What Netanyahu's speech about 'Iran's lies' means for the nuke deal's future

The sheer number of files, including physical items, covering the five elements of developing a nuclear weapons, were stunning.

By
April 30, 2018 23:15
4 minute read.

Israel claims proof Iran "lied" about past nuclear program, April 30, 2018 (Reuters

Israel claims proof Iran "lied" about past nuclear program, April 30, 2018 (Reuters

 
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The Mossad’s achievement in secretly whisking more than 100,000 Iranian nuclear files out of the Shorabad district in Iran to Israel, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented late Monday, is mind-blowing.

The proof that Iran: 1) lied in the past about continuing its nuclear weapons program, and 2) continued to try to conceal that from the world, even after the 2015 nuclear deal obligated it to come clean, is as definitive as it gets.

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At the same time, there was zero proof of new violations of the 2015 nuclear deal other than Iran continuing to cover up its past violations.

Several former Israeli intelligence officials, at the highest levels from a range of agencies, were in agreement on these points.

Judging from US President Donald Trump’s immediate endorsement of Netanyahu’s presentation as proof of his negative view of the Iran nuclear deal, it also seems clear the prime minister achieved his likely goal of giving fresh ammunition to Trump to “fix or nix” the
deal.

While Netanyahu’s impressive presentation used complex verbiage and concepts referring to metallurgic and hemispheric tests, for those following the issues closely over time, several points stood out to support these points.

The sheer number of files, including physical items, covering the five elements of developing a nuclear weapons, were stunning.

Accumulating these very likely involved a range of agents and teams from the Mossad’s Tzomet (human spying) and Neviot (technological spying) sections and from Iranian defectors. Smuggling anything physical from that far away could also have involved the Israel Air Force or navy special forces at some point.

While Israeli Mossad agents are rarely caught, do not be surprised if some Iranians are arrested and accused of spying in the coming months.

Even if, as Israel has argued, Iran never came clean and former US secretary of state John Kerry knew this when signing the deal, there is nothing like seeing pictures on a map of the five test sites where Iran was planning to test its nuclear weapons.

If you were against the deal and furious that Iran never came clean, this is your smoking gun to end it.

However, the dates Netanyahu mentioned and didn’t mention were also striking.

Anyone who has followed Iran’s nuclear program long enough recognized that much of what was presented adds lots of new evidence to known Iranian violations from the past, but did not broach major new ground on unknown violations. Some of the material relates to
Iranian violations going back to the early 2000s or even the 1990s.

That does not mean this is not significant or that it should not weigh heavily on Trump and the European Union as they decide the future of the Iran nuclear deal. However, it does mean that continued confirmations from top Israeli and US intelligence officials, including Mike Pompeo, showing Iran has otherwise complied with the nuclear deal since its signing are still valid.

So if you supported the Iran deal, what would stick out tonight was that as awesome as the Mossad’s spying reach may be, it did not catch a smoking gun – that is, it did not reveal a plan to violate the deal itself in the future, but only possible violations of past activity on which some individuals and agencies disagree.

In that sense, while Netanyahu’s speech and the Mossad’s success is one for the history books, the future of the Iran deal will likely be decided by the same constellation of issues that have existed until now.

The deal succeeded in emptying Iran’s nuclear uranium stockpile; blocked its plutonium path to a weapon; pushed the country back from being a couple of months away from a nuclear weapon to being between six to 12 months away – depending on certain assumptions of how quickly Iran could overcome remaining obstacles; and placed impressive inspections on Iran’s vast known nuclear facilities.

At the same time, the deal failed to stop Iran’s missile development – a crucial piece of nuclear weaponry; failed to give international inspectors access to military facilities; failed to stop Iran from testing advanced centrifuges; failed to halt Iranian terrorism in the region; and failed to prevent Iran from creating nuclear weapons when the deal expires.

As Trump and the EU decide which of these lists is more important, they will also need to consider the alternatives: How much worse will the deal’s failures get over time and will things get worse if there is no deal?

The answer to that question will arrive by May 12.

But on Monday night, it was Netanyahu’s stage and he unquestionably gave a push to those who demand the EU help fix the deal or nix it.

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