Analysis & Opinions - The National Interest

Use the Iran Deal to Pursue Netanyahu’s Bombshell

| May 07, 2018

Amazingly, the intrepid Mossad and Prime Minister Netanyahu may have breathed new life into the JCPOA.

Last week, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu dropped a bombshell: in January, Mossad agents stole some fifty-five thousand printed pages and 183 compact discs detailing Iran’s past convert nuclear weapons activities, by breaking into a warehouse and flying them out of the country. The significance of his disclosure was immediately controversial.

Opponents of the Iran deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), immediately said this is further reason to tear it up. Defenders responded that there is nothing new here. Both are wrong. One of us (Samore) was a deal supporter, the other (Tobey) a skeptic. We both now believe that the disclosures offer the means that President Donald Trump seeks to improve and enforce the deal.

We do not know the full contents of the document cache, and therefore cannot yet judge its ultimate significance. The size of the trove suggests that it contains more details than had been previously known about Iran’s nuclear weapons effort. Moreover, even the sliver released so far, hints at undeclared materials, equipment, and facilities—such as information on an underground facility to produce nuclear weapons components. If the information is verified, it would prove yet again that Tehran failed to provide complete and correct answers to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inquiries into the so-called “possible military dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear program, as provided by the JCPOA. Finally, there are hints about relatively recent activities by Iran’s Organization for Defensive Innovation and Research, which the Obama administration sanctioned in 2014 as a “Tehran-based entity that is primarily responsible for research in the field of nuclear weapons development.”

The disclosure, however, does not justify tearing up the Iran deal. To the contrary, the JCPOA should be used in three specific ways to respond to Iran’s deceit. First, the agreement establishes a Joint Commission to resolve compliance issues, with a fifteen-day deadline. The United States and other concerned parties should take the matter to the commission, seeking a strengthened mandate for the IAEA to investigate this new information.

Second, the deal anticipates “an exclusively peaceful, indigenous nuclear program, in line with scientific and economic considerations,” evolving gradually “at a reasonable pace” after the restrictions on Iran’s enrichment program begin to expire in eight years. Iran has said that it will eventually increase its enrichment capacity twenty-fold. The United States should seek a declaration by the non-Iranian Commission members now that any such expansion would violate the JCPOA—unless the IAEA can verify that any and all illicit activities substantiated by the agency have ceased.

For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Samore, Gary and William H. Tobey.“Use the Iran Deal to Pursue Netanyahu’s Bombshell.” The National Interest, May 7, 2018.