Iran got nuclear weapons-design information from a foreign source and was on the verge of mastering key bomb making technologies when research was ordered halted 15 years ago, The Washington Post reported Sunday.
Citing new details from Iranian nuclear documents stolen by Israeli spies in January, the Post reported that Tehran’s secretive effort to build nuclear weapons included extensive research in making uranium metal as well as advanced testing of equipment used to generate neutrons to start a nuclear chain reaction.
Iranian officials halted much of the work in 2003, but according to the Post, internal memos show senior scientists planned to secretly continue several projects within existing military research programs.
“The work would be divided in two: covert (secret structure and goals) and overt,” an Iranian scientist writes in one memo, part of an archive seized in a raid in Tehran by Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency in January, the Post reported.
The Post reported the stolen documents contained no revelations about recent nuclear activity and no proof Iran violated the 2015 nuclear accord. But they support the view that Iran has kept the intellectual core of its nuclear program intact, the Post reported.
“What the Israeli documents appear to confirm is that the [International Atomic Energy Agency] — and presumably the intelligence agencies — did in fact have a remarkably good understanding of Iran’s program in spite of imperfect access,” James Acton, a nuclear physicist and co-chair of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told the Post.
According to the Post, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has seized on the documents to attack the nuclear deal, which has been weakened since the Trump administration withdrew from the pact.
Israeli experts have been poring over the data for new revelations while sharing the material with U.S. and European intelligence agencies as well as with the IAEA, the UN watchdog monitoring Iran’s nuclear activity, the Post reported.
The Post reported that officials also shared recent discoveries with a small group of Western news outlets last week.
“This archive explains why we have doubts,” an unnamed Israeli official told journalists in Tel Aviv, the Post reported. “It explains why the [nuclear deal] to us is worse than nothing, because it leaves key parts of the nuclear program unaddressed. It doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb. It paves Iran’s path to the bomb.”
Others argue the new details prove why the nuke deal was necessary.
“We were at the [negotiating] table precisely because we knew that Iran harbored ambitions to build a nuclear bomb, and we wanted a verifiable agreement to block those ambitions,” Jake Sullivan, a former State Department official involved in early discussions with Iran, told the Post.
“In my view, the recent revelations do the opposite of undermine the deal — they reinforce the need for it.”
The stolen documents shown to journalists are part of the same batch that Netanyahu referenced April 30 in a TV presentation to make the case that “Iran lied,” the Post rerouted.
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