By Yochanan Visser
WESTERN JORNALISM, September 13, 2017-- On August 24, Western Journalism published an analysis about Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action, the nuclear deal with Iran that was brokered by the Obama administration in 2015.
The article referred to comments made by Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Agency, who said during an interview with IRINN TV in Iran on August 22 that his country can return to its pre-deal enrichment level in only five days, indicating Iran has breached the JCPOA and stockpiled prohibited nuclear components.
Earlier this month, the Middle East Media Research Institute published a full translation of Salehi’s comments, showing that the situation is worse than originally estimated by experts likeas former International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors David Albright and Olli Heinonen.
“The mass production of these centrifuges (or their components) would greatly expand Iran’s ability to sneak-out or breakout to nuclear weapons capability or surge the size of its centrifuge program if the deal fails or after key nuclear limitations end,” Albright and Heinonen wrote in a May report for the Institute for Science and International Security, referring to Iran’s new IR8 centrifuge, which will enable a quick return to its pre-agreement enrichment capacity.
The MEMRI report about Salehi’s remarks shows that the problem is not limited to Iran’s ability to restart uranium enrichment to 20 percent — a level within reach of weapons-grade material — in the underground Fordo facility within five days.
The other pathway to the production of a nuclear weapon is the production of plutonium via Iran’s plutonium reactor in Arak.
In the interview with IRINN TV, Salehi said that Iran’s weapons-sensitive plutonium reactor in Arak can be quickly reactivated because cement was never poured into the reactor core.
The IAEA-verified cement was poured into the removed calandria and the pipes. But the Iranians can produce a new calandria if they have not already, replace the pipes and reverse their concession.
Salehi, the head of the Iranian nuclear program said that photos that showed the pit of the reactor filled with cement were photoshopped.
He said that Iranian hardliners who oppose the nuclear deal had “presented photos of the pit that had been filled with cement and claimed that we had poured cement into the core of the Arak reactor.”
“Those pictures are photoshopped, and (the people who presented them) must apologize and confess that they are deceiving public opinion with falsehoods,” he said.
“We (actually) poured cement only into some of the reactor’s pipelines, (pipes) several centimeters in diameter and two to three meters long. (We poured it) not into the reactor itself but (only) into the external pipes,” Salehi told IRINN TV, according to MEMRI.
“If we are instructed to restore the former reactor and advance the former program that is unsuitable to (the present time) and is 40 or 50 years out of date, we will remove the front and back parts of these pipes and put in new pipes, which will take only several months,” he added.
A. Savyon and U. Kafash, who wrote the MEMRI article translating Salehi’s remarks, said “Salehi’s announcement that Iran is capable, within just five days, of returning to enriching uranium to 20%, coupled with his rebuttal of the IAEA’s previous confirmation that the reactor’s core is no longer operable, clearly attests that Iran retains nuclear capability that the JCPOA did not eliminate, and that Iran continues to constitute a military nuclear threat despite the agreement.”
“This means that despite its claims that it has no interest in military nuclear development, the Iranian regime is continuing to threaten to use this option, while it prevents actual inspection of its military facilities where suspect activity took place in the past,” the MEMRI researchers concluded.
Over the weekend, the Institute for Science and International Security reacted to Salehi’s revelations, assessing that currently, “no pathway to the bomb is permanently closed during the time the JCPOA is in force, even with limitations in place.”
The organization said former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who served under the Obama administration, used “political nuclear physics to say otherwise.”
“Phrases (used by Moniz) that were not false as scientific terms of art, but that they were deliberately misleading when translated into political language,” according to the researchers of the Institute for Science and International Security.
President Donald Trump is currently under enormous pressure not to dump the JCPOA by proponents of the deal in the State Department and in Europe. However, Trump has already indicated he will not re-certify the deal when it will be reviewed in October, claiming Iran is not adhering to the spirit of the deal because of its ballistic missile program.
U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Trump’s ambassador has said Trump can decertify Iranian compliance if he deems the deal does not advance the U.S. national interests, even if the IAEA declares that Iran technically adheres to the agreement.
The core claim for “national interest” is that the deal closes all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon — plutonium pathway and uranium pathways — keeping Iran a year away from nuclear capability.
Salehi’s remarks made it clear Iran’s breakout capability is much shorter than a year. Therefore, Trump would be lying to Congress if he re-certifies the JCPOA for another period of three months in October.