Satellite photos show activity at contentious Iran site

Satellite photos show activity at contentious Iran site
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New satellite photos appear to show construction activity at a controversial Iranian military facility that has been linked to nuclear work in the past.

The images from intelligence site Stratfor indicate that Iran built out an underground facility at its Parchin military complex, and also removed “potentially incriminating traces of activity” while international nuclear talks were underway.

The images will add to the evidence used by critics of the negotiations, which resulted in a landmark agreement last year to curb Iran’s ability to build a nuclear weapon in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.

Progress on the underground facility, in particular, is a new wrinkle for the public. The new photos appear to show a tunnel entrance to the complex being reinforced and construction being completed on possible administrative buildings in recent years.

U.N. nuclear observers did not have access to the underground facilities, Stratfor said.

“[W]hile it is true that Iran has relied heavily on underground facilities like those at Parchin to develop conventional weapons, the country's hidden military sites continue to cast doubt on Tehran's long-term commitment to the nuclear accord,” it claimed.

The images released on Monday included ones taken in 2010, and compared with similar photos from last month.

Tehran’s apparent attempts to scrub work at its Parchin facility had previously been suggested in satellite photos released last year. Those images came shortly before inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conducted a search of the site, to examine for evidence of past nuclear weapons work. 

In December, the U.N. agency claimed that the country had tried to build nuclear weapons in the past, but had halted “coordinated” work in 2003, and abandoned all efforts after 2009. 

On Capitol Hill, many watchers had viewed the U.N.’s inspections critically, worried that investigators were not able to probe deeply into Iran’s facilities. The IAEA had repeatedly refused to release the terms of its inspection plans with Iran, despite pleas from lawmakers in both parties.