What was missing from Netanyahu’s presentation

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a very impressive public presentation on the evening (Israel time) of April 30, 2018. It was impressive primarily because of its disclosure of an almost unbelievable intelligence coup: the “obtaining” by Israel of Iran’s top secret archive of its past efforts to develop, produce and test five Hiroshima-scale nuclear weapons.

The information gathered from these archives constitutes conclusive evidence that Iran lied throughout the years about its intentions, that at least up to 2003 it had an active project designed to accomplish its aims, that it set up another project to continue this work secret after 2003, and that the “deal” with Iran (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) dealt only partially and temporarily with the issue of preventing Iran from accomplishing its original program.

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True, much of the information disclosed by the prime minister was known – but now it is authenticated. Former US President Barack Obama chose to ignore the potential and defer the issue to a future administration. But the looming crisis did not disappear. When the term of the JCPOA is up in a few years, Iran will legally resume its enrichment activities.

The deal was not a good one. It left Iran with the potential to resume its weapons development program at will, did not really deal with the issue of the development of the nuclear explosive mechanism, did not deal with the issue of missile development, and the verification mechanism is an inefficient one, dealing only with limited issues and not using all available inspections powers.

However, is withdrawing from the JCPOA the best solution? What was really missing from the prime minister’s presentation was a solution to the present conundrum: if the deal is off, Iran will, almost certainly, resume its nuclear development activities immediately, yet if the deal is not abolished, Iran will be able to do so within a few years, with little or no oversight. The presentation did a very important thing: it presented evidence of the technical details of Iran’s past program, evidence that includes designs, locations and probably stocks of materials that were used and useful in the “AMAD” nuclear weapons development project.

This evidence is essential if the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors want to verify that these are no longer active, that the materials are all accounted for and the staff are all interrogated and prove that they are not engaged in the new project. All locations must be visited, sampled and searched thoroughly before the AMAD project can be officially declared dead and buried. Of course, that would still not uncover what Iran has been doing since the date of the closure of the archives.

To achieve that, three things must happen: the IAEA has to be ordered, by its governing bodies, to verify the above, comprehensively and with complete transparency; supplementary deals, covering the development of the explosive mechanism and covering the development of missiles, at whatever range and payloads, have to be reached shortly; the “sunset” clauses, delineating the time lines of the agreement in the JCPOA have to be extended indefinitely, without escape clauses.

From the first international reaction we learn that the general opinion was that there was no proof that Iran violated the agreement, but is that the real issue? Had Iran wanted to prove it had abandoned any nuclear weapons-related program it should have consented to opening up its archives, sites and materials to international inspections.

It did not do this because this is not its intention. By stating that Iran did not do wrong, these deniers are becoming accessories to its nuclear ambitions. Is this what they really want? Is not rocking the boat a viable strategy? Where have the noble cries for world peace gone? The prime minister should have presented the possible solutions. It is not too late to do so.

The author is a senior Research Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS).