The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—as the 2015 nuclear deal is formally known—required the Islamic Republic to convert its Fordow uranium-enrichment facility to a “nuclear, physics, and technology center” for international civilian scientific cooperation. Thanks to the cache of documents the Mossad spirited out of Iran last year, there is no longer any doubt that this heavily fortified facility, long kept secret, had been designed for the production of weapons-grade nuclear fuel. Drawing on publicly available information, including satellite images, David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, Frank Pabian, and Jack Toole conclude that Tehran had no intention of converting the complex into anything else:
Since the implementation of the JCPOA [in 2016], Iran has been bolstering its ability to build gas centrifuges [in the complex’s aboveground] support area, while maintaining its capability to produce weapons-grade uranium in the tunnel complex [below]. In an ominous development, Iran recently announced the opening of key new centers at the support area.
[Even before the U.S. left the nuclear deal], high levels of activity had been observed at the Fordow support area. Additions to the area include the 2016 installation of a Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile system and the construction of several building complexes.
[T]here is little reason to believe that Iran ever intended any meaningful conversion of the Fordow tunnel complex into a technical and scientific international center of cooperation, let alone the closely associated support area. This deeply buried gas-centrifuge tunnel complex is too important to Iran, since it can be reconstituted if the deal fails. It can also be reverted . . . to its original purpose of making weapons-grade uranium for nuclear weapons. With a complex specifically built so that it would be extremely difficult to destroy by military action, the international community could face few options if Iran does choose to move to much higher enrichment at Fordow.