(CNSNews.com) – A trove of stolen Iranian data revealed by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday appear to provide evidence to corroborate long-held suspicions that the Tehran regime actively sought nuclear bombs and the means to deliver them.
More importantly, said Netanyahu, the Iranians evidently retained the material – “a comprehensive program to design, build and test nuclear weapons” – in order to use it at a future “time of its choice to develop nuclear weapons.”
Among the archived material “obtained” by the Israelis several weeks ago from a warehouse in south Tehran was evidence of plans to “design, produce and test five warheads each with ten kiloton TNT yield for integration on a missile,” he said.
The data, comprising 100,000 files and 183 CDs, covered the five key elements of a nuclear weapons program – designing the weapons, developing nuclear cores, building nuclear implosion systems, preparing nuclear tests, and integrated the devices onto ballistic missiles.
Iran has consistently denied ever pursuing nuclear weapons, but Netanyahu said the material proved that “Iran lied” – first about never having a nuclear weapons program in the first place; then again in 2015 when it did not come clean to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about that earlier activity.
Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration and partner governments, the question of whether Iran had at any time carried out work with applications for developing an atomic bomb is known as the “possible military dimension” (PMD) issue.
In December 2015, the IAEA reported its assessment that Iran had carried out a coordinated program relevant to development of a nuclear bomb until 2003, and continued some weapons-related activity for a number of years beyond that.
Two weeks after issuing that report, and in keeping with a key JCPOA deadline, the IAEA Board formally closed its consideration of the PMD issue, thereby allowing the nuclear deal’s “implementation day” to proceed a month later.
Then-Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the development, and his Iranian negotiating partner, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, declared that the decision meant “it can be said unequivocally that the fake issue of so-called military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program, known as PMD, now belongs to history.”
But there was criticism at the time over the way the IAEA went about reaching that conclusion – for example, its controversial decision to allow the Iranians to collect environmental samples from a military site where some of the most serious PMD work was suspected to have been carried out, while no IAEA personnel were physically present.
JCPOA critics decried the closure of the PMD file as a “whitewash,” with House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) saying the IAEA’s “capitulation allows the ayatollah [supreme leader Ali Khamenei] to keep vital nuclear research, materials and technology away from international inspectors while Iran moves closer to tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief.”
Now Israel has obtained and revealed nuclear research materials which Iran apparently never disclosed to the IAEA. Netanyahu said Monday the data had been shared with the United States – which “can vouch for its authenticity” – and would also be shared with the IAEA.
‘PMD investigation chickens are coming home to roost’
Zarif tweeted Monday that Netanyahu’s address was “a rehash of old allegations already dealt with by the IAEA.”
By contrast, Institute for Science and International Security president David Albright said on Twitter that, “Archives of Iranian documents, on-going stewardship of program are prima facie evidence that Iran could use them for a nuclear weapons program.”
“They are also a testament to the poor decision by the IAEA not to pursue the PMD investigation and instead rush through JCPOA implementation day,” he said. “PMD investigation chickens are coming home to roost.”
Netanyahu’s press conference was widely seen as designed to prod President Trump into withdrawing from the JCPOA in several weeks’ time – something many believe the president already planned to do, having signaled as much in January.
Still, Albright said it had also been “imperative to publicly announce the information to pressure the IAEA.”
Under the JCPOA, a “joint commission” comprising Iran and the six negotiating partners – the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany – is meant to oversee its implementation. It is chaired by European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
Responding to Netanyahu’s revelations, Mogherini implicitly scolded him for going public with them.
“If any party and if any country has information of non-compliance, of any kind, it can and should address and channel this information to the proper, legitimate, recognized mechanisms – the IAEA and the joint commission,” she said. “We have mechanisms in place to address eventual concerns.”
Mogherini also said that what she has seen of the material released does not bring into question Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal.
And, she stressed, the JCPOA “was put in place exactly because there was no trust between the parties, otherwise we would not have required a nuclear deal to be put in place.”
Iran nuclear deal advocates rallied around the Obama administration’s landmark agreement, saying essentially that Netanyahu had revealed nothing new, and had given no good reason to abandon the JCPOA.
“Netanyahu delivered his “j’accuse” Iran speech with characteristic aplomb,” said Barbara Slavin, director of the Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative. “However, apart from his contention that Israel had discovered the location of Iran’s ‘secret bomb archive’ in Tehran and obtained some of what it contains, nothing he said was new to those who have followed Iran for years.”
“It would be the height of folly to cast aside the JCPOA, which is successfully blocking Iran’s pathways to the bomb and providing added monitoring to detect and deter cheating,” tweeted Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association.
“Man, there are so many good experts taking apart Bibi’s weird presentation now,” tweeted Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, which lobbied extensively for the JCPOA. “I’d hate to be one of those groups who have hooked their wagon to that guy.”