A MILITARY truck carrying a missile and a picture of Iran’s leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei drives in a parade marking the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war in Tehran.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The UN International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation board of governors voted last Tuesday to close its investigation into Iran’s past nuclear weapons activities. While there may have been joy in Tehran over the decision, Jerusalem was more jittery than ever about Iran’s plans.
“Serious doubts and outstanding issues regarding Iran’s program still remain,” the Foreign Ministry said.
The IAEA decision “sends a wrong message to the Iranians that the international community is willing to look the other way,” added National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, welcoming the move, said it allowed the nuclear watchdog “to turn its focus now to the full implementation and verification of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which prohibits the resumption of such nuclear weapons-related activities and provides comprehensive tools for deterring and detecting any renewed nuclear weapons work.”
The JCPOA, agreed upon between world powers and Iran this past summer, seeks to halt Tehran’s nuclear work and allow for strict international monitoring in exchange for sanctions relief. At the same time, the IAEA and the Islamic Republic agreed on a road map granting the nuclear agency access to key materials and facilities in Iran throughout the fall.
This resulted in a December 2 report by the agency that determined that Iran had been actively designing a nuclear weapon until 2009, despite its claims to the contrary, but found no evidence that the effort succeeded in developing a complete blueprint for a bomb. With that report, the IAEA deemed it acceptable to conclude its investigation.
American Jewish groups joined Israel in expressing their displeasure with the IAEA’s decision. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said it was “deeply dismayed,” noting that Iran had “continuously cheated and dissembled, as confirmed by the most recent IAEA report.
“The international community has an obligation to hold Iran to its commitments. What incentives will there be for future compliance if they see that stonewalling, deception and threats allow them to undermine and negate the provisions of the JCPOA,” the Conference of Presidents said.
“The United States and its allies should insist that the IAEA examine all evidence pertaining to Iranian violations and should respond forcefully to any violations.”
AIPAC condemned the IAEA vote as a “deplorable” development.
“The IAEA is closing this file even after discovering further suspicious evidence and experiencing additional Iranian obstinacy,” AIPAC said. “The IAEA could have recommended delaying ‘implementation day’ until Iran demonstrated substantial compliance with its obligation to explain its past illicit nuclear activities.”
Within hours of the IAEA vote, the UN Security Council’s Panel of Experts on Iran determined in a confidential report, obtained by Reuters, that Iran had violated an October Security Council resolution by test-firing the medium-range Emad rocket, which is capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.
What steps, if any, is the international community planning to take against Tehran following this violation? In response to the report, the White House did not rule out punitive measures against Iran that were “consistent with US national security.” But what, in practice, does this mean? Iran’s ayatollahs have used terrorism as a tool since they seized power in 1979. They have had a hand in dozens of terrorist attacks around the globe, from Argentina to Afghanistan. Today, Iran continues to be the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, funding proxies such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, as well as fighters for Syrian President Bashar Assad. The Iranian regime sees Israel as its arch-enemy, and even if its leaders have toned down their rhetoric in the past year or so, they clearly oppose the existence of the Jewish state.
Iran’s coffers are now expected to fill as a result of sanctions relief. What will the Islamic Republic do with the billions of dollars pouring in? If it decides, as Israel fears, to pump them into its military and resume its covert nuclear program, can we trust the international community and the IAEA to act? What would it take to wake them up to the dangers posed by the Iranian regime? If the rest of the world chooses to look the other way, it may again fall on Israel to sound the alarm.