Updated below. A story in the press this week about Iran sheds a little light on how detached some of Washington’s inveterate Iran hawks are from reality. Opponents of diplomacy and advocates of military force are of course entitled to their opinions, but they’re not entitled to their own facts. And yet that’s what some of them offer to support their positions.
But first some background. The news item concerned an explosion at an Iranian military facility, reportedly in or near Parchin, a controversial site deeply intertwined with negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. Parchin is considered an important facility in all the diplomatic wrangling because intelligence agencies and watchdog groups suspect the site was used to test detonators that could be used in an explosive nuclear device. It’s relevant to note—though hawks rarely will—that these suspicions of “possible military dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear program date back to pre-2004, after which point Iran is thought to have shut down its weaponization program.
In negotiations, Parchin has been a lightning rod because accounting for Iran’s possible past nuclear weapons work is a notional aim of a final accord with world powers. So far, however, Iran has complied with only some of the “outstanding issues” laid out by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). And that’s where the hawks come in.
Take Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post. Rubin’s post on this week’s explosion wasn’t surprising because of the triumphalist tone she strikes over the possibility that this was an act of covert war—from 2010 through 2012, several mysterious explosions have killed nuclear scientists and military officials—but rather because she stuns with her inability to grasp the basic facts about Parchin.
With regard to the explosion, Rubin quotes a news report stating that Parchin hasn’t been inspected by the IAEA since 2005. She then states: “That is right—the West still has had no access to one of Iran’s key enrichment sites yet has now twice extended sanctions relief.” That is not right—and it deserves a correction. The absence of inspections at Parchin is troubling because of the alleged nuclear trigger testing, not because of enrichment; in fact, Parchin is not an “enrichment site” at all, let alone a “key” one.