How Iran Hid Its Nuclear Program, and Why It Matters

Nov. 28 2018

In January, a group of Mossad agents broke into a top-secret nuclear archive outside of Tehran. Bent on locating the most important paper files, they discovered nearly 200 CDs and DVDs, all of which their superiors in Israel told them to take even if that meant delaying their carefully planned escape. The risk paid off: not only did they avoid capture, but analysts have by now used the information to put together a history of Iran’s attempts to build a nuclear arsenal. Ronen Bergman explains:

Iran’s secret military nuclear program began to take shape in 1992 or 1993 . . . [and was eventually] titled the “AMAD project.” . . . So what is the purpose of the AMAD project? The answer to this question, too, can be found in the archive: . . . the Iranian plan was to produce five warheads with a yield of ten kilotons each, and develop the ability to assemble these warheads on the Iranian-made Shahab-3 missile. Moreover, nuclear experts who examined the documents say that the Iranian leaders’ plan lays out far more extensive infrastructure than what is needed to produce “only” five bombs. . . .

In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq, and Tehran feared it was next in line, . . . so [it] decided to . . . close the AMAD project, only to reopen it under a different name. This development was interpreted differently by Israel and the United States. The latter determined that closing the AMAD project brought the nuclear program to a halt. Israel, on the other hand, claimed that [replacing AMAD was] an Iranian scam, and that the two projects were one and the same. The documents from the archive show that Israel was right. . . .

[Iran’s goal was] to deceive the world and develop a program that would continue where the AMAD project left off. The new initiative was titled the “SPND project,” and unlike its precursor, AMAD, which was entirely secret, SPND has two sides: the overt and public side, which allows the Iranians to claim the nuclear program was meant for peaceful purposes (medicine, etc.), and the covert side, which allows Iran to continue developing nuclear weapons. SPND, by the way, is still active today. . . .

And so the Iranian project continued from 2004, under SPND, until the signing of the nuclear agreement in the summer of 2015. . . . After the nuclear agreement was signed, Iran conducted its policy along two parallel tracks. In one, it submitted some material to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which issued an official report in December 2015. This report, which in effect ignores the questions left [unanswered by Tehran], enables implementation of the nuclear agreement. In the other track, Tehran began to do everything in its power to hide everything it had on its nuclear program.

Thus, Iran’s stubborn insistence during the 2014-15 negotiations that it be allowed to continue to enrich uranium for its civilian nuclear program—in which U.S. negotiators acquiesced—was patently dishonest. Furthermore, its nuclear scientists might still be working on building atomic weapons at sites closed to IAEA inspectors. And even if the Islamic Republic has ceased such work, it has kept documents and a covert nuclear-research infrastructure so that it can resume building atomic weapons as the nuclear deal’s restrictions expire—which they will do in phases between 2023 and 2030.

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More about: Iran nuclear program, Israel & Zionism, Mossad, Politics & Current Affairs


“Ending the War in Yemen” Would Lead to More Bloodshed and Threaten Global Trade

Dec. 13 2018

A bipartisan movement is afloat in Congress to end American support for the Saudi-led coalition currently fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. With frustration at Riyadh over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, reports of impending famine and a cholera outbreak in Yemen, and mounting casualties, Congress could go so far as to cut all funding for U.S. involvement in the war. But to do so would be a grave mistake, argues Mohammed Khalid Alyahya:

Unfortunately, calls to “stop the Yemen war,” though morally satisfying, are fundamentally misguided. . . . A precipitous disengagement by the Saudi-led coalition . . . would have calamitous consequences for Yemen, the Middle East, and the world at large. The urgency to end the war reduces that conflict, and its drivers, to a morality play, with the coalition of Arab states cast as the bloodthirsty villain killing and starving Yemeni civilians. The assumption seems to be that if the coalition’s military operations are brought to a halt, all will be well in Yemen. . . .

[But] if the Saudi-led coalition were to cease operations, Iran’s long arm, the Houthis, would march on areas [previously controlled by the Yemeni government] and exact a bloody toll on the populations of such cities as Aden and Marib with the same ruthlessness with which they [treated] Sanaa and Taiz during the past three years. The rebels have ruled Sanaa, kidnapping, executing, disappearing, systematically torturing, and assassinating detractors. In Taiz, they fire mortars indiscriminately at the civilian population and snipers shoot at children to force residents into submission.

[Moreover], an abrupt termination of the war would leave Iran in control of Yemen [and] deal a serious blow to the global economy. Iran would have the ability to obstruct trade and oil flows from both the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab el-Mandeb strait. . . . About 24 percent of the world’s petroleum and petroleum products passes through these two waterways, and Iran already has the capability to disrupt oil flows from Hormuz and threatened to do so this year. Should Iran acquire that capability in Bab el-Mandeb by establishing a foothold in the Gulf of Aden, even if it chose not to utilize this capability oil prices and insurance costs would surge.

Allowing Tehran to control two of the most strategic choke points for the global energy market is simply not an option for the international community. There is every reason to believe that Iran would launch attacks on maritime traffic. The Houthis have mounted multiple attacks on commercial and military vessels over the past several years, and Iran has supplied its Yemeni proxy with drone boats, conventional aerial drones, and ballistic missiles.

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More about: Iran, Oil, Politics & Current Affairs, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen