Are we about to find out about another secret nuclear site in Iran?
This is a question which I asked myself after reading the latest WSJ article “How Iran Went Nuclear“.
What is particularly interesting about this interview is that while working at the IAEA, Dr Heinonen:
first “got a whiff” of Fordo six years before Mr. Obama acknowledged it. In the fall of 2003, Mr. Heinonen was in his office at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna when a man appeared unannounced. The “walk-in”—whom Mr. Heinonen hasn’t previously discussed, and whose nationality he won’t disclose—claimed that Iran was replicating its existing uranium-enrichment facility in an underground site near the holy city of Qum. And so it was, as the IAEA and Western spy agencies later confirmed.
When it came to the Fordo site, Iran was breaking the law by not informing the IAEA about its construction. This was confirmed by former IAEA Director General Mohammad El Baradei who clearly stated that in that instance Iran was “on the wrong side of the law“.
The news that Iran was secretly building a nuclear site deep inside the mountains really unnerved a lot of countries, including the Chinese and the Russians. This is one of the reasons why they reduced their diplomatic support for Iran at the UN.
What is also interesting about Heinonen’s interview is that according to him, the same person who informed the IAEA about Fordo, also spoke about:
“A duplicate of the Arak heavy-water facility designed to produce plutonium.”
As far as we know from the IAEA reports and inspections, there are no undeclared sites in Iran. There is one site called Parchin which the IAEA has asked for a repeated visit which has been denied, but we know that such a site exists.
It seems to me that Olli Heinonen is disappointed that the information about the alleged second secret site has not been looked into sufficiently by the IAEA. Therefore by going public, he is hoping that pressure will increase on the IAEA to ask tougher questions from the Iranian nuclear authorities. The IAEA asked Iran in 2009 about whether its operating any other secret sites, as after the revelation about Fordo, it was not sure. What aroused further suspicion according to The Washington Post was that in 2009 :
U.N. inspectors had found 600 barrels of a substance known as heavy water — used in some types of nuclear reactors — at facility near the town of Esfahan.
For all we know, its also possible that Western countries have information about this secret site and are planning to expose it whenever it suits them. Any such exposure could isolate the Iranian regime far more than it is today. It would totally discredit regime claims that its nuclear program is for civilian purposes only while undermining Ayatollah Khamenei’s fatwa against nuclear weapons. It could also increase the chances of a military strike by the US, if its current dual track strategy of sanctions and negotiations fail.
It is also possible that there is no such thing and that the walk – in who informed the IAEA about Fordo got it completely wrong about the second suspected site. It would not be the first time that a faulty assessment has been made about Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
For now, lets just hope that Olli Heinonen’s source got it completely wrong and that there are no other secret nuclear sites in Iran. As far as we know from the IAEA, this is the case. Lets see if the future has any surprises in store for us.