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Netanyahu’s wake-up call to the world on the Iranian nuclear program
By Amb. Dore Gold
During the last 10 years, there were times when remarkable revelations were made public about the Iranian nuclear program that left little doubt Tehran was seeking a nuclear weapon, no matter what its spokesmen claimed.
In February 2008, Olli Heinonen, then serving as the deputy director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), gave a highly classified briefing to representatives of 100 states in which he revealed that Iran was working on a warhead for its Shahab-3 missile that was to be detonated at an altitude of 600 meters. At that height, a conventional explosion would have no effect on the ground. But that was the height of the explosion of the atomic bomb used at Hiroshima. The Shahab-3 had a range of 1,300 kilometers and could strike Israel from Iranian territory. It had been operational in the Iranian armed forces since 2003.
Three years later, the IAEA reported in May 2011 that it had concerns about the “possible existence” of seven areas of Iranian military research. One of the most alarming revelations in the IAEA report was the research being conducted on “the removal of the conventional high explosive payload from the warhead of the Shahab-3 missile and replacing it with a spherical nuclear payload.” It should be reiterated that the language of the IAEA report was only about the “possible existence” of this work. Subsequent reports were more definitive, but were based on intelligence that much of the world did not see. There could always be some doubt of the veracity of these reports that Iran’s allies would stress.
Now Proof from Official Iranian Documents
The revelations put forward by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on April 30, 2018, included a number of these same reports and they looked familiar to those acquainted with the work of the IAEA. But now they were coming from original official documents with the stamp of the Iranian regime. It can be stated without any qualification that Iran had a nuclear weapons program. The whole Iran nuclear agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), consequently, had been negotiated under false pretenses. That was a significant development.
Iranian diagram for a nuclear warhead from the Iranian archives files
Take, for example, the assertion frequently made during these talks that Iran could not possibly have been working on a nuclear bomb, because there was a fatwa, an Islamic legal ruling, forbidding the development of atomic weapons that had been issued by the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. President Obama made reference to the fatwa on September 27, 2013. On November 24, 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke about the Iranian fatwa and the fact that Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif had made reference to it. A spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council stated at that time that Iranians raised the fatwa during their negotiations with the West.
Of course, there was no fatwa on Khamenei’s website, but the rumors about the fatwa were used by Iranian negotiators to falsely assure the West that Iran did not seek a nuclear arsenal. Now, this has been shown to be plainly false.
Add to that the assumption of negotiators that Iran was moving in a “moderate” direction. This was a central theme sold to the Washington establishment by Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications. Iran today is seeking regional hegemony in the Middle East with its forces supporting insurgencies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, and Yemen. There are reports of Iranians seeking to help the Polisario against Morocco. Negotiations with a status quo power look very different from negotiations with a state still seeking to export the Islamic Revolution.
There is a huge difference in holding negotiations with a state like Iran if you assume it has no intention of building nuclear weapons versus a situation in which you have incontrovertible evidence that Iran is determined to become a nuclear power. The substance of an agreement will be very different.
While there is some debate over what clauses Iran violated in the JCPOA, a very strong case can be made to the effect that, given the Israeli revelation, Iran unquestionably violated the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1970.
Take for example, the whole question of whether you need a truly robust system of verification that would include undeclared nuclear sites. There is also the question of ballistic missile restrictions.
The United Nations put such limitations on the missile arsenal of Saddam Hussein after the first Gulf War with Resolution 687. But in the case of Iran, the P-5 plus 1 settled for “verification light” and did not restrict ballistic missiles in any way. A different approach is needed. In the nuclear realm, the verification regime must look very different for a state that had an unquestionable goal of arming itself with nuclear weapons and delivery systems for them.
For this reason the JCPOA must be completely revamped or scrapped. This is not a case of “trust but verify,” the adage used by President Ronald Reagan. It is a case of don’t trust and verify with the most intrusive means you have.
Ambassador Dore Gold has served as President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs since 2000. From June 2015 until October 2016 he served as Director-General of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Previously he served as Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN (1997-1999), and as an advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon