This past September, the Israeli government unveiled evidence to the world of Tehran’s secret nuclear facilities. Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu presented photographs of the warehouse and included specifications about its design and capabilities including as much as 300 tons of equipment and material stored in fifteen shipping containers and up to 15 kilograms of nuclear material. In his presentation, the Israeli Prime Minister criticized the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with their failure to inspect the site when Israel had previously given them classified intelligence about the locations’ function. To this day, the IAEA has still not inspected it, despite the pleas of subject matter experts to conduct a thorough investigation.
Many believe that the images of the site that have been released to the public reveal an attempt to transfer nuclear materials to a different location. Iran has vehemently denied the allegations of the warehouse’s function and stated that it was merely a carpet cleaning facility. They went as far as to release ground images from a carpet cleaning factory across the street and claim it to be from the nuclear facility.
However, photographic analysis confirmed the imagery provided by the Iranian government belongs to a different building than the photographs released by Israeli intelligence. The images that Tehran insist vindicate the warehouse in question, also only show exterior views. This is possible proof that the government hasn’t finished emptying the warehouse of all nuclear assets.
Israel also revealed that Iran disposed of radioactively contaminated material from this site near Tehran. Even though the material in question likely only has low-levels of radioactivity, the fact that the government disposed of it into the public domain proves a flagrant disregard for the safe handling of nuclear waste and the health and safety of their own people. It also speaks to the balance of power between military and civilian authorities in the country that the nuclear site can skirt around the government’s officially held policies regarding nuclear waste disposal without suffering consequences.
Satellite imagery suggests that nearly all material from the site has been removed as of now. Its exact location is unknown. If the IAEA had acted on Israeli intelligence when it was first given access to the information over the summer they would have had the chance to inspect the site while the storage containers were still present. Now the weapons equipment nuclear components are gone and unlikely to be found again soon. It is vital that IAEA explain its reasons for failing to act and the United States should demand an explanation. The United States has a responsibility, as a member state of the IAEA, to ensure that such inaction does not continue.
Currently, there is no evidence that Iran destroyed any documentation or equipment relating to the nuclear-weapon construction. That is why it is vital that their whereabouts be found as soon as possible. Analysts believe IAEA must conduct an investigation and inspect the warehouse for any remaining evidence. There are too many questions left unanswered to not follow through. Environmental samples can be taken to determine the radiation level and Iran should be forced to provide the shipping containers so they can be properly examined.
Many falsely believed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), would make it easier to conduct investigations when evidence called for it, however even after Israeli intelligence presented actionable, credible evidence to the IAEA no inspection was held. This failure of the regulatory body directly responsible for overseeing Iran’s nuclear research can’t go unnoticed and must be addressed if Western powers have any hope of preventing Iran from acquiring a bomb.