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 Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

At Boston Bombing Hearing, Sides Spar Over Boat

At final pre-trial hearing, lawyers for suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, prosecutors disagree on whether vessel where he hid from police can be shown to jurors More

Iran Judiciary 'Picks' Lawyer for Detained WP Reporter

Masoud Shafii has been attempting to secure official recognition as Rezaian’s attorney, but is not allowed to see his client in prison 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More