Experts: Iran may skirt diplomatic, military efforts to prevent its nukes

Some say that a sufficient number of advanced centrifuges could drop Iran’s breakout time to a nuclear weapon from a year to a few months to even weeks.

January 13, 2019 20:01
4 minute read.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gestures as members of Iranian armed forces take part in a rally ma

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gestures as members of Iranian armed forces take part in a rally marking the anniversary of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, in Tehran, Iran, February 11, 2018. (photo credit: PRESIDENT.IR/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)


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Iran’s strategy may enable it to make an end-run around diplomatic and military actions which could stop it from developing nuclear weapons, two experts said on Sunday.

Three years after the Iran nuclear deal’s “Implementation Day,” former Israel Atomic Energy Official and current INSS expert as well as INSS Arms Control Director Emily Landau warned in a report that Tehran so far has been successful in sidestepping all attempts to fully halt its nuclear program.

While the two complimented the Trump administration for changing the tone on Iran and for the US pressure campaign, they expressed concern that the Islamic Republic still has the advantage.

“Empowered by ongoing efforts in the missile realm and diplomatic maneuvering to ensure that Trump is regarded as the outsider in his approach to Iran, Iran might yet prove successful in surviving the pressure campaign against it waged by the administration,” wrote the experts.

They said that, “If the present trends of ignoring Iran’s past activities in the nuclear realm persist, including the IAEA's current unwillingness or inability to ascertain past and present nuclear activities, there will be severe repercussions.”

“At that point, it could be too late for any diplomatic or military actions to stop Iran from ultimately developing nuclear weapons and restoring a measure of stability to the Middle East,” they cautioned.

Questioned about why the window for a military strike could be thinner in the future then it is now, Landau told the Jerusalem Post that down-the-road, “breakout times for a weapon could really be shortened considerably.”

More specifically, she pointed out Iran’s continued experimentation with advanced centrifuges, which is even permitted under the deal.

She recalled that a substantial amount of time after the deal was already operating, it emerged that the International Atomic Energy Agency had made secret guarantees to the Islamic Republic that it could start significantly expanding its use of advanced centrifuges 11 years after the deal was inked.

Some say that a sufficient number of advanced centrifuges could drop Iran’s breakout time to a nuclear weapon from a year to a few months to even weeks. 

Her biggest concern if Tehran’s time for developing a nuclear weapon got shortened would be that it could cross the nuclear finish line “clandestinely, especially if the world continues, other than the US administration with the overall sentiment of…this deal is working.”

“If that continues, it means that international actors are not working to stop this now, Iran could reach the stage where it could get there clandestinely because the world is not paying attention to what is going on,” she said.

She said that if Iran “already had nuclear weapons, then we don’t really have a military option. If the world was vigilant and everyone was watching Iran the way Israel is watching, there could be more room,” to catch any clandestine nuclear efforts by Tehran.

Exhibit A of the international community, the IAEA and arms control community’s lack of keeping guard on the issue is its giving Iran a pass on the nuclear archives that were removed by the Mossad from the heart of Tehran in January 2018.

The two experts listed off that Iran’s secret nuclear files mentioned “specific plans for developing five nuclear bombs…specific locations where Iran has been advancing its military nuclear program, and evidence that Iran lied to the IAEA.”

“Yet although it received this information, the IAEA has yet to inspect any of these facilities or confront Iran with the evidence of deceit,” wrote Asculai and Landau.

Landau also noted a report last week by the Institute for Science and International Security which said that, “according to senior Israeli officials interviewed in November 2018…Israel was unaware that” a site discovered in the secret files “was connected to the Amad [nuclear weapons] effort, until it saw these documents from the archive.”

The report said that “because this site was a production-scale facility, it reinforces the view that Iran is capable of building nuclear weapons more quickly than previously thought.”

They also leveled some criticism at the US saying that, “although it is the largest financial contributor to the IAEA…it has not as yet exerted its influence to bring about the necessary changes to IAEA activities and to improve its reporting culture since implementation of the JCPOA.”

Next, the report notes Iran’s recent test of a medium-range missile that can reach the entire Middle East and parts of Europe, and can carry a nuclear warhead.

The authors wrote that to avoid shaking the boat with Iran, the EU continues to “emphasize that Iran's test is not a clear violation of UNSC resolution 2231, which only ‘calls upon’ Iran to cease such activities.

Many countries only started sounding the warning, she said, when Iran recently launched satellites, carrying out actions which could help it launch long-range missiles that could strike all of Europe and the US.

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