Iran’s underground enrichment bunker at Fordow has recently seen upgrades designed to boost its enrichment capacity by orders of magnitude. It will be a major topic when Iran and the P5+1 sit down in Kazakhstan for another round of talks regrading Iran’s atomic program. In anticipation of the talks Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the head of parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, is making it very clear that Iran will never shut down Fordow and that any rumors to the contrary are the result of Israeli machinations:
Iran will never shut down its Fordow uranium enrichment plant, a senior legislator was quoted as saying on Sunday, brushing off a demand from world powers who fear Tehran is working to develop an atomic weapons capability… Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, referred to the reported offer on Sunday and dismissed any idea of a closure… “Fordow will never be shut down because … our national duty is to be able to defend our nuclear and vital centres against an enemy threat,” Boroujerdi was quoted as saying by the agency. “This suggestion (shutting down Fordow) is meant to help the Zionist regime (Israel),” he added.
The Revolutionary Guard enrichment facility, a hollowed out bunker, is thought to be critical to the Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambitions. Tehran can use it to enrich uranium to 20% purity, a level from which it is easy to upgrade to weapons-grade levels.
Western intelligence services announced the existence of the site – satellite photos available here – in 2009, at least three years after work is believed to have begun on it. Iran greeted the public revelations dismissively. Iranian officials issued a short statement to the IAEA acknowledging the installations’s existence, belatedly meeting NPT obligations they had been in violation of throughout the facility’s use.
Also in anticipation of the Kazakhstan talks, Iran has floated a new proposal regarding concessions. It’s the latest in a series of diplomatic offers and tactics that have been criticized as flatly unacceptable by regional Arab states and identified as stalling tactics by American, European, and United Nations officials. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast this time suggested that Tehran “will offer ways to remove [the P5+1’s] concerns” provided that Iran’s “full rights” to nuclear energy are recognized.
It is unclear what Tehran considers to fit under the umbrella of its “full rights,” but if Boroujerdi’s commitment to never shutting down Fordow is included, the offer is unlikely to assuage the international community’s concerns.