Iranians inspect military site without UN watchdog present

Iranians inspect military site without UN watchdog present
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Iranian nuclear experts took samples at a military site without the presence of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors, a spokesman for Iran’s atomic energy agency told the state-run IRNA news agency

"Iranian experts took samples from specific locations in Parchin facilities this week without IAEA's inspectors being present," Atomic Energy Organization of Iran spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said, according to Reuters

"They followed regulations and standards and the samples were given to IAEA's experts.”

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The comments could confirm the fears of critics of the Iran deal who believe that side deals between Tehran and the IAEA will allow Iranian officials to take the lead on taking samples at the Parchin military facility. Iran is believed to have previously conducted tests related to nuclear bomb detonations at the facility. 

Initial reports about the secret agreements suggested that Iranian officials would be in charge of inspecting the site, though nuclear officials and subsequent reports indicated that the sampling would be closely monitored by the IAEA.

American critics of the nuclear deal have said that the Iranian inspections scheme makes it easy for Iran to cheat, and have compared it to asking an athlete to perform her own drug test.

The new report “appears to confirm our grave concern that the Iran-IAEA side agreements permit Tehran to self-inspect its own nuclear sites,” Reps. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) and Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) said in a statement on Monday. The three lawmakers led the charge for the House to rebuke Obama over the bilateral IAEA-Iran deals earlier this month.

“Without access to these documents it's impossible to verify that necessary mechanisms are in place to ensure Iran will abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons,” they added. “This is why, until the President complies with the law and provides the side agreements to Congress, we must keep the sanctions regime in place." 

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano visited the Parchin site on Sunday and appeared to dismiss concerns that anything out of the ordinary had taken place. 

"In the case of Parchin, the Iranian side played a part in the sample-taking process by swiping samples,” he told reporters in Vienna on Monday.

“As a result of experience gained over the years, the agency [IAEA] has, in certain circumstances, permitted states’ representatives to carry out activities in support of the agency’s verification work. This is done in a way that ensures that the agency’s verification processes are not compromised.

“The agency can confirm the integrity of the sampling process and the authenticity of the samples,” he claimed.

Amano also told reporters that there has been “significant progress” in implementing the deal.

Iran has until Oct. 15 to finalize its inspections about the country's suspected past weaponization of nuclear materials, as part of the international agreement earlier this year. Once that analysis is completed and Iran meets a host of other obligations to shut down its activity, global sanctions against its oil and financial sectors will begin to roll back. 

— This story was updated at 1:05 p.m.