Iran can banish U.N. inspectors from its military sites but it can't obstruct the prying eyes of commercial satellites.
On Tuesday, officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency left Iran in a huff after the country refused to grant permission to inspect a military site in Parchin where a facility suspected of testing explosives exists. In light of Iran's coyness about its facilities, we asked Mark Brender, executive director of the commercial satellite imagery company GeoEye Foundation, for a closer look.
The image above, provided to The Atlantic Wire, shows the sprawling Parchin military complex, which is 18 miles southeast of Tehran, taken from a GeoEye satellite 423 miles in space. We showed the image to Paul Brannan, who specializes in deciphering high-resolution satellite imagery for the Institute for Science and International Security, and he pointed to the areas marked in red as of interest to IAEA inspectors. Here's a closer look at the military site:
In 2004, Iran allowed inspectors into parts of this site after the IAEA cited suspicions of nuclear activities, according to Bloomberg. In September of that year, the agency reported that it didn't find anything at the facility. However, in November 2011, the IAEA reported that satellite images indicated that Iran was conducting high-explosive tests with components necessary for a nuclear bomb. Officials believe the above site may contain a blast chamber built in 2000.
After the IAEA inspectors left Tuesday, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed to continue Iran's civilian nuclear policies in the face of growing international pressure. "With God's help, and without paying attention to propaganda, Iran's nuclear course should continue firmly and seriously," he said on state TV according to Reuters. "Pressures, sanctions and assassinations will bear no fruit. No obstacles can stop Iran's nuclear work."