Captured Files Reveal the Extent of Iran’s Nuclear-Weapons Program

June 11 2018

In April Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel had spirited thousands of documents out of a secret Iranian nuclear archive. Having examined some of these files and compared them with publicly available information about the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, David Albright testified before Congress last week about what has been learned, about the White House’s decision to leave the 2015 nuclear deal, and about the possibility of the U.S. and Europe cooperating to reimpose sanctions:

These revelations highlight the fundamental mistake made by the [nuclear-deal] negotiators in not settling the issue of Iran’s past and possibly ongoing nuclear-weapons program prior to the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (or JCPOA, as the agreement is formally known) in January 2016. Because this issue is so fundamental to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, the decision to sweep it under the carpet served not only to weaken the JCPOA but, with this new information, serves to call into question its very purpose. The new information makes the [JCPOA’s sunset clauses, which allow Iran to resume prohibited nuclear activities beginning in 2022] far deadlier, as the documents show that Iran’s nuclear-weapons program is both more organized and more advanced than previously thought, allowing a faster dash to a bomb. . . .

According to the Israelis, this archive was not gathering dust but was part of an ongoing stewardship program meant to enable Iran to reincarnate its nuclear-weapons program on short order. . . . In short, Iran is maintaining and nurturing a reconstitution kit ready for use to build nuclear weapons. The conditions of the existence of this archive and the extent of the information in it suggest that Iran has been violating the JCPOA and the spirit of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Under the JCPOA, Iran agreed that “under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop, or acquire nuclear weapons.” . . .

The new information makes it more urgent to fix the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections in Iran, even if the JCPOA falters. Iran is still a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and its comprehensive-safeguards agreement requires cooperation with the IAEA in determining whether its program is purely peaceful. Iran has a binding legal obligation to grant the IAEA inspectors access to sites, materials, equipment, documents, and personnel to resolve outstanding questions about the military dimensions of its past nuclear activities. The IAEA has an obligation to investigate completely the personnel, sites, equipment, and activities described in the nuclear archive discovered by Israel, including gaining access to military sites. If Iran refuses, then it is in violation of its . . . obligations.

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Read more at Institute for Science and International Security

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran nuclear program, Mossad, Nuclear proliferation, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

In Gaza, Israel Must Try to Restore Deterrence While Avoiding War

Oct. 22 2018

Early Wednesday morning, a rocket fired from Gaza landed in the city of Beersheba, striking the courtyard of a home. (The woman who lived there, and her three children, barely escaped.) Israel responded swiftly with airstrikes, and the IDF reported that this weekend was the quietest along the Gaza separation fence since March 30, when the weekly riots there began. Yet some 10,000 Palestinians still gathered at the border, burning tires and throwing stones, grenades, and makeshift explosives at Israeli soldiers on the other side. Meanwhile, writes Eran Lerman, Jerusalem faces a difficult decision about how to proceed:

The smaller terrorist organizations in Gaza—Islamic Jihad, which operates as a satellite of Iran, and radical Sunni groups inspired by Islamic State—are the primary ones that want to ratchet up the violence into a full-scale war. For them, a major war in Gaza could be an opportunity to build themselves up on the ruins of Hamas. It also looks as if Iran, too, has an interest in escalating the situation in Gaza and pulling Israel into a war that will detract from its ability to focus on its main defense activity right now: keeping Iran from digging down in Syria.

The third player consistently working to worsen the situation in Gaza and torpedo Egypt’s efforts to broker a cease-fire is the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas, for whom—as he once said in Jenin— “the worse things are, the better.” . . .

All of these considerations are counterbalanced, paradoxically, by Hamas’s interest in continuing to dictate the terms of any cease-fire with Israel while refraining from a war, which the Hamas leadership knows would be self-destructive. Its moves to escalate the conflict—arson balloons, breaches of the border fence—have been intentionally selected as ways of taking things to the brink without toppling over into the abyss. . . .

And Israel? A harsh, well-defined blow is vital for it to maintain its mechanism of deterrence. A missile hitting Beersheba is not a trivial occurrence. However, as far as possible, and given the broader considerations of the regional balance of power as well as Israel’s fundamental interest in avoiding a ground war, it would be best to make the most of Egypt’s mediation.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Palestinian Authority