When did Iran commence work at the Qom site? The question might be of significance when considering new ‘crippling’ sanctions. Its answer seems to be complicated. In March 2007, Iran withdraw its voluntary adhesion to the so-called modified code 3.1 of the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), implemented in 1992, which requires the member states (the Shah has signed the NPT in 1967, its majlis, or parliament, ratified it in 1974) to notify the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as soon as a possible nuclear facility is even designed, in retaliation of referring the nuclear issue to the UN Security Council which the country considered illegal. The old code 3.1 demanded notifications only 180 days before introducing nuclear materials into the facility. Mohammed Sahimi at TehranBureau speculates on the possibility that Iran may have commenced its work on the site in the early 1990s. According to Sahimi, Iran would be pretty innocent if work had begun before 1992, even if the country, for a short period of time, later had implemented, voluntarily, the modified code 3.1.
For my taste, there is a certain circular reasoning in his arguments. More realistically would be if the country had started work at Qom after its one-sided withdrawal from its obligations, i.e., after March 2007. Iran’s well-known nuclear facilities in Natanz, Esfahan, and Arak had massively been threatened by possible military actions that year by the Bush-Cheney administration and Israel. Comparative satellite imagery of GoogleEarth images of 2005 and more recent images of DigitalGlobe of 2009, which have been provided by the Institute of Science and International Security (ISIS), suggest rather fundamental changes of the possible site(s) in recent years.
That Iran has notified the IAEA about the site before Obama in Pittsburgh trumpeted that the site has been known to American intelligence ‘for years’ is another issue. We’ll see on Thursday when the Geneva talks of the P5+1 and Iran commence whose strategy will finally prevail.