Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outed one of the sites already in September 2019.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told three diplomats that samples taken from two secret sites in Iran last fall contained a smattering of radioactive material, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The finding raised additional concerns regarding the country’s suspected nuclear weapons program, the existence of which Iran has repudiated for years. There was no official reaction yet from Tehran on this latest revelation.
“The discovery of radioactive material at these sites would indicate that Iran does indeed have undeclared nuclear material, despite its denials,” David Albright, head of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington and a former nuclear inspector himself, told the paper. “It would indicate that Iran did have a nuclear weapons program in the past, likely leading the IAEA to call for access to more sites and more explanations from Iran.”
One of the sites was outed in September 2019 by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as part of Tehran’s clandestine program from the 1990s and early 2000s. He said the evidence came from Israel’s daring heist of Iran’s nuclear archives the year before from the heart of Tehran.
“When Iran realized that we uncovered the site, here’s what they did: they destroyed the site,” Netanyahu said. “They just wiped it out…. They destroyed the evidence or at least tried to destroy the evidence.”
It took a few months for the IAEA to request access after Netanyahu’s revelation. The Iranians then stonewalled admittance to the sites for over half a year before allowing inspectors in last September. This led the IAEA’s board of governors to issuing of a rare resolution in June, pressing Iran to cooperate with the agency.
The nuclear watchdog has not yet formally notified its member-states of the discovery, said the unnamed diplomats, who added that they were not given the details of what exactly has been found. As in standard procedure, the organization is first asking Iran to offer an explanation for the material, one inspector said, according to the report.
In at least one other case where the inspectors found illicit material based on Israeli information, the agency did not consider Iran’s explanations to be credible.
Tehran threatened some two weeks ago that it would start curbing IAEA short-notice inspections of its registered nuclear sites later this month. The 2015 nuclear deal that Iran signed with the world’s major powers, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), required Iran to allow such inspections.
Iran has steadily eroded its compliance with the accords ever since former president Trump walked away from the “terrible” deal in 2018. This has included hugely increasing its uranium stockpile, beginning to enrich it far beyond the allowed percentage to a step below nuclear weapons’ grade, and informing the IAEA in January that it was installing equipment for the production of uranium metal, ostensibly for research purposes.
According to the German, French and British foreign ministries, “Iran has no credible civilian use for uranium metal…The production of uranium metal has potentially grave military implications.”
President Biden has said that Iran must return to full compliance with the original deal before the United States would consider lifting the crippling economic sanctions slapped on Tehran by the Trump administration. Iran has refused, demanding that the sanctions be lifted first.