Boston Globe – EDITORIAL: Because Iran has not been truthful about its nuclear activities in the past, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the European Union, and the United States have been trying to ascertain whether some of those activities belong to a nuclear weapons program and, if so, what may be done to dissuade Iran’s clerical rulers from actually developing nuclear weapons. Boston Globe
BECAUSE IRAN has not been truthful about its nuclear activities in the past, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the European Union, and the United States have been trying to ascertain whether some of those activities belong to a nuclear weapons program and, if so, what may be done to dissuade Iran’s clerical rulers from actually developing nuclear weapons. So it is crucial that IAEA inspectors investigate disturbing charges made Wednesday by an Iranian opposition group.
The National Council of Resistance in Iran, political wing of the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, claimed that a site in Tehran where uranium was being enriched known as Lavisan-Shian was razed to the ground and had its topsoil scraped away shortly before IAEA inspectors arrived there last June. The group’s spokesman told a Paris press conference that the covert enrichment facility was transferred to a nearby location in a Defense Ministry site called the Center for the Development of Advanced Defense Technology.
The seriousness of these charges, coming as they do just three days after Britain, France, and Germany announced a temporary agreement to freeze Iran’s enrichment of uranium, was underlined by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who said Wednesday: “I have seen intelligence which would corroborate what this dissident group is saying.” Powell also spoke of information, based on a single “walk in” source, that Iran has been working on the design of a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on a ballistic missile.
A member of the Iranian opposition group suggested in a phone interview with the Globe that the covert enrichment of uranium in a Defense Ministry building is one indication that the true goal of Tehran’s nuclear activities is to develop nuclear weapons and not — as Iran has told the IAEA — to produce nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Another indication, he asserted, is that some 400 nuclear scientists are working under the authority of the Defense Ministry rather than Iran’s nuclear agency.
The National Council of Resistance has earned a certain credibility because it was the organization that first informed the world in 2002 of Iran’s hidden uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and its heavy-water reactor at Arak. Wednesday in Paris the group gave out the address in Tehran where it said the Defense Ministry is carrying on enrichment activities as well as names, addresses, and telephone numbers for nuclear scientists supposedly working in Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
The IAEA should be knocking on those doors and interviewing those scientists as soon as possible. There is still time for a sound inspection regime to keep Iran from becoming a nuclear power. But any negotiated deal for halting Iran’s production of fissile materials must be based on complete and verified knowledge of the full scope of Tehran’s nuclear programs.