The Iranian official who could be in charge of inspecting suspect nuclear sites as part of a side agreement with the international nuclear watchdog IAEA may be the same man who oversaw Tehran’s nuclear program a decade ago when it is suspected atomic weapons were being developed.
Dr. Ali Hosseini-Tash, currently the deputy secretary of Supreme National Security Council for Strategic Affairs, is the signatory on behalf of Iran to the agreement between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA, revealed last week by the Associated Press.
According to Paris-based dissident group National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), Hosseini-Tash is a military commander who was tasked with militarizing Tehran’s nuclear program.
“Ali Hosseini-Tash is a senior IRGC commander, who has been in charge of advancing Tehran’s bomb-making projects for many years,” Shahin Gobadi, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the NCRI told the Daily Mail.
“In this position, he has been intimately involved in every detail of the bomb-making program and is fully aware of the program’s vulnerabilities and concealment tactics,” he said
According to the agreement, the IAEA that would allow Tehran to use its own inspectors to investigate the Parchin facility, which is believed to have been the site of nuclear weapons work. The presence of Hosseini-Tash’s signature could add fuel to the fire of critics who say the agreement is akin to letting the cat guard the cream.
“Allowing the Tehran regime to inspect Parchin and provide the results to the IAEA is akin to allowing a murderer to investigate his own murder and provide the relevant DNA to the police,” Gobadi said.
In 2007, Hosseini-Tash was named as head to Iran’s Imam Hussein University, which is thought to be closely linked to the IRGC and Iran’s suspected military nuclear program, according to NCRI.
The university, considered an arm of the military, has a nuclear department which critics say points to a military dimension of Iran’s nuclear program. Iran claims its program is peaceful.
As part of the agreement between Iran and the nuclear watchdog revealed Wednesday, Iranian inspectors would be allowed to collect evidence from the Parchin military complex, where it has been accused of using to develop nuclear arms at least a decade ago, before handing it over to the IAEA for analysis.
The IAEA wishes to investigate the site in order to learn more about Iran’s past activities there.
The report sparked a furious backlash from israeli leaders and Republican Congressmen, but the White House and IAEA both defended the agreement as standard procedure.
The State Department on Thursday said “in no way” did the UN atomic watchdog agree to let Iran inspect its own nuclear facilities, rejecting the AP’s reporting.
“That is not how the IAEA does business,” State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
However, Olli Heinonen, in charge of the Iran investigation as IAEA deputy director general from 2005 through 2010, told AP on Wednesday he could think of no similar arrangement — a country essentially allowed to carry out much of the probe of suspicions against it.
The Parchin side agreement is not part of the main deal inked in July between six world powers and Iran, but is closely linked to it. The US has said it will not lift sanctions on Iran without being given an okay from the IAEA.
The report still riled Republican lawmakers who have been severely critical of the broader agreement to limit Iran’s future nuclear programs, signed by the Obama administration, Iran and five world powers in July.
The critics have complained that the wider deal is unwisely built on trust of the Iranians, while the administration has insisted it depends on reliable inspections.
“President Obama boasts his deal includes ‘unprecedented verification.’ He claims it’s not built on trust,” said the Republican leader of the House, Speaker John Boehner, “But the administration’s briefings on these side deals have been totally insufficient — and it still isn’t clear whether anyone at the White House has seen the final documents.”
Israeli officials responded to the report by calling on Iran and the IAEA to fully publicize its agreement, something the IAEA says it is legally barred from doing.
On Thursday, the director general of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano defended the agreement and said he was disturbed that the AP report “suggested” that the IAEA has given responsibility for nuclear inspections to Iran.
“I can state that the arrangements are technically sound and consistent with our long-established practices. They do not compromise our safeguards standards in any way,” he said in a statement.
Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman of Iran’s nuclear agency was quoted on state TV calling the AP report “media speculation” without denying its substance.
The document seen by the AP is a draft that one official familiar with its contents said doesn’t differ substantially from the final version. He demanded anonymity because he isn’t authorized to discuss the issue.
It is labeled “separate arrangement II,” indicating there is another confidential agreement between Iran and the IAEA governing the agency’s probe of the nuclear weapons allegations.
The document suggests that instead of carrying out their own probe, IAEA staff will monitor Iranian personnel as they inspect the Parchin nuclear site.
Iran will provide agency experts with photos and videos of locations the IAEA says are linked to the alleged weapons work, “taking into account military concerns.”
That wording suggests that — beyond being barred from physically visiting the site — the agency won’t get photo or video information from areas Iran says are off-limits because they have military significance.
IAEA experts would normally take environmental samples for evidence of any weapons development work, but the agreement stipulates that Iranian technicians will do the sampling.
The Associated Press contributed to this report