Tags: nuclear materials | North Korea | Syria | Marie Harf

Reports: Iran Concealing Nuclear Materials in North Korea, Syria

By    |   Tuesday, 31 March 2015 03:08 PM EDT

As suspicions grow that Iran may be hiding nuclear material in North Korea, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf dismissed the possibility and suggested that it was a strange concept, the Washington Free Beacon reported Tuesday.

Harf termed reports describing the transfer of ballistic missile technology and enriched uranium between the two rogue regimes as "bizarre" and said she was unaware of them.

In fact, however, the information has been in the public domain for years. And experts say that if reports that Iran is concealing nuclear material outside its borders are true, it would shatter the basis for any deal agreed to during the current nuclear talks involving Tehran and Washington.

Writing for The Daily Beast, veteran China-watcher Gordon Chang observes that negotiators from the United States and Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany (collectively known as the "P5 +1") want the preliminary agreement now being negotiated with Iran to ensure that the regime is at least a year from being able to rush into production a nuclear device.

The P5+1 believe that by monitoring Iran's centrifuges (supersonic-speed machines that make it possible to upgrade uranium to weapons-grade purity) weapons inspectors will be able to keep track of the country's complete stock of fissile material.

The United States and its fellow negotiators want to get Iran to agree to adhere to the "Additional Protocol" allowing the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency to conduct inspections of suspected Iranian nuclear facilities anytime and anywhere. If Iran were to agree to this, the Obama administration and its allies will claim to have achieved a major success because Tehran will be unable to conceal centrifuges in hidden locations.

The problem with this argument, Chang writes, is that since October 2012, Iran has been stationing personnel at a North Korean military base in a mountainous region near the border with China, and Tehran and Pyongyang are believed to be working on both nuclear weapons and missile development.

But "no inspections of Iranian sites will solve a fundamental issue," Chang writes. "As can be seen from the North Korean base housing Tehran's weapons specialists, Iran is only one part of a nuclear weapons effort spanning the Asian continent. North Korea, now the world's proliferation superstar, is a participant. China, once the mastermind, may still be a co-conspirator. Inspections inside the borders of Iran, therefore, will not give the international community the assurance it needs."

Asked by the Free Beacon about Harf's dismissive comments about the North Korea-Iran connection, Chang said he was puzzled by the idea that "the country with the world's most highly developed technical intelligence capabilities does not know what has been in open sources for years."

Given this professed U.S. ignorance, it should be no surprise that "North Korea transfers nuclear weapons technology to Iran and others with impunity," Chang said.

Pyongyang could "go on CNN and say, 'Hey, Secretary Kerry, we're selling the bomb to Iran,' and the State Department would still say they know nothing about it," Chang added. "No wonder we're in such trouble."

Another problem is that President Bashar al-Assad's Syrian regime – another longtime Iranian ally – may also be involved in Iran's nuclear concealment efforts.

Ali Alfoneh and Reuel Gerecht of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies wrote recently that a nuclear reactor in Syria that was destroyed by Israeli warplanes in September 2007 was most likely a North Korean-backed Iranian project.

Gerecht said the White House hopes that monitoring Iran's known weapons facilities will be sufficient to verify compliance with a nuclear deal. That view is "mystifying," he told the Free Beacon, given the CIA's longstanding inability to penetrate Iran's nuclear-weapons program.

"But since they fear a breakdown, they bend their credulity in Iran's favor," Gerecht said of the Obama administration. "This has been the story of the negotiations from the beginning."

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As suspicions grow that Iran may be hiding nuclear material in North Korea, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf dismissed the possibility and suggested that it was a strange concept, the Washington Free Beacon reported Tuesday.
nuclear materials, North Korea, Syria, Marie Harf
Tuesday, 31 March 2015 03:08 PM
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