Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s revelatory speech on Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program – based on half a ton of secret Iranian documents spirited out of the heart of Tehran by Israeli intelligence – has stimulated worldwide debate on its significance.
Britain, France, and Germany all insist that the trove contains nothing previously unknown, and that the very truthfulness of the chief revelation contained in it – that Iran lied for years about a covert nuclear weapons program – only underscores the need to maintain the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 deal which allegedly ensured that Iran, the world’s biggest funder of Islamic terrorism, didn’t develop a nuclear weapon.
I couldn’t disagree more. The Israeli intelligence coup demonstrates as few things could that the depth of the Iranian regime’s extraordinarily complex nuclear deception requires that Iran’s entire nuclear infrastructure be dismantled if international security is to be obtained.
Consider: As a result of Israel’s intelligence discoveries, we now know that Iran responded to the exposure of its nuclear program by devising a strategy to both conceal the program’s extent and continue it under a combination of new open and covert projects.
We also now know that Iran’s state-funded scientists worked extensively on technology specifically designed for constructing a nuclear bomb, not the peaceful nuclear energy usage Iran has always publicly insisted is the reason for its nuclear research.
The 55,000 pages of documents and 183 CDs of data seized by Israeli intelligence that served as the basis of Mr. Netanyahu’s detailed speech reveal that Iran continued to maintain a largely covert nuclear weapons program, known as Project Amad, after it was originally exposed to international scrutiny for the first time by Iranian opposition groups in 2003.
This decision to conceal all records of its nuclear activities was, among other things, a violation of JCPOA. Moreover, it is now clear that Iran was using the 2015 deal to obtain breathing space in which its military and economic resources could be consolidated while continuing research and development on ballistic missiles. Iran’s research and development on ballistic missiles was not even a factor in the deal and thus continued unhindered and unrestricted by it.
The 2015 deal in any case permitted Iran to retain all the components of its nuclear weapons program – uranium enrichment, thousands of centrifuges, its Arak plutonium facility, and its Fordow underground nuclear facility – while shredding the international sanctions regime on Tehran and infusing its economy with hundreds of billions of dollars in unfrozen assets and sanctions relief.
Verification of illicit Iranian nuclear activity was impossible under the deal as only declared sites could be inspected, and only with three weeks’ notice, while Iranian nuclear weapons experts were allowed to provide their own soil samples from nuclear sites like Parchin without International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors present. IAEA inspectors were barred from entering the sites – those we know of.
In these circumstances, claims that Iran’s pathway to nuclear weapons were cut off for at least 10 years ring hollow. But many chose to ignore the gaping holes in this permissive deal that allowed Iran to maintain its nuclear program without violating the deal. In seven to 12 years, if Tehran even had chosen to abide by the deal, Iran would have had an unrestricted pathway to obtaining a nuclear weapons breakout capacity. At that point, it would have been impossible to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
Instead of recognizing the fatal flaws and risks of the 2015 deal, America’s allies chose to ignore what Iran had been doing in its nuclear facilities and failed to insist that these facilities be closed.
The JCPOA was predicated on full Iranian disclosure of its past nuclear activities, which Iran refused point blank to even consider. Iran was also in violation of continuing to purse nuclear weapons.
Accordingly, President Trump is correct in working to restore international sanctions, even if major powers like Russia and China have every economic interest to thwart his efforts. Irrespective of international efforts, the U.S. should impose its own comprehensive sanctions on Iran – its Central Bank, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, its oil and gas industry, and its key military assets and individuals – and use the international banking system to deprive Tehran of funds and unfettered commerce.
We also must make clear that if sanctions don’t work, the U.S. is prepared to use military force as a last resort – or that the U.S. is prepared to support Israel in any way she deems necessary to prevent this danger to the Western world.
We dare not allow Iran become a nuclear power.