Newly confirmed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a statement this week on Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. “For many years, the Iranian regime has insisted to the world that its nuclear program was peaceful. The documents obtained by Israel from inside of Iran show beyond any doubt that the Iranian regime was not telling the truth,” he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a dramatic televised presentation, revealed his country was in possession of tens of thousands of documents showing that Iran had pursued a nuclear weapons program. The documents, 55,000 in total, are in relation to something called Project Amad. Netanyahu claims these documents were kept in “massive safes,” hidden from both international weapons inspectors and officials from the P5+1.
Israel claims these documents prove Iran is in violation of the JCPOA, the deal to halt Iran’s nuclear program struck between Iran and the P5+1 countries.
Most of the documents however appear to outline Iran’s past nuclear ambitions and there have yet to be any discovered documents that show Iran is breaking any current rules.
Asked whether there is anything in Israel’s documents that suggest that there’s an actual violation of the Iran Nuclear agreement, Pompeo demurred.
“We’ll leave that to lawyers. I’ll leave that to lawyers to sort of make – and the President will ultimately have to make a determination about that too. You should remember there are still many, many documents that we’ve not had the opportunity to go through yet. It’s complex, a lot of translation work. There’s just a – it’s just a significant undertaking,” he said.
Even the White House changed a statement it first put out in response to the discovery to acknowledge the ambiguity of the discovery. The White House originally said, “These facts are consistent with what the United States has long known: Iran has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world and from its own people.”
They would subsequently amend the statement so that it reads, “…Iran had a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program…”
President Trump let his dissatisfaction with the Iran nuclear deal be known last week, furthering speculation that the U.S. would be pulling out. The U.S., along with France, Germany, China, Russia, and Britain, struck a deal with Iran in 2015 that halted that country’s nuclear program.
The Iranian government had long maintained its nuclear program was peaceful, meant only to produce alternative sources of energy. The international community has long suspected Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons.
The President wants the terms of the deal expanded to include Iran’s non-nuclear, ballistic missile program. He wants Iran’s human-rights abuses, as well as their alleged state sponsoring of terror in places like Syria, Yemen and Lebanon addressed as well.
“It was insane. Ridiculous. It should have never been made,” Trump said of the deal, adding that if Iran restarts its nuclear program, they’re “going to have big problems, bigger than they’ve ever had before.”
Iran has responded with its own threats. “I am telling those in the White House that if they do not live up to their commitments… the Iranian government will firmly react,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said. “If anyone betrays the deal, they should know that they would face severe consequences.”
“Iran is prepared for all possible situations,” he added.
An open question is how the other five countries in the deal would react if the U.S. were to pull out. All have indicated a desire to keep the framework of the deal in place. It is unclear how effective sanctions imposed by the U.S. alone against Iran would be.
The U.S. president must notify Congress every 90 days as to whether Iran is fulfilling its requirements under the deal’s terms. President Trump de-certified the deal under U.S. law in October saying that the sanctions relief that Iran received was disproportionate to the concessions they had to make in return, but kept the waivers in place.
Trump waived those sanctions prior to the last deadline in January, but vowed not to do it again. A decision on the pact is expected to be made soon. May 12 is the next deadline for the U.S. to decide whether to re-impose economic sanctions that were rolled back under the guidelines of the deal.
Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr