Western officials: Iran stonewalling on transparency, past military activities endangering nuke talks


Western powers on Thursday criticized Iran for its ongoing refusal to provide the UN's nuclear watchdog (IAEA) with the cooperation that the agency requires to fully investigate the so-called "possible military dimensions" (PMDs) of Tehran's atomic program, statements that the BBC conveyed alongside an assessment from officials that 'a breakthrough in the negotiations is unlikely.' The European Union expressed itself disappointed that "very limited progress" had been made by the IAEA, two weeks after the organization released a report concluding that the Iranians were not merely stonewalling on PMD-related issues but were in fact destroying facilities in a way that "likely... further undermined the Agency’s ability to conduct effective verification." IAEA chief Yukiya Amano this week had already blasted the Iranians over their foot dragging, declaring at a news conference that "Iran needs to be as transparent as possible to clarify these [PMD] issues" and help move toward a robust verification scheme. The two issues - the full disclosure of PMD-related activities and verification - are intertwined, with disclosure considered to be a vital prerequisite to establishing the scope of Iran's program and therefore the nature of any future verification regime. Without establishing what nuclear-related activities the Iranian military has been engaged in - activities that are thought to range from uranium processing to nuclear warhead development - investigators and diplomats would have little ability to ensure that such activities had ceased. Emily Landau, a senior research fellow at Israel's Institute for National Security Studies, wrote on Thursday that Iran must also be forced to admit its past military-related work so as "to dispense with Iran’s narrative that it has ‘done no wrong’ in the nuclear realm." Iranian negotiators have over the years been unequivocal that Tehran has never engaged in prohibited military-related nuclear work, a conceit that per Landau has "created enormous difficulties for negotiators over the years [and] effectively undercut the alternative P5+1 narrative, and has considerably weakened the hand of the international negotiators facing Iran."

Archaeologists have long known about the massive 150 meter-long landmark near the Israeli city of Safed (Tsfat). But it wasn’t until recent work carried out by Ido Wachtel, a doctoral student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, that the structure was identified as a 5,000-year-old crescent-shaped stone monument. Archaeologists were mystified by its purpose and previously thought the structure was part of a city wall. Wachtel, however, shows in his research that there was no city beside it and that the structure is a standing monument. According to a report published by the science news website LiveScience, the crescent-shaped monument predates the Old Testament, Stonehenge and the pyramids in Egypt. Believed to be designed to portray the moon’s shape, the structure’s volume is about 14,000 cubic meters (almost 500,000 cubic feet) and its length is 150 meters (492 feet) — longer than an American football field. According to the report, pottery excavated at the structure indicates the monument dates to between 3050 B.C. and 2650 B.C. “The proposed interpretation for the site is that it constituted a prominent landmark in its natural landscape, serving to mark possession and to assert authority and rights over natural resources by a local rural or pastoral population,” Wachtel wrote in a presentation given recently at the International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East. Wachtel also noted that an ancient town called Bet Yerah (which translates to “house of the moon god”) is located a day’s walk from the lunar-crescent-shaped monument, and says it may have helped mark the town’s borders. (via Israel21c)

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