Think Tank: Archive Seized by Israel Shows Iran’s Nuclear Program ‘Never Ended’
An analysis of the Iranian nuclear archive seized by Israel in a Mossad operation last year showed that Iran’s nuclear program “never ended” and “could be continuing today,” according to a new report.
The archive was unveiled to the public in a televised address by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last April and consists of thousands of documents and other materials related to Iran’s nuclear program.
According to an analysis by the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington, DC-based think tank that studies nuclear proliferation issues, the seizure of the archive was an “unappreciated development,” and the documents were “extremely rich in new information.”
In particular, the archive shed light on the “Amad Plan,” in which Iran “aimed to develop and manufacture five 10 kiloton nuclear weapons, develop and build a missile suitable to deliver them, and to be prepared to carry out an underground nuclear test,” the analysis said. In 2003, “Iran reoriented it to a more disguised, albeit smaller, nuclear weapons program.”
In addition, the archive showed that “Iran might still be in breach of its nuclear nonproliferation undertakings” under the JCPOA nuclear agreement reached with six world powers in 2015. So damning is the evidence, said the institute, that it “highlights the need to fix the shortcomings in the Iran nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in terms of inspections, the end of nuclear limitations or ‘sunsets,’ and Iran’s continued work on nuclear-capable ballistic and cruise missiles.”
“It supports replacing the nuclear deal with a more comprehensive, long-lasting approach aimed at blocking Iran’s latent pathway to nuclear weapons,” the analysis added.
The archive showed that the US and the International Atomic Energy Agency “underestimated the extent of Iran’s post-2003 nuclear weapons work. The archive materials suggest that Iran can produce deliverable nuclear weapons more quickly than earlier assessed.”
Moreover, many of the officials involved in the Amad Plan and other nuclear activities, such as current President Hassan Rouhani, are still in power.
Information gleaned from the archive demonstrated a strong continuity in Iranian nuclear activities over the last two decades. Under international pressure, Iran abandoned the Amad Plan in 2003, but did not end it.
“The new information in the Iranian atomic archive provides a more complete picture of the transformation of the Amad program into successor activities, which were intended to allow Iran to continue to pursue key nuclear weapons-related work that had no plausible civilian justification in a more covert, dispersed manner,” the analysis stated. “The information in the archive suggests that the nuclear weapons program never ended — and it could be continuing today.”
Until this day, notes the institute, the IAEA “has been unable to answer the fundamental question about the status of Iran’s nuclear weapons program: do some activities continue?” and “has not yet been able to certify that Iran’s nuclear program is truly peaceful.”
So deceptive was Iran regarding its nuclear program that there were “actually ‘deception folders’ in the archive that catalog Iran’s lies to inspectors, to enable it to be consistent from meeting to meeting,” the analysis pointed out.
Iran eventually redistributed its nuclear activities to various sites around the country, but its “intention was not to turn the program into a strictly peaceful one; rather, the archive materials show that Tehran sought to preserve its nuclear weapons capabilities for the future,” the analysis said. “Unanswered remains the question of these activities’ status today.”
Much of the equipment used in the nuclear program, the institute noted, has yet to be located, and could still be used in a covert weapons program. The JCPOA requires some of this material be accounted for, and the failure to do so constitutes a violation of the deal on Iran’s part.
“It is difficult to see how storing and curating an extensive nuclear weapons archive focused on developing and building missile-deliverable nuclear weapons is consistent with Iran’s pledge under the JCPOA that under no circumstances will it ever seek nuclear weapons,” the institute said.
“Overall, the new information raises fundamental doubts about whether Iran is complying with its comprehensive safeguards agreement, the associated Additional Protocol, the JCPOA, and even the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” the analysis stated.
In response, said the institute, efforts must be made to “create a full correct and complete history of Iran’s nuclear weapons efforts; obtain answers from Iran about the fate of the equipment, material, technology, and personnel discussed in the archive; and more broadly, to characterize the Amad Plan and its successor programs.”
“The IAEA should be asked to verify sites, locations, facilities, documentation, equipment, and materials mentioned in the archive, question personnel involved, and report on that work. Iran should be urged to cooperate fully in these investigations,” the institute added, and Iran must “destroy or render harmless, under IAEA supervision, its nuclear weapons archive, in particular nuclear weapons-related designs, materials, documents, and single nuclear-weapon use equipment.”
“The revelations from the archive should motivate the United States and its allies to push harder to fix the flaws in the Iran nuclear deal or reach a replacement agreement,” said the institute. At the moment, “Iran will be well positioned to make nuclear weapons at a time of its choosing once the nuclear deal limitations end, and could also make them much more quickly than the world previously assessed.”
“It is critical that the international community reach a new nuclear agreement that can replace or supplement the JCPOA and fix its weaknesses in terms of sunsets, inspections, and nuclear-capable ballistic and cruise missiles,” the analysis concluded.