On June 9, Fox News revealed unusual activity at the Sanjarian nuclear site in 25 miles outside the capital Tehran, Iran. According to new satellite images obtained from Maxar, there were 18 vehicles at the site on October 15, 2020. The Iranian government has used more vehicles and excavation in January along with a new access road that was later covered up in March.
Fox News mentioned that Iranian authorities had already practiced “shock wave generators,” which allow the government to miniaturize a nuclear weapon. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had declared that Tehran halted the scientific program to build nuclear weapons in 2003.
Iranian Opposition Exposed the Sanjarian Nuclear Site in 2009
In a press conference in Paris, the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) had exposed the site on September 24, 2009. At the time, the NCRI revealed that operated site is located in the Sanjarian village.
“The regime conducts scientific research at a site located in Tehran Pars district, called Metfaz. And this site produces the results of research. Residents of the Sanjarian village have special ID cards for communicating,” said Mehdi Abrishamchi, the NCRI Peace Commission chair, at the conference regarding the Iranian government’s attempts for producing nuclear weapons.
The NCRI’s September 24, 2009 revelation is one of a string of revelations by the Iranian Resistance since 2003, when the international community was taken aback by Tehran’s secret nuclear-bomb-making projects for the first time.
On May 7, 2019, David Albright, the IAEA’s Action Team associate (1992-1997) and the first non-governmental inspector of Iraq’s nuclear program, and Olli Heinonen, the IAEA’s operations director (1995-2005), published their joint research about Tehran’s nuclear activities.
“This site was first publicly identified in 2009 by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which called it the ‘Research Center for Explosion and Impact’ near Sanjarian, known under its Farsi language abbreviation METFAZ. The NCRI stated that this site was developing high-explosive detonators for use in atomic bombs and manufacturing components for these detonation systems,” they wrote.
The IAEA’ Questions About the Sanjarian Site Remain Unanswered
In the past two decades, the world powers tried time and again to contain Iran’s provocative nuclear projects. Instead, Tehran only responded with cheating and more concealing. For instance, Iranian authorities never declared their sites’ location or the quality of their activities before being revealed by the opposition or other counterparties.
For years, the ayatollahs had been refusing the UN nuclear watchdog access to their sensitive site. “Regarding Iran’s nuclear program, I provided a clear assessment since 2003 to 2009. In 2011, I raised 12 fields and said, ‘Iran should respond these questions,” said the late Yukio Amano, the former IAEA director-general in May 2019.
The first question was about producing detonation for the nuclear explosion, which was applied at the Sanjarian site, with alias Nourabad. The IAEA asked Tehran about developing detonations, in clause C-5, and beginning tests of severe explosions and relevant experiments, in clause C-6.
At the June 7 convention of the IAEA Board of Governors, the IAEA director-general Rafael Grossi once again declared his frustration towards Iran’s secrecy. “The lack of progress in clarifying the agency’s questions concerning the correctness and completeness of Iran’s safeguards declarations seriously affects the ability of the IAEA to provide assurance of the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program,” said Grossi at the meeting.
Just like his predecessor, Grossi expressed alarm that after many months, the Iranian regime has not provided the necessary explanation for the presence of the nuclear material particles at any of the three locations where the agency has conducted complementary accesses.
“In the absence of such an explanation from Iran, I am deeply concerned that nuclear material has been present at the three undeclared locations in Iran and that the current locations of this nuclear material are not known by the agency. Nor has Iran answered the questions with regard to the other undeclared location or clarified the current location of natural uranium in the form of a metal disc,” he said.
U.S. and Eu Negotiators’ Frustration Over the JCPOA
Tehran’s contradictory behavior has also disappointed U.S. and EU negotiators. In his Presidential campaign, U.S. President Joe Biden had vowed that he would rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
However, Tehran still renounces direct talks with the U.S. and avoids full compliances with the JCPOA. Aside from uranium traces in some sites, Tehran recently acknowledged the enrichment of uranium up to 60-percent fissile purity.
“We have a country that has a very developed and ambitious nuclear program, which is enriching at very high levels, enriching uranium at very high levels, very close to weapons-grade,” Grossi said.
Ayatollahs Understand the Language of Firmness
“It remains unclear whether Iran is willing and prepared to do what it needs to do come back into compliance,” Reuters quoted U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken as saying on June 7. “Meanwhile, its program is galloping forward…. The longer this goes on, the more the breakout time gets down.”
In such circumstances, the international community faces a complicated situation regarding Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. On the one hand, Tehran seemingly intends to keep negotiations in a limbo, and it still continues provoking attempts for achieving nuclear weapons on the other hand.
“To guarantee its survival, the clerical regime has not abandoned its atomic bomb project,” said NCRI President-elect Maryam Rajavi on June 7. The recent IAEA report “also shows that to buy time, the regime has continued its policy of secrecy to mislead the international community. At the same time, the regime is blackmailing its foreign interlocutors into lifting sanctions and ignoring its missile programs, export of terrorism, and criminal meddling in the region.”