By Arab News
By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh*
Any policy analysts, scholars or politicians who still advocate for a return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, aka the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), must recognize how the Iranian regime used the agreement as cover to further intensify its controversial nuclear projects.
Several credible reports and statements from senior Iranian officials have made it clear that Tehran was advancing its nuclear development even after the P5+1 (the US, the UK, France, Russia, China, and Germany) and Iran signed the nuclear deal in 2015.
A report published last week by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) shows that Tehran was lying to the world when it said it had stopped its nuclear activities under the JCPOA. The report claims that the Iranian regime continued to pursue the development of nuclear weapons, particularly at the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, which operates within the Ministry of Defense and is controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
The NCRI had previously been the first to reveal Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities at two major sites, Natanz and Arak, in 2000. Due to its connections in Iran, its information is said to have a high level of credibility. Frank Pabian, an adviser on nuclear non-proliferation matters at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, told The New York Times in 2010 that the NCRI is “right 90 percent of the time.”
This new revelation should not come as a surprise, since the Tehran regime has a history of hiding its nuclear developments from the international community.
In his 2018 speech to the UN General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broke a story when he stated that Iran had a “secret atomic warehouse for storing massive amounts of equipment and material from (its) secret nuclear weapons program,” at a time when the regime claimed it was complying with the terms of the nuclear deal. Although Iranian leaders insisted that the nuclear warehouse was a carpet cleaning facility, traces of radioactive uranium were later detected at the site by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors.
In addition, Israel’s seizure of documents from a nuclear archive in Tehran, also in 2018, answered some questions that the IAEA had failed to address for decades. The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) subsequently reported: “Iran intended to build five nuclear warheads, each with an explosive yield of 10 kilotons and able to be delivered by ballistic missile.”
Even the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, openly admitted to quietly purchasing replacement parts for its Arak nuclear reactor while Iran was conducting the negotiations for the JCPOA, under which it was required to destroy the original components. He recalled last year: “The leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) warned us that they (the P5+1) were violators of agreements. We had to act wisely.”
He added of the Arak nuclear reactor core: “There are tubes where the fuel goes. We had bought similar tubes, but I could not declare this at the time. When they told us to pour cement into the tubes… we said: ‘Fine. We will pour.’ But we did not tell them that we had other tubes. Otherwise, they would have told us to pour cement into those tubes as well. Now we have the same tubes.”
Furthermore, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi in March raised serious concerns about possible clandestine and undeclared nuclear sites in Iran. He said: “The agency identified a number of questions related to possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities at three locations in Iran. The agency sought access to two of the locations. Iran has not provided access to these locations and has not engaged in substantive discussions to clarify the agency’s questions.”
These developments demonstrate that the nuclear deal only paved the way for the Iranian regime to intensify its dangerous nuclear activities. The JCPOA provided the regime’s leaders with vast additional funding, most of which was funneled into the treasury of the IRGC for its ballistic missile and nuclear projects.
Now, the Iranian regime’s estimated breakout time — the time required to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one nuclear weapon — is as short as three and a half months. It is violating all of the restrictions of the JCPOA, including by increasing its stockpile of low-enriched uranium from 1,020.9 kg to 1,571.6 kg as of May 20. That is nearly eight times more than the regime was allowed to maintain under the nuclear deal.
According to an ISIS report released last month: “A new development is that Iran may have enough low-enriched uranium to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a second nuclear weapon, where the second one could be produced more quickly than the first, requiring in total as little as 5.5 months to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for two nuclear weapons.”
Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities underline the fact that appeasing and providing relief to the regime will only empower and enable it to further pursue its controversial atomic weapon ambitions.
- Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh