National Security & Defense

Report: Iran Was Researching Nukes in 2009

(Photo Illustration: NRO)
And it may still be happening.

According to a sensitive International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report leaked to the press today on possible past nuclear-weapons-related work by Iran (click here to read), the agency found that Iran engaged in “coordinated” nuclear weapons activities until 2003, and some nuclear-weapons work continued until 2009. This contradicts a widely cited intelligence estimate declaring that Iran had given up nuclear-weapons work completely in 2003.

The IAEA said there were no “credible indications” of nuclear-weapons-related activities in Iran after 2009, though this is not the same as having positive evidence that they stopped. The IAEA also said that Iran’s nuclear-weapons work was limited to feasibility and scientific studies and to acquiring nuclear-weapons-related capabilities.

This IAEA report follows an investigation of the possible military dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program, an issue that the IAEA has been struggling to resolve for several years. Although this investigation was agreed to in the nuclear talks that produced the July 2015 agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, it was formally separated from the nuclear accord at Iran’s insistence. For this reason, sanctions against Iran can be lifted regardless of the PMD investigation’s outcome.

Experts believe that resolving PMD questions is crucial to verifying the Iran nuclear agreement, since this will help the IAEA understand what types of nuclear-weapons work Iran was engaged in and where this work was taking place.

IAEA director general Yukiya Amano warned last week that this report would be inconclusive and consist of pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. These comments understated the problems with the PMD report. Iran provided answers to all of the IAEA’s questions, but many of its answers did not provide new or meaningful information.

Some answers were contradicted by information the IAEA had obtained from other sources. According to the Wall Street Journal, some of the answers provided by Iran were not credible, and Tehran did not resolve concerns that Iran was conducting early preparations for a nuclear test.

Concerning the Parchin military base, which was inspected for the IAEA by Iranians under a secret side deal between Tehran and the IAEA, the agency said sampling indicated that an inspected site had not been used for the purposes reported by Iran.

Iranian officials have said that if the IAEA did not close its file on the PMD issue, Iran would pull out of the nuclear agreement.

#share#So what does this mean?

First, although Obama officials said today that the PMD investigation could be reopened if new information arises, they are certain to treat this inconclusive report as closing the file on Iran’s past nuclear-weapons-related work. This will allow the nuclear deal to proceed and most sanctions against Iran to be lifted, probably in a few months. Regardless of the Obama administration’s position, however, this issue is clearly far from resolved, and the next president must insist that the IAEA resume this investigation and pressure Tehran to fully cooperate.

Second, the IAEA’s contention that there are no “credible indications” of nuclear-weapons-related activities in Iran after 2009 is suspicious, since it is possible that the United States stopped providing intelligence to the IAEA on Iran’s nuclear-weapons work after Barack Obama became president. Congress must press for answers about this and determine whether the IAEA has what it considers “less than credible” indications that Iranian nuclear-weapons work continued after 2009. I find it hard to believe that Iran stopped all nuclear-weapons-related work when Obama assumed the Oval Office.

This report conclusively discredits the politicized 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, which said that Iran’s nuclear-weapons program was halted in 2003.

Third, this report conclusively discredits the politicized 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, which said that Iran’s nuclear-weapons program was halted in 2003. This NIE, which became a standard talking point for the Left to downplay the risks from Iran’s nuclear program, was an effort by liberal intelligence analysts to undermine the Bush administration’s Iran policy after the Iraq War. Both Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and former CIA director James Schlesinger called this NIE “stupid intelligence.” We now know how right they were.

Fourth, the new IAEA report is the latest sign that the nuclear deal with Iran is national-security fraud by the Obama administration. As recently as July, Secretary of State John Kerry said the PMD issue had to be resolved before sanctions could be lifted against Iran under the nuclear agreement. However, in October, State Department officials said Iran merely had to go through the motions of cooperating with the PMD investigation, and the quality of the information provided in its answers did not matter. The administration also said in October that the PMD investigation is not part of the nuclear accord, which could go forward and sanctions could be lifted regardless of its outcome.

#related#The new IAEA report is not just the latest sign of how bad the nuclear deal with Iran is; it is an indication that the American people were not told the truth about progress made in Iran’s nuclear program by U.S. officials and the American intelligence community. The Obama administration is certain to ignore this report so it will not undermine President Obama’s legacy nuclear agreement with Iran, but Congress, Republican presidential candidates, and national-minded Americans must seize upon it as an indication that Iran’s nuclear-weapons program probably continues today, and of the urgency to initiate new U.S. policies to stop this program and reverse Obama’s appeasement of Iran.

— Fred Fleitz is senior vice president for policy and programs for the Center for Security Policy. He followed the Iranian nuclear issue for the CIA, the State Department, and the House Intelligence Committee during his 25-year government career. Follow him on Twitter @fredfleitz.

Fred Fleitz, president of the Center for Security Policy, served in 2018 as deputy assistant to the president and to the chief of staff of the National Security Council. He previously held national-security jobs with the CIA, the DIA, the Department of State, and the House Intelligence Committee staff. He is the editor of the 2020 book Defending against Biothreats.


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