All the so-called new information in Netanyahu’s presentation is actually pretty old. A 2011 International Atomic Energy Agency report noted the existence of Project Amad and the role SPND played in continuing its work — four years before the nuclear deal was signed.
And the Israeli leader’s speech contained no evidence that Iran had restarted its weapons program or in any way violated the limits on nuclear activities like enrichment set up by the deal — which the IAEA has repeatedly confirmed Iran is abiding by.
“I was actually surprised at the level of hype,” says Maloney. “I don’t see that Netanyahu made a good case for scrapping [the deal.]”
Netanyahu at one point suggested that keeping these old files from the IAEA was, in and of itself, a violation of the deal. But it wasn’t clear what provision of the agreement he was pointing to, and there may not actually be one.
“I don’t believe that retaining the documents is a violation of the [Iran deal] per se,” says James Acton, the director of the Carnegie Endowment’s nuclear policy program. “I assume this requirement wasn’t included because it was considered unverifiable.”
But more fundamentally, there’s a hole in Netanyahu’s logic. His argument appeared to be that Iran lied about nuclear activities in the past, which means it’s likely to lie about it in the future. Put more bluntly, Netanyahu says that the Iran deal is a bad deal because it relies on trusting the Iranians, who aren’t trustworthy.
The problem, experts say, is that the Iran deal isn’t actually based on trust. It’s based on a deeply rigorous system of inspections, one that has repeatedly confirmed that Iran is not, in fact, cheating by, say, restarting prohibited centrifuges. It’s one thing to have a covert bomb program in 2003, before the agreement; it’s quite another when your country is crawling with IAEA inspectors. The deal doesn’t rely on trusting the Iranians; it creates series of mechanisms that hamstring their ability to lie.
This isn’t just the view of outside experts. Defense Secretary James Mattis, who has a reputation as an Iran hawk, said in April 14 Senate testimony that the deal’s inspection provisions are well-designed to spot Iranian violations (such as a covert bomb program, for example).
”I’ve read [the Iran deal] now three times … and I will say that it is written almost with an assumption that Iran would try to cheat,” Mattis said in April 14 Senate testimony. “So the verification … is actually pretty robust as far as our intrusive ability to get in.”
After Netanyahu’s presentation, a reporter asked if Mattis still had confidence in the deal on this point. His answer was a simple yes. [Continue reading…]