A uranium enrichment facility that had been kept secret by Iranian authorities for at least three years was found to be a giant, inert, reserve bunker, according to the head of the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). His statements were published Thursday, on the heels of anti-regime rallies across Iran at which at least some protesters chanted against nuclear weapons development under the current government.
Mohamed El-Baradei, head of the IAEA, was quoted as saying the Qom site, located 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of the Iranian capital, is nothing but a "hole in a mountain." It was designed as an underground bunker to provide a fortified back-up in the event the Natanz uranium enrichment plant was bombed by Iran's adversaries, he suggested. According to the IAEA inspection teams that visited the previously concealed Qom facility last month, El-Baradei explained, the site is "nothing to be worried about."
Later this month, the IAEA will release its full report on the Qom inspection mission.
'Obama, You Are Either With Us Or With Them'
On Wednesday, the Iranian regime held the thirtieth annual commemoration of the 1979 takeover of the American embassy by Islamist gunmen. However, the milestone event was leveraged by tens of thousands of anti-regime and pro-democracy demonstrators for their own counter-rally in various Iranian cities. The results were arrests, large teargas clouds and police violence, including fierce beatings, sometimes assisted by pro-government demonstrators.
Among the chants heard in the streets at the anti-regime protests were two that were new in their sentiments and subjects, and related directly to the international reaction to Iran's nuclear weapons program:
In the above amateur video from the heart of a Tehran rally on November 4, protesters are chanting that the Iranian people "don't want an atom bomb."
In other video clips captured by the protesters themselves, and aired on major news networks such as CNN, people chanted in the streets of Iranian cities, "Obama, you are either with us or with them," in reference to the current Islamic Republic government.
As happened during Iran's Al-Quds Day, pro-democracy protesters planned their latest protest to take place under cover of the official government anti-American rally. Ahead of Wednesday's commemoration, the police warned that anyone chanting anti-regime slogans would be arrested. In fact, it appeared that the government-backed rallies were larger than those of the opposition, although the violence and incommunicado arrests at previous pro-democracy protests likely deterred significant numbers of people from coming out into the streets.
Iran's government media dismissed the large anti-regime protests and the subsequent police crackdown as foreign media distortions.