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

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters 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.
Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmakingi
X
Bernard Shusman
May 24, 2015 2:55 PM
According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.
Video

Video Effort Underway to Limit Damage from California Oil Spill

Cleanup crews are working around the clock to remove oil from the waters off the coastal city of Santa Barbara, in California. About 380,000 liters of oil may have leaked out before a rupture in an onshore, underground pipeline was discovered Tuesday. The environmental disaster hit the popular West Coast resort area before the Memorial Day weekend. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports investigators have yet to determine what caused the incident.

VOA Blogs