News / Middle East

Analysts Take Doubtful View of Iran Nuclear Inspection Tour

Analysts Take Doubtful View of Iran Nuclear Inspection Tour
Analysts Take Doubtful View of Iran Nuclear Inspection Tour

Multimedia

Iran recently invited a group of nations to tour the Islamic Republic's nuclear-related sites - on January 15 and 16.  This gesture has been dismissed by many in the West, who say Iran would never show anything that may be part of a possible nuclear weapons program. Still, Iran clearly believes that it will reap benefits from conducting this tour.

Iran has been under constant criticism for its nuclear program.  While Tehran insists its nuclear activities are focused on electric power, many nations accuse it of actually seeking nuclear weapons.  Those suspicions have been heightened by the discovery of secret nuclear facilities, such as the underground uranium processing operation unmasked near the city of Qom in September, 2009.

Several weeks ago, Iran announced it had invited a number of nations to tour the uranium enrichment facility near Natanz, and the heavy water facility near Arak.  Invited for the tour - on January 15 and 16 - were Hungary, as a representative of the European Union, Russia and China, two of the nations in the so-called "P5+1 Group," - the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany.  The nations of the Non-Aligned Movement were invited as well.  And the French news agency AFP reports that Iran also says it has invited Venezuela and Syria.

Quickly, EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton announced that Hungary would not participate. Iran's FARS news agency says Russian and Chinese observers are expected to take part. And, FARS says Egypt and Cuba will represent the Non-Aligned Movement.  

At the Middle East Institute in Washington, Analyst Alex Vatanka says the tour is obviously meant to influence upcoming multinational talks on Iran's nuclear program. "They're saying that the purpose for organizing this trip, for these various delegations from these various countries, is to establish more diplomatic goodwill on behalf of Iran, before the next set of negotiations with the "P5+1" that are supposed to take place sometime in the month of January."

The P5+1 group's next round of talks with Iran is scheduled to take place in Istanbul on January 21 and 22.

Nuclear Proliferation analyst Joseph Cirincione, the President of a foundation called the Ploughshares Fund, says he thinks Iran has two major purposes for the inspection tour. "One is to feign [create the appearance of] some flexibility here, to show that they are willing to be "open." And, two, to bring senior officials there to take a look at these facilities, which are quite substantial, to convince them that Iran is determined to keep those facilities, and has no intention of giving them up," he said.

Yet another expert on nuclear issues, James Acton at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says he sees the tour as an effort to distract attention from Iran's international obligations. "I think what Iran was trying to do was [to] demonstrate that its nuclear program WAS transparent by inviting a bunch of ambassadors to come around.  But of course, if you want to demonstrate that your nuclear program is transparent, then you give the International Atomic Energy Agency complete and proactive cooperation.  So, I think this has been a backfired propaganda stunt," he said.

Iran now says that the countries taking the nuclear facility tour are welcome to bring along their nuclear technicians as well as diplomatic observers. But, many critics of the tour say Iran would never show outsiders anything that might be connected to a possible nuclear weapons project. And, because of that, those critics say, the tour has no credibility.

Glaringly excluded from the tour invitation were P5+1 members Britain and the United States - two countries that have pushed hard for nuclear related sanctions against Iran. James Acton at Carnegie says Tehran blundered by keeping Washington and London out.  "I think that Iran would have been in a stronger propaganda position had it invited all of the P5+1 [nations].  And then, it could have proudly announced that the United States and the United Kingdom were turning down this important 'transparency tour.' Failing to invite those states clearly loses [for] Iran the PR tour that it clearly might have had," he said.

Joseph Cirincione says Iran focused only on Russia and China in the P5+1 group because those two countries voted in the UN last June to impose a fourth round of sanctions against Tehran.  He says Tehran may think that this tour could make both Moscow and Beijing less likely to support any further sanctions.

Cirincione went to the city of Esfahan in 2005 to tour a nuclear facility there at Iran's invitation.   He says he felt much like a prop in a stage play. "It was more a "dog and pony show" [a carefully constructed performance designed to convey only certain points]  - a show and tell, where we were paraded in, walked around, and then paraded out. And, all the time, there were Iranian TV cameras there, filming the visit - showing that Iran is open by allowing these foreign experts [such as Cirincione] to come and visit.  Of course, this [tour] wasn't anything like the kinds of inspections that you really need to determine the nature of the Iranian [nuclear] program," he said.

Few in the West say they believe the tour will affect perceptions held by those countries involved in the P5+1 talks. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and others have said there is no substitute for full Iranian transparency with the International Atomic Energy Agency.


Jeffrey Young

Jeffrey Young came to the “Corruption” beat after years of doing news analysis, primarily on global strategic issues such as nuclear proliferation.  During most of 2013, he was on special assignment in Baghdad and elsewhere with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR).  Previous VOA activities include VOA-TV, where he created the “How America Works” and “How America Elects” series, and the “Focus” news analysis unit.

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid