The initiation by the West of a new round of talks with Iran about its nuclear program has had the effect of depressing interest in revelations about how much progress the Islamist regime has made toward its goal of a weapon. In recent months, skepticism about the Iranians has reigned but, as Ha’aretz reports, the International Atomic Energy Agency appears to be in possession of evidence that the widespread belief that the ayatollahs haven’t yet made a decision to weaponize their nuclear research is unfounded. Information obtained by the nuclear watchdogs seems to prove Iran is already testing equipment that demonstrates it is working on a military application of nuclear power.
A drawing based on information from inside an Iranian military site shows an explosives containment chamber of the type needed for nuclear arms-related tests that UN inspectors suspect Tehran has conducted there. Iran denies such testing and has neither confirmed nor denied the existence of such a chamber.
The computer-generated drawing was provided to The Associated Press by an official of a country tracking Iran’s nuclear program who said it proves the structure exists, despite Tehran’s refusal to acknowledge it.
That official said the image is based on information from a person who had seen the chamber at the Parchin military site, adding that going into detail would endanger the life of that informant.
This latest piece of the Iranian nuclear puzzle to be revealed ought to put more pressure on the countries invested in the P5+1 talks not to allow Tehran to spend the next few months stalling as the centrifuges continue to spin. With the next round of talks set for later this month in Baghdad, the image of the testing device ought to serve as a reminder to President Obama and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton that there will be a terrible price to be paid for allowing diplomacy to serve as a convenient method for the ayatollahs to run out the clock on efforts to prevent an Iranian nuke.
Though we can we expect that those who have rationalized every Iranian attempt to obfuscate the issue will dismiss this latest revelation, the evidence ought to be enough to scare those who have been throwing cold water on the immediacy of the Iranian threat. The existence of the testing chamber is consistent with previous information released by the IAEA:
IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said in March that his agency has “credible information that indicates that Iran engaged in activities relevant to the development of nuclear explosive devices” at the site. Diplomats subsequently told the AP that the experiments also appear to have involved a small prototype neutron device used to spark a nuclear explosion – equipment that would be tested only if a country was trying to develop atomic weapons.
The report goes on to state that it appears the chamber may have been built with Russian assistance. Iran’s apologists and critics of Israeli efforts to raise the alarm could argue that just because the Iranians have the device, it doesn’t mean they’ve used it. But it appears that’s not likely either:
The IAEA has voiced alarm at unexplained “activity” at the site — a term diplomats familiar with the agency’s concerns say stands for attempts to clean up any evidence of the kinds of experiments the agency suspects were carried out.
A second senior diplomat familiar with the investigation recently told the AP that spy satellite images shared with the agency show what seems to be water streaming from the building housing the chamber. He said it also depicts workers removing bags of material from that building and put on vehicles outside.
This information should raise the stakes for the West at the Baghdad talks. Though there are increasing reports that Ashton and the EU would happily settle for a compromise with Iran that would leave their program in place, the existence of a military testing device ought to mean the West’s goal must be the dismantling of the Iranian nuclear infrastructure, not just the removal of what the Iranians say is their supply of refined uranium. Because there is now even more credible evidence of weapons research, President Obama is obligated not to let Ashton allow the talks to drift for months while testing continues in Iran.