IAEA report: Iran is lying when it claims no work on nuclear bomb

A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) leaked to several news outlets says that Iran is lying when it claims that it never sought to build a nuclear weapon. 

Despite non-cooperation by Iran in the investigation, the agency was able to determine that Iran was trying to build a nuke as recently as five years ago, but then apparently stopped its research.

The news did not sit well on Capitol Hill.

The Hill:

“I think we’re getting off to a very, very poor start,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told reporters after a roughly two-hour top-secret committee hearing.

“These are exactly the things that we talked about during the hearing process that raised concerns and they’re being validated right now,” he added.

“It just sets a very bad precedent that if Iran thinks it can violate the world’s will, as expressed by Security Council resolutions, and in essence face no consequence for it," said Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), one of the four Democrats who voted against the deal in September.

"Then what makes it think that whatever sanctions or other protocols we have moving forward in the [nuclear deal], that they won’t think in the long term that they can get away with violations of that?"

The IAEA report, which was leaked to multiple news outlets on Wednesday but won’t be formally approved until Dec. 15, concludes that Iran conducted preliminary work to build a nuclear weapon, but ceased that activity at least five years ago. 

Completion of the report was a requirement of the nuclear deal signed between Iran, the United States and five other world powers this summer, as one step towards enacting the deal. The diplomatic pact sets limits on Iran’s ability to build a nuclear weapon in exchange for rolling back sanctions on its oil and financial sectors.

The report essentially turns the page on Iran’s past nuclear efforts, the Obama administration said on Wednesday, and sets the stage for ensuring that it sticks to the terms of the deal.

In coming weeks, the U.S. and five other nations will submit a resolution at the IAEA “with a view towards closing the [past military dimensions] issue, and then after that we can focus on implementing” the agreement, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

The IAEA’s focus on Iran’s nuclear history had long been controversial on Capitol Hill, where multiple lawmakers tried unsuccessfully this summer to force the United Nations agency to disclose the “secret side deals” it had made with Tehran to investigate the previous work.

Wednesday’s report is “dangerously incomplete,” said Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), who helped lead the House’s criticism of the Iran deal.

As expected, none of the P5+1 countries involved in negotiating the agreement is objecting.  The deal is too far along, and commercial interests are too heavily engaged in penetrating the Iranian market to reverse course now. 

This will hold true when Iran reneges on other aspects of the deal, including the "intrusive" inspections.  The failure of the IAEA to be able to freely inspect military sites suspected of carrying on nuclear bomb research already represents a breach of the deal – at least the way that President Obama sold the deal to Congress.  And the excruciatingly long process of determining if Iran is cheating guarantees that there is no chance at all that sanctions will ever "snap back."

The report, as Senator Corker points out, is incomplete.  The IAEA can only guess that Iran stopped trying to build a bomb 5 years ago.  This is apparently good enough for President Obama.  But the rest of us are left with a feeling of helplessness as the world turns the other way, giving Iran the opportunity to continue constructing a weapon of mass destruction.