The case of Parchin military base exemplifies the problems between Tehran and the P5+1:
- The P5+1 suspect, based on military intelligence, that Tehran carried out tests connected with detonating nuclear bombs at Parchin.
- The P5+1 suspect, based on satellite pictures, that Tehran has carried out several stages of “clean-ups” of these tests at Parchin.
Whether or not these tests took place can be proved or disproved only by an on-site inspection and even then, there is a chance that the clean-ups were efficient enough to wipe out the evidence.
As to the clean-ups, here are satellite pictures of Parchin which raised suspicions of attempted clean-ups in the past – Tehran called these accusations baseless, did not offer any explanations and denied access to the base.
And here is the latest satellite picture which once again raised suspicions of an attempted clean up – this time, Tehran vehemently denied the accusations, accused the accusers of lying, explained that the picture simply shows a road being built next to Parchin and is still not allowing access to the base.
Now let’s think about the two options:
- If the Iranians did carry out the tests as well as the clean-ups, they are guilty of lying and concealing which puts into question the levels of trust to be expected from them in the future and raises doubts regarding the dealmakers belief that the deal is built on “verifications” and not on “trust”.
- If they didn’t do either, then why do they not simply allow the IAEA to inspect the site to prove the P5+1 wrong? Why do they believe that their denials and counter-accusations are more trustworthy than satellite pictures (in the case of clean-ups) or a simple verification/inspection?
The Iranians want the P5+1 to trust them while the whole issue of the nuclear deal was instigated due to a lack of trust and the need for verifications by the P5+1. One satellite picture, or better yet, one on-site inspection, is much more convincing than all of Tehran’s denials and counter-accusations. In fact it is precisely the level of Iranians’ “outrage” at the accusations that make them less believable…if they had nothing to hide, and nothing to clean up, an immediate invitation to inspect the base would have put all critics of the nuclear deal to shame and shown that Tehran could be trusted.
Trust is a great beginning
Without some levels of trust, neither side would have approached the negotiations tables. For decades, no such trust existed among any of the leaders on either side. The trust required to get both sides to sit down and talk may have started back in Ahmadinejad’s presidency as was disclosed by then FM and nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi, but in the end the talks were made possible only because Rouhani seemed genuinely open to a nuclear deal. In the same manner, deals with Iran may have been suggested in the White House during Bush’s administration but it was Obama ‘s outreached hand which brought Rouhani to the negotiating tables.
Does Washington really trust Tehran and vice versa? No. Khamenei has repeatedly stated his distrust of the US and Rouhani and Zarif have echoed the Supreme Leader’s sentiments on many occasions. Meanwhile, even Obama and Kerry, who are pushing for the deal, continue to state that the deal is based on “verification” and not “trust” while adding that they understand that Iran is likely to “cheat” on the deal and will not change its ways as far as terrorism and subversion are concerned.
At the end of the day, there is not enough trust on both sides and therefore, trust is not enough to build a deal on. The P5+1 do not trust Tehran enough to believe its denials concerning suspicious activities in the past, the present or the future in Parchin and need to verify Tehran’s denials on-site.
Verifications breed trust
Zarif stated last week that the US would have to learn to trust Iran but the whole idea of a nuclear deal is based on exactly the opposite: “verification” and not “trust” is the key word for the P5+1. It is only through repeated verifications that trust can be built. Every clean bill of inspection tears down one more brick from the wall of distrust separating Iran from the P5+1.
Were trust enough, the P5+1 could have signed a deal based only on Khamenei’s nuclear fatwa in which he declared the building and use of a nuclear bomb “haram” (a sin). But just as Khamenei’s “nuclear fatwa” was not enough to build trust, neither are Tehran’s denials and counter-accusations concerning Parchin enough.
And yet, Tehran continues to answer accusations with denials and counter accusations instead of simply saying “Hey, don’t believe us? Come and see for yourself!”.
Why doesn’t Tehran simply open Parchin to verifications? The official excuse is that the base at Parchin is not a nuclear one and therefore is not to be included in the list of bases to be inspected by the IAEA. The issue of inspecting non-nuclear bases was a red line for both sides and the final nuclear deal allows for the legitimacy of inspecting non-nuclear sites while giving Tehran 24 days grace before allowing such inspections or sending the decision of access to a non-nuclear base to be discussed and arbitrated…this means that Tehran can drag its heels and/or get Russia or China to back it on blocking access.
So Tehran and the P5+1 are stuck in a vicious circle: Tehran demands trust but is blocking verification while the P5+1 are demanding verification in order to build trust. This circle can only break if Rouhani would make good on his promise for transparency and Khamenei would give up on one of his red lines and his infamous pride. Based on the latest events at Parchin, neither Rouhani nor Khamenei are ready to deliver.