While revealing a truly impressive intelligence coup by the Mossad, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday night did not present evidence that Iran had violated the 2015 nuclear deal, nor did the material shed dramatically new light on the Islamic Republic’s pre-agreement atomic program.
Indeed, as Netanyahu noted, Iranian officials lie when they say their country never planned to manufacture nuclear weapons and put them on ballistic missiles. They did, and probably still do.
But the information proving their deception, while perhaps not widely known, was well-documented and made publicly available in its entirety — not by Israel, but by the International Atomic Energy Agency watchdog — back in 2011.
The details about Iran’s AMAD nuclear weapons program, the identity of project leader Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Tehran’s plans to put a nuclear warhead on a Shahab-3 ballistic missile, the suspicion that efforts to create an atomic bomb continued after AMAD was formally shuttered in 2003 — all “revealed” by Netanyahu on Monday night — can be found in the heavily footnoted IAEA report from nearly seven years ago. [Continue reading…]
Perhaps only by accident, Bibi Netanyahu did place some fascinating new bits of information on the public record. Showing images of documents without visible dates, he described the AMAD Plan’s vision for a nuclear arsenal. It was to have consisted of five nuclear devices suitable for ballistic missile delivery. Each was to have a yield of 10 kilotons, small by nuclear standards.
This is a remarkably miniscule, unambitious arsenal. It would make Kim Jong Un giggle. Only one country is known to have created anything like it: South Africa, which built a handful of very basic nuclear weapons in the 1980s, and then decided to dismantle them. Only later, after the end of Apartheid, did the new government reveal the story. According to a South African nuclear official, Waldo Stumpf, the idea was to keep the bombs secret; only if the country were threatened with invasion would it hint at its capability, or conduct a nuclear test to reveal it.
Did a similar idea motivate Iran’s AMAD Plan? We don’t know. Not enough information has entered the public record. But it is worth asking whether this project amounted to a crash program to create a secret, fairly rudimentary nuclear capability, only to be revealed in an emergency. [Continue reading…]