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

The Military Perils of Ceding Israeli Control of the West Bank

April 24 2019

In the years since the second intifada ended, no small number of retired high-ranking IDF officers and intelligence officials have argued that complete separation from the Palestinians is a strategic necessity for Israel. Gershon Hacohen, analyzing the geography, the changes in warfare—and Middle Eastern warfare in particular—since the 1990s, and recent history, argues that they are wrong:

The withdrawal of IDF forces from the West Bank and the establishment of a Palestinian state in these territories will constitute an existential threat to Israel. The absence of an Israeli military presence in the West Bank, especially along the Jordan River, will enable the creation of a terrorist entity, à la the Gaza Strip, a stone’s throw from the Israeli hinterland. This withdrawal will box Israel into indefensible borders, especially in light of the major changes in the nature of war in recent decades that have made the astounding achievements of 1967 impossible to replicate, not to mention the stark international response [that would follow Israel’s] takeover of a sovereign state.

The deployment of international forces in the West Bank will not, [contrary to what some have argued], ensure the demilitarization of the prospective Palestinian state, let alone prevent the entry of Arab forces into its territory (with or without its consent) and/or its transformation into a springboard for terrorist attacks against Israel. . . .

Israel [now] maintains control of some 60 percent of the West Bank’s territory, . . . which is mostly empty of Palestinian population but includes all of the West Bank’s Jewish communities and IDF bases, as well as main highways, vital topographic areas, and open spaces descending eastward to the Jordan Valley. The retention of this territory constitutes the absolute minimum required for the preservation of defensible borders and meets two conditions necessary for Israel’s security: the Jordan Valley buffer zone, without which it will be impossible to prevent the rapid arming of Palestinian terrorist groups throughout the West Bank; and control of intersecting transportation arteries, which, together with control of strategic topographical sites, enables rapid deployment of IDF forces deep inside Palestinian areas.

It is the surrender of such conditions in Gaza that has transformed the Strip into an ineradicable terrorist entity. Uprooting the West Bank’s Jewish communities will also make it difficult for the IDF to operate in the depth of the Palestinian state, especially if it is forced to fight simultaneously on a number of fronts, [since] simultaneous fighting in Gaza, which will be an integral part of the future Palestinian state, is a foregone conclusion.

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More about: Israeli grand strategy, Israeli Security, Palestinian statehood, West Bank