Daily TIP

Environmental sampling at controversial Iranian military site apparently to be conducted by Iranians

Posted by Albert Gersh - July 24, 2015

In an intense exchange at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry would not definitively deny that Iran will be responsible for taking environmental samples at the military base Parchin. In a follow-up from a question by Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho), Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) asked Kerry, “Is it true that the Iranians are going to be able to take the sample, as Senator Risch said? Because chain of custody means nothing [if] at the very beginning what you [are] going to get is chosen and derived by the perpetrator.” Kerry responded, “As you know, that is a classified component of this. It’s supposed to be discussed on a classified setting… I’m not confirming how it’s happening…I’m saying that we are confident that the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] has the ability to get the answers that they need.” Parchin is a military base where Iran conducted work related to the detonation of nuclear warheads and Iran has consistently stonewalled the IAEA from accessing the site. In the so-called “Roadmap for Clarification of Past and Present Outstanding Issues,” Iran and the IAEA came up with a separate agreement that was wrapped into the broader deal. Some in Congress have criticized the IAEA-Iran agreement, of which they have no copy, for containing side deals. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Bob Cardin (D-Md.) wrote a letter to Kerry requesting that the documents be submitted to Congress. The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act specifically requires that the administration must submit to Congress “the agreement and all related materials… including annexes, appendices, codicils, side agreements.”
In another example of the deal’s weaknesses, Olli Heinonen, the former Deputy Director-General for Safeguards at the IAEA, told the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday that it does not provide for the oversight of weapons design work sites that would be necessary for a truly strict inspections regime. He said to the committee, “Items related to nuclear weapon design…are extremely difficult to verify given their non-nuclear nature and lack of easy signature to spot…[I]f you ask my opinion which are the possibilities to find these computer codes [for weapons design work] and someone using them and there is not really even an inspection procedure for that, I think it’s zero [on a scale of 1 to 10]. It’s not even one.”

United States intelligence agencies have confirmed that Syria’s President, Bashad al-Assad, remains in possession of chemical weapons, The Times of Israel reported today. 

In 2013, Assad capitulated to international demands that he relinquish Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal after his regime used sarin gas against civilians in Damascus. According to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons last month, of the 1,300 metric tons of Syria’s declared chemical weapons, only 16 metric tons of hydrogen fluoride remained, and was due to be destroyed at a facility in Port Arthur in Texas.The Times referenced a report (Google link) in The Wall Street Journal, which cited American intelligence reports that the Assad regime still holds “caches of even deadlier nerve agents.” U.S. officials are concerned that Assad will either channel these weapons to terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah, or that the weapons will be captured by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) if his regime falls.

The experience in Syria could be indicative of the limitations international inspectors face when operating in autocratic states, according to the Times:

The report comes hot on the heels of the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, under which international inspectors will not be granted “anytime, anywhere” access to suspect sites, but will merely be allowed to request access to all facilities, if they can provide proof of violations and are unsatisfied with Iran’s explanation. Altogether, the procedure put in place could take up to 24 days. Top Iranian officials in past days have made clear that there will be no access to military sites.
The Journal reported that during the 2013 inspections of Assad’s chemical laboratory sites, international inspectors only had access to sites that were approved by Assad, or which he declared as chemical weapons labs. Inspectors did not ask for further access to suspicious sites because they feared the regime would stop cooperating and bar them from conducting any inspections. In addition, the inspectors feared retaliation from Syrian officials who were overseeing their personal safety.

The Journal added that despite having the right to request access to more sites, the U.S. and other powers never exercised it “because their governments didn’t want a standoff with the regime.” One inspector said that such a decision was made because “it was a question of priorities.”

According to the Journal:

The Syrians laid out the ground rules. Inspectors could visit only sites Syria had declared, and only with 48-hour notice. Anything else was off-limits, unless the regime extended an invitation.


“We had no choice but to cooperate with them,” said Mr. Cairns. “The huge specter of security would have hampered us had we gone in there very aggressively or tried to do things unilaterally.”

The intelligence reports confirm fears expressed last year by the United Nations and American ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, that Syria had not destroyed all of its chemical weapons. Earlier this year, Iran blocked an effort to issue even a “mildly worded” condemnation of Syria for its use of chemical weapons.

In April, an editorial in The Wall Street Journal noted that efforts to condemn Syria’s continued use of chemical weapons were blocked by Russia, one of the P5+1 nations that concluded a nuclear deal with Iran. Two months ago, UN inspectors found traces of deadly nerve agents at a previously undeclared site in Syria. (via TheTower.org)

Ten children in Tanzania have been given a new lease on life thanks to an Israeli medical delegation that flew out to the eastern African country to perform the lifesaving heart surgeries. The 20 Israeli doctors, nurses and medical technicians volunteer their time and expertise for Wolfson Medical Center’s Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) organization. The medical delegation also examined hundreds of other children with congenital heart defects. The Jerusalem Post reports that during the Israeli team’s visit, the president of the Republic of Tanzania, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, stopped by the Muhimbili Hospital in Dar al Salam to thank its members. In March, a pediatric cardiology team from the Wolfson Medical Center teamed up with a Zanzibar medical team to screen 251 children’s hearts in Zanzibar and Tanzania. SACH is now working to bring some of the children to Israel for lifesaving cardiac surgery and follow up care. The SACH charity has treated thousands of children from 45 developing nations. (via Israel21c)

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