Washington, March 8 – New satellite images provided to the U.N. nuclear agency provide some of the strongest evidence yet that Iran is pursuing a nuclear bomb.
On Wednesday, pictures provided by unspecified member countries to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) appear to show trucks and earth-moving vehicles at Iran’s Parchin military site which IAEA inspectors were recently barred from visiting. Diplomats said the images suggested the trucks could be carting away radioactive material created in nuclear testing.
Experts believe Parchin, a military facility southeast of Tehran, is where the Iranians intend to actually build a nuclear weapon once they have amassed enough highly-enriched uranium to do so. The IAEA has evidence that Iran has built a large containment chamber there in which to conduct high-explosives tests. IAEA inspectors visited Parchin twice in 2005, but inspectors did not enter the building that housed the test chamber.
The six powers that have tried to negotiate with Iran – the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany – issued a joint statement on Thursday demanding that IAEA inspectors be allowed to visit Parchin.
“We urge Iran to fulfill its undertaking to grant access to Parchin,” the statement said. Western diplomats suspect the Islamic Republic may now be trying to clean up the site to remove evidence of research with nuclear applications before possibly allowing inspectors in.
IAEA chief Yukiya Amano told CNN on Thursday that Iran was concealing key part of its program.
“We have the indication or information that Iran has engaged in activities relevant to the development of nuclear explosive devices,” Amano said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared on Monday he would never allow his people to live under the constant threat of annihilation from a nuclear-armed Iran.
Addressing the annual conference of the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Netanyahu said Israel had waited patiently for the international community to deal with the problem – but so far it had failed.
“We’ve waited for diplomacy to work; we’ve waited for sanctions to work. None of us can afford to wait much longer,” Netanyahu said. “As Prime Minister of Israel, I will never let my people live in the shadow of annihilation.”
While appreciating U.S. President Barack Obama’s pledge to prevent the Iranians from building a nuclear bomb, Netanyahu made it clear that the state of Israel reserved the right to act in its own defense at a time of its own choosing.
Laying out a detailed and powerful case why Iran should not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons, the Israeli leader said Tehran was the number one sponsor of state terrorism. Its leaders had dispatched suicide bombers all around the world. Its proxies had attacked civilians in many countries with bombs, missiles and rockets. But Iran would be far more dangerous if it ever acquired a nuclear capability.
“A nuclear-armed Iran would dramatically increase terrorism by giving terrorists a nuclear umbrella. The terrorism we see today would grow tenfold, if not more,” Netanyahu said.
In another development, a new United Nations report on Iran’s human rights record issued this week highlighted “a striking pattern of violations of fundamental human rights guaranteed under international law.” The 36-page report by Ahmed Shaheed, a special rapporteur for the Human Rights Council, cited violations of due process in the courts, illegal detentions, extensive accusations of torture of prisoners, and maltreatment of dissidents, minorities, journalists and women. The report also highlighted Iran’s large number of executions, mostly in drug cases, which increased to at least 670 cases last year from 100 in 2003.