriched uranium has been converted to fuel plates for use in research reactors: Read more

Iran Claims Capture of CIA Agents

Iran’s Mehr News English website (but not, at the time of this writing, its Fars News website or the PressTV site) carries a sloppy and poorly translated story in which Iran claims to have captured a number of CIA agents. Such claims from Iran are not unprecedented, and, as usual, there is no clear indication of when the agents were claimed to have been captured. The poor translation is reflected in the current headline:

I would posit that intelligence agents are not being intelligent if they are captured by the country in which they are operating. The story carries photos of a number of the people Iran claims to have captured. The unifying characteristic appears to be that each of those captured is said to have been in Iran through some association with high technology.

Iran describes the operation these agents are accused of carrying out (or more likely, the Iranian Intelligence Ministry operation that caught them, once again, the writing is sloppy) as “constant and smart” and says cryptically that “part of the operation was carried out in France and elsewhere”.

It appears that Iran claims that a man they identify as Matti Waluk was the leader of the group. Here is the photo they posted of him:

As with the entire article, the description of Waluck is very difficult to decipher:

Matti Waluk, a CIA operator and executive of a CIA intelligence plan was arrested by security and intelligence agents of Iran along with other members of anti-Iran group.

“In 2008, I registered an employment website, NGR, and signed contracts with European prestigious companies to introduce expert human force to them. In 2009, an individual calling himself Steven Logano, contacted me via Prizma Company Email, purportedly to cooperate,” Mati Waluk accounts.

“In first days, I recognized that his real name was not Steven Logano, and that he is a senior CIA officer, with mission of infiltrating Iranian elite circles and collecting information on Iranian developments in hi-tech industries,” he adds.

The final paragraph of the story is just as unintelligible:

The plan was aborted by the Iranian intelligence systemtracking the agents , and thus their mission, who would endanger Iran’s critical structures, had it failed.

Back in November of 2011, Iran claimed to capture 12 CIA agents. In an article about those arrests, CBS News noted:

Iran periodically announces the capture or execution of alleged U.S. or Israeli spies, and often no further information is released.

By including photos of those who they claim to have captured, Iran would appear to be fairly confident that they have indeed captured agents. It will be interesting to see whether there is any response from the US in the next few days.

This development comes as we learn that the two days of negotiations between Iran and the IAEA ended yesterday without an agreement on the framework for an IAEA inspection of the Parchin site. Negotiations are set to resume February 12, so there is still some hope an agreement can be reached.

Update: Here is a YouTube (not in English) that is said to be a documentary from the Iranian Intelligence Ministry on the arrests:

Albright Follows Warrick Into Full Neocon Mode, Presents Iran Sanction Manifesto

On January 7, I noted that the Washington Post’s Joby Warrick had allowed the neocon think tank Foundation for the Defense of Democracies to frame his discussion of the newest round of sanctions set to take effect against Iran. It now is clear that the article from Warrick was meant to prepare the ground for the unveiling, one week later, of David Albright’s new working group developed precisely for the purpose of furthering the neocon position on Iran sanctions. By taking on additional policy members in this working group, Albright is now branching out from his usual area of commentary on technical issues (where Moon of Alabama has dubbed his Institute for Science and International Security the “Institute for Scary Iran Stories“) all the way into policy and now promotes the full neocon position that Iran is dangerously close to having a nuclear weapon and therefore sanctions must be ratcheted up further.

Note how the press release from the working group opens:

Warning that time is running out as Iran accelerates its nuclear program, the non-partisan Project on U.S. Middle East Nonproliferation Strategy called on President Obama to use current U.S. sanctions laws to implement a “de facto international embargo on all investments in, and trade with, Iran (other than provision of humanitarian goods)” before Iran achieves “critical capability” – the point at which it could produce enough weapon-grade uranium (or separated plutonium) for one or more bombs so rapidly that neither the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nor Western intelligence agencies could be able to detect the move before it was too late to respond.

Let’s unpack the lies just in that opening sentence.

First, the group chooses to label itself as “non-partisan”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Of the five co-chairs of the group, two have direct ties to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, which SourceWatch documents to be a primary force for the furtherance of neocon views, describing it as both a think tank and a lobbying organization. Mark Dubowitz, the Executive Director of the foundation, is one of the working group co-chairs and was the one chosen by Warrick to voice the neocon position earlier in January. Another co-chair is Orde Kittre, described in the press release as a Professor of Law at Arizona State University. The press release fails to note that Kittre also is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Co-chair Leonard Spector is listed as Deputy Director of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. I see that he has been a featured speaker by the “non-partisan” AIPAC. The final co-chair besides Albright is Michael Yaffe of the National Defense University, whose own biography (pdf) notes: “In the immediate aftermath of the attack on September 11, 2001, he served as a coordinator on the counter-terrorism task force in support of “Operation Enduring Freedom.”” With a lineup composed of Albright and four people hand-selected for backgrounds likely to promote neocon positions, this working group is nothing close to non-partisan.

Next, the flat statement that Iran now “accelerates its nuclear program” is so misleading as to border on falsehood as well. Iran is expanding its enrichment capability, but there also are indications that portions of the 20% enriched uranium Iran is producing are being converted into chemical forms that are harder to submit to further enrichment to weapons grade. Further, the US stated in its 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that Iran ceased all nuclear weapons work in 2003. That NIE has been a target for neocons ever since, but there has been no definitive evidence provided that Iran has re-started weapons work or that it intends to enrich uranium beyond 20% to the 90%+ level required for weapons. All of the fear-mongering over Iran being able to have a weapon soon relies on a major step forward in enrichment for which there is zero evidence that Iran has either the capability or desire.

The biggest falsehood in the opening of the press release, though, is that the existing and expanded Iran sanctions don’t extend to humanitarian goods. As I pointed out in the January 7 post, there already are reports of critical medical shortages as a result of the sanctions, so claiming that ratcheting up the sanctions even further can be done along with the “provision of humanitarian goods” is pure bunk. I had noted back in October the economic devastation of Iranian citizens by the sanctions and also linked to a report in January on the possible impact of the sanctions on recent acute air pollution in Tehran. The Iran sanctions are a humanitarian disaster of huge proportions and any claim that only Iran’s government is affected is an outright lie.

The timing of Albright’s release of the working group’s findings also is not a coincidence. Today, the IAEA and Iran are meeting, with a primary focus on finalizing the framework that would allow IAEA access to the Parchin site which Albright has been claiming Iran has cleansed of decade-old work to develop an explosive trigger device. Also, Iran and the P5+1 group are very close to re-starting their negotiations, so the neocons are afraid that peace just might break out despite their best efforts to promote a war in Iran.

Amid Reports of Near Agreement and IAEA, Iran Followup Meeting, Jahn Eats Crow

Despite the best efforts of those who want a military attack on Iran to paint Iran as hiding attempts to develop a nuclear weapon, cooler heads appear to be prevailing as yesterday’s talks in Tehran produced reports of a likely agreement and a follow-up meeting between the IAEA and Iran in only a month. One of the most important signs of progress is that the AP’s George Jahn, who has served as a conduit for many of the most flimsy charges against Iran even gave space at the end of his report today to provide an alternate viewpoint that calls most of his reporting for the past year into significant question.

From Reuters, Fred Dahl (who at times has dabbled in the same rumor-mongering as Jahn, but not as blatantly) reports on the progress made yesterday:

The U.N. atomic agency failed to gain access to a military site in talks with Iran this week but expects to reach a deal in January to resume a stalled nuclear probe, the chief U.N. inspector said after returning from Tehran on Friday.

Even though the International Atomic Energy Agency was not allowed to see the Parchin complex during Thursday’s visit to the Iranian capital, IAEA team leader Herman Nackaerts said progress had been made in the meeting.

/snip/

“We expect to finalize the structured approach and start implementing it then shortly after that,” he said, referring to a framework agreement that would enable the IAEA to restart its investigation into suspected atomic bomb research in Iran.

“We had good meetings,” Nackaerts added. “We were able to make progress.”

It is not just the IAEA who characterized the meeting as productive. From PressTV, we also get positive news from the Iranian side of the meeting:

Earlier, Iran’s Ambassador to the IAEA Ali-Asghar Soltanieh told Press TV that Tehran and the UN nuclear body agreed at the end of the one-day meeting to hold a next round of talks in January.

“This round of talks was constructive and good progress was made,” Soltanieh added.

Adding to the possible momentum generated yesterday, both the Reuters article linked above and this Fars News piece from Iran report that a new round of the P5+1 talks also could be taking place soon.

But perhaps the most encouraging news of all comes from what appears in today’s report from the AP’s George Jahn, who has been at the center of controversy many times during the last year because of the way he publishes “leaked” material coming from countries that favor military action in Iran and who want to disrupt diplomatic negotiations. In today’s story, he does recite some of his litany of charges against Iran and the claims that work at the Parchin military site may have been carried out to develop an explosive trigger device for a nuclear weapon. He also relates that David Albright emailed to AP a “series of commercial satellite photographs of the Parchin site” detailing activities at the site that Albright and Jahn have been hyping as aimed at “cleansing” the site of radioactive signatures of the trigger development work. Presumably, Albright had to email the photos to Jahn because Jahn is not able to find them on Albright’s website where he posted them along with a “they’re still at it” type of “analysis” earlier this week.

However, after giving space for more information from Albright, Jahn makes the remarkable move of providing an alternate viewpoint from an authoritative source [emphais added]:

But a former IAEA inspector questioned what the information shown on the satellite photos actually mean.

This ‘sanitization story’ is an old wives’ tale,” said Robert Kelley, in an email Friday to the AP. “It is clear from examination of the satellite images that there is no concerted effort to disguise possible uranium contamination outside the building.”

Kelley said the activities at Parchin reflected “a construction project, not a demolition effort,” adding: “This is clearly not a sanitization.

Seeing his last year of work on behalf of war mongers dismissed as “an old wives’ tale” and then including it in his report had to hurt Jahn. He is due a bit of respect for reporting it, even if he did hide it at the very end of his report.

Warrick Selectively Edits Amano Remarks to CFR

Yukiya Amano, Director General of the IAEA,  appeared on the record yesterday at the Council on Foreign Relations. He presented a very brief statement and then the bulk of his time was spent in a wide-ranging question and answer session. The lineup of questioners included Barbara Slavin leading off, David Sanger near the middle and Gareth Porter getting in just before questioning was brought to a close.

Joby Warrick took advantage of Slavin’s question to present Iran in the worst possible light:

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano said the nuclear watchdog would try again next week to visit the Parchin military base, a sprawling complex where Iran is thought to have conducted tests on high-precision explosives used to detonate a nuclear bomb.

Iran has repeatedly refused to let IAEA inspectors visit the base, on the outskirts of Tehran. Instead, in the months since the agency requested access, satellite photos have revealed what appears to be extensive cleanup work around the building where tests are alleged to have occurred.

“We are concerned that our capacity to verify would have been severely undermined,” Amano told a gathering of the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. He noted Iran’s “extensive” cleanup effort at the site, which has included demolishing buildings and stripping away topsoil.

“We cannot say for sure that we would be able find something,” Amano said.

Notice the careful way in which Warrick has excerpted parts of what Amano said and inserted his own spin into the statements. If you listen carefully to what Amano says in response to Slavin’s question around the 27 minute mark of the video, you will see that Amano never characterizes the activities by Iran as sanitizing the site (as said in Warrick’s headline) or even that it was cleanup work, as Warrick says in the body of the article. Amano does mention removal of soil, demolition of buildings and extensive use of water, but maintains that access to the site is necessary in order to have a clear understanding of both past and current activities there.

Amano sits in a a position of high tension. He must deal with the Wikileaks disclosures showing that he is much more aligned with the US than his predecessor, Mohamed ElBaradei. Perhaps helping him to navigate this delicate position, the host of the CFR event, George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, provided some background comments and posed questions to Amano aimed at allowing Amano to voice his overall goal of resolving issues diplomatically. Despite this claim by Amano that his goal is diplomatic solutions, he must deal with the fact that the issues his organization has been raising are cited (often in an embellished way, as Warrick does above) as grounds for an attack on Iran. Perkovich also used these comments as a way to provide an endorsement of sorts for a second term for Amano.

One of the better questions posed by Perkovich related to whether it is possible to come to agreement with Iran regarding boundaries for future activities while leaving unresolved questions about what may have taken place in the past. Read more

Pinheads Dance on Nuclear Accusations Against Iran

Cringe before the power of the dirt piles!

I noted on Tuesday that Fredrik Dahl of Reuters dutifully transcribed accusations from anonymous “Western diplomats” to report that satellite images (which David Albright finally published yesterday–I’m so happy we get to see those dirt pile photos!) revealed that Iran had brought fill dirt to the Parchin site where there have been accusations that Iran may have carried out work on developing an explosive trigger for a nuclear weapon. That post had barely been up for an hour or two when George Jahn unleashed a spectacularly bad graph purporting to show Iranian calculations on nuclear bomb yields. Glenn Greenwald did a terrific debunking of the graph yesterday, showing, among other things, how profoundly wrong the science in the graph was. I had noted back in September, when Jahn first started hinting at what turned out to be his beloved graph, that this particular accusation first came to light in the November, 2011 IAEA report. Jahn and those who are feeding him his “exclusives” sat on this graph for a year before releasing it, presumably because it is so craptastically ridiculous that it could not be made public until the laughter over Bibi’s bomb cartoon and the pink tarps had died down.

The timing of this nearly simultaneous flinging of poo by Dahl and Jahn is explained by the fact that the IAEA is meeting now to discuss the most recent report on Iran’s nuclear activities. The US is using this meeting to roll out a new bit of “leverage” against Iran, stating that if Iran does not comply with IAEA requests by the time of the next IAEA report in March, the US will request that the IAEA refer Iran to the UN Security Council for its intransigence. Aside from how hypocritical this announcement looks, coming within just a few hours of the US condemning the UN for allowing Palestine to achieve non-member observer status, it also appears that Iran knew this ploy was coming. Today we see a report from Mehr News noting that Iran has reported the US to the UN for violating Iranian airspace at least eight times during October.

Lost in all of this noise is the fact that for all the posturing over Iran’s 20% enriched uranium being “close” to weapons grade, Iran continues to divert significant amounts of the 20% enriched material into fuel plates for the Tehran reactor where the uranium has become chemically incapable of further enrichment to weapons grade. From David Albright’s summary of the most recent IAEA report (pdf), we see that Iran has produced 232.8 kg of 20% enriched uranium but has diverted 95.5 kg, or 41%, of this to fuel plates. Back in August, Moon of Alabama explained the significance of the chemical changes that take place when fuel plates are produced [emphasis in original]: Read more

Where Are the Dirt Photos? We Must Have Dirt Photos!

As I have noted many times, there is a prescribed, choreographed sequence for getting reports of “cleanup” activities at Iran’s Parchin site into the US news media. First, “diplomats” release information (arising from intelligence agencies or the IAEA) to George Hahn of AP or Fredrik Dahl of Reuters, and then David Albright emerges within just a few hours with an “analysis”, usually including satellite imagery. The choreography and imagery reached a comedic highpoint when Iran covered a number of buildings at the Parchin site with pink tarps last summer. Once Albright provides his viewpoint, various US media chime in to tell us how devious the Iranians are being with this military site that might house work that could somehow, one day, sort of help Iran produce a nuclear weapon.

Now, however, the cycle appears to have been broken. Late Wednesday, Fredrik Dahl published an article where he reported that a “closed-door” IAEA briefing had disclosed that satellite images of Parchin dated November 7 found new piles of dirt. Whether due to the Thanksgiving holiday or a lack of enthusiasm after the embarrassment of the pink tarp photos, Albright has not yet followed up by publishing these all-important photos of the piles of dirt.

Here is Dahl’s report:

Iran has been hauling dirt to a military site U.N. nuclear inspectors want to visit, Western diplomats said on Wednesday, saying the findings were based on satellite images and they reinforced suspicions of a clean-up.

They said the pictures, presented during a closed-door briefing for member states of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), suggested Iran was continuing to try to hide incriminating traces of any illicit nuclear-related activity.

The allegations come a few days after the IAEA said in a report on Iran that “extensive activities” undertaken at the Parchin site since early this year would seriously undermine its inquiry, if and when inspectors were allowed access.

Albright clearly was already aware of the new piles of dirt. From his comments (pdf) put up along with publication of the November 16 IAEA report (pdf) (clearly marked “Restricted Distribution”):

The third and final points about removal of external pipework from the containment vessel building and about a depositing of new earth where earth was removed are new observations and ones that were not previously reported by ISIS. (See previous ISIS imagery analysis on the apparent sanitization activities at Parchin here.) Iran undertook sanitization activities, including the removal of earth and deposit of new earth, at Lavisan Shian in 2004. These activities are suspected to be related to Iran hiding evidence of efforts of the Physics Research Center, a military entity linked to parallel military nuclear activities that was sited there until the late 1990s.

On the date that the IAEA provided for restricted distribution its latest report on Iran, Albright was already aware that new imagery showed the additional fill dirt being brought to the Parchin site, and yet more than ten days later, and nearly a week after being prompted by Dahl, Albright still has not given us the dirt photos. If he doesn’t come around soon, Albright will be in danger of being left out of the noise amplification loop and in the future new photos will bypass him and go directly to Barbara Starr.

Update: Ha ha ha ha. I guess George Jahn was feeling left out. He just published a diagram proving that the Iranians can calculate the yield of an atomic weapon. Quick! Prepare the fainting couch! Even Albright wasn’t too impressed with this one, as quoted by Jahn:

David Albright, whose Institute for Science and International Security is used by the U.S. government as a go-to source on Iran’s nuclear program, said the diagram looks genuine but seems to be designed more “to understand the process” than as part of a blueprint for an actual weapon in the making.

I’m sure Barbara Starr will be along shortly to tell us how frightened we should be by this diagram.