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

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid