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.