Iran’s nukes are in the news. Again. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is set to meet Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and US Secretary of State John Kerry in Vienna next week, according to Reuters. If this week’s reports are any indication, Iran will have some explaining to do:
First, there was the apparently satellite-documented explosion that killed two workers at the Parchin military complex – access to which, you may recall, Iran still denies the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Then, a mere three days later, came the claim by Iranian dissidents that Iran was still researching nuclear weapons and that it had moved its most sensitive research projects to a new location “in recent months” – which could place the move squarely around the first time the deadline for a nuclear deal had to be deferred after a deadlock in the negotiations.
Both reports, particularly the first one, brought to the fore a fact that has often been omitted from the rather optimistic coverage of the ongoing nuclear talks: that Western inspectors still don’t have access to some key Iranian sites. Tehran may say full access is contingent on the removal of suffocating sanctions, but Parchin hints that even if a deal is finally reached, it could achieve limited results.
That’s how The Atlantic’s David Frum sees it: in an op-ed Tuesday, he said that while Iran clearly wants sanctions relief, its lack of transparency would suggest it isn’t looking for true normalization with the US, and that any inspection rights the West obtains will be “within the context of persistent and profound Iranian rejection of the goals of an inspection regime.”
We fully expect Zarif, Ashton et. al. to be all smiles when they meet next week, to make the usual joint statements about “difficulties” and hope for future progress. Will the uncomfortable matter of Parchin be raised, or will the race to reach a deal take precedence?