Iran Nuclear NewsThe danger of trusting Tehran

The danger of trusting Tehran

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Source: THE HILL

BY: Alejo Vidal-Quadras

Twelve years since the revelation of secret sites in Natanz and Arak, the international community still pursues an answer to the persistent question about the nature and objective of the Iranian nuclear program.

Source: THE HILL

BY: AlejoVidal-Quadras

Twelve years since the revelation of secret sites in Natanz and Arak, the international community still pursues an answer to the persistent question about the nature and objective of the Iranian nuclear program.

The proliferation of nuclear weapons is a dreadful prospect, and the fear of this situation is rightly compounded in the case of Iran because of Tehran’s behavior as the main state sponsor of terrorism and the ideological source of extremist Islam in the world’s most unstable region.

As the world is trying to find a solution to this crisis and the P5+1 governments are pushing for a negotiated settlement, the International Committee in Search of Justice (ISJ) – a Brussels based NGO that I have been chairing since 2008 – found imperative to review all the long-outstanding issues regarding the nature of the Iranian nuclear program in a report called “Examining 10 warning signs of Iran nuclear weapons development”presented in Brussels last November 20th. This document is the result of several months of research and review: it has drawn on all IAEA reports since 2003; on reports by the Iranian opposition; and on studies and reports by credible think thanks and non-governmental organizations, as well as the Iranian regime’s response to all the outstanding questions. Over the years, new information about the clandestine Iranian nuclear program, particularly by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), has made it abundantly clear that the program was much more expansive and more advanced than was initially thought. Tehran has worked systematically on all the necessary aspects of obtaining nuclear weapons, such as enrichment, weaponization, warhead, and delivery system.

One of the main conclusions that I find important to underscore from this report is the finding that two systems have been fully functional during the whole period under study: A civilian system that includes Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization and universities, and a military system that constitutes the secret aspect of this program. But contrary to the previous perception, these two systems are not in parallel. We found that these two structures resemble two concentric circles, working in tandem, where the military aspect remains at the heart. The civilian section of the program has provided a very suitable and plausible conduit for procuring and obtaining dual purpose technology and equipment ultimately used in the military section.

Some organs at the highest level of the Iranian regime, including offices and centers affiliated with the President’s office, have all been involved in smuggling or skirting sanctions to obtain illicit or dual-purpose equipment for these projects. Its relations are also clarified by the fact that all the geographic locations of the centers engaged in design and research aspects of the program are all located in the military zone in eastern Tehran and authorities and senior officials of the two systems have exchanged positions and responsibilities over the years. It has been common practice to utilize scientists and researchers in the civilian part for the military program and to lend staff from the military core to the civilian section in order to increase proficiency and expertise by utilizing each other’s facilities and centers.

It is important to mention also that Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commanders have been involved in the nuclear program from its early stages. Universities affiliated with the IRGC and the Ministry of Defense act as a bridge between the two programs -civil and military- and have played a major role.

Our research on the 10 topics of dispute between the IAEA and Tehran showed that in five issues there have been no progress in establishing the reality and in five others there has been little progress. Tehran’s attitude has been one of denial, deception, concealment, rejection of facts, politicization, and reluctant and partial acknowledgment only when all other alternatives had been exhausted. The Iranian leadership has insisted upon continuing its clandestine nuclear project despite all the damage that it has inflicted on the Iranian society. This indicates that Tehran views the nuclear program as crucial to the regime’s survival.

The conclusions of this report prove how important it is for the governments of the P5+1 countries to understand that it will be a huge mistake to have a comprehensive agreement without demanding that Iran resolve all the military question marks of the program and expose them willingly and thoroughly. There can be no assurance as long as so many open questions remain about the nature of the Iranian nuclear program, its projects and its key players.

Any possible agreement with Iran should include complete implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions, an absolute halt to all uranium enrichment, acceptance of Additional Protocol, and snap inspections in all the suspicious sites. Any concessions on these issues, any agreement less ambitious than that, would open the way for the regime to obtain nuclear weapons. And this is something no democratic country in this world wants to see.

Vidal-Quadras, a retired professor of Atomic and Nuclear Physics, was vice-president of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014. He is currently president of the Brussels-based International Committee in Search of Justice (ISJ).

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