The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its official report on Iran’s nuclear weapons work on Wednesday, providing an assessment that Iran pursued nuclear weapons know-how prior to 2003 and between 2005 and 2009. The IAEA, however, could not definitively resolve all of its concerns. Iran failed to fully cooperate with the atomic watchdog, which is why the report is inconclusive. The New York Times reported that Iran refused to cooperate on three of the 12 unresolved questions over its past work on weaponization. The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), in its initial reaction to the report, wrote that “[f]aced with such outright Iranian efforts to deceive the inspectors, the IAEA broke relatively little ground. The truth of Iran’s work on nuclear weapons is probably far more extensive than outlined by the IAEA in this report.”
Since the agency was unable to fully verify Iran’s past work and thus a establish baseline, it will be impossible to design an effective verification program to ensure Iranian compliance under the nuclear deal. Nuclear scientist and head of ISIS David Albright has long emphasized the need for a full accounting of Iran’s past activities. Albright, along with Bruno Tertrais of the Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique, wrote in May 2014, “It is critical to know whether the Islamic Republic had a nuclear-weapons program in the past, how far the work on warheads advanced and whether it continues. Without clear answers to these questions, outsiders will be unable to determine how fast the Iranian regime could construct either a crude nuclear-test device or a deliverable weapon if it chose to renege on an agreement.”
Despite Iran’s lack of cooperation and the IAEA’s inability to resolve all of its questions, U.S. officials have indicated that the report “would likely pave the way for the removal of economic sanctions on Tehran as early as January,” according to The Wall Street Journal. In an April interview on PBS Newshour, Secretary of State John Kerry stated that Iran would have to disclose its past activities: “They have to do it. It will be done. If there’s going to be a deal, it will be done…It will be part of a final agreement. It has to be.” A few months later, in June, the administration began to change its tone. Secretary Kerry told reporters that “we’re not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they did at one point in time or another. We know what they did. We have no doubt. We have absolute knowledge with respect to the certain military activities they were engaged in." After the framework agreement was reached in April, President Barack Obama told reporters, “Since Iran’s Supreme Leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons, this framework gives Iran the opportunity to verify that its program is, in fact, peaceful.”
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is perpetuating the presence of ISIS in Syria and Iraq while undermining American national interests in the Middle East, Ali Alfoneh, a senior fellow and expert on Iran at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said Wednesday at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.
In his prepared testimony (.pdf), Alfoneh pointed to recent comments by Anne Patterson, the State Department’s assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs, which illustrate that Iran’s goals in Syria are diametrically opposed to U.S. objectives.
According to Patterson, the U.S. is seeking to defeat ISIS in both Syria and Iraq, facilitate a political transition to a ruler other than Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, mitigate the suffering of Syrian civilians, and stabilize allies in the region while assisting European partners as they deal with an influx of refugees.
In contrast, Alfoneh wrote, statements by the IRGC’s leaders reveal, “that the Islamic Republic is pursuing the exact opposite goals. For the Guards, the primary objectives are to: (1) keep Assad in power by deploying IRGC forces and non-Iranian Shiite militias in Syria; (2) highlight ISIL as a worse alternative to Assad while making no serious military effort against the Islamic State; and (3) concentrate Iran’s military resources against Syrian rebel forces threatening the Assad regime, including the secular opposition, which might offer an acceptable alternative to Assad.”
In June, the U.S. accused Syria of aiding ISIS by bombing moderate rebel groups, a charge that has been leveled at Assad for over a year. In 2014, reports surfaced that Iran was selling weapons to ISIS, only two years after the U.S. Treasury Departmentexposed Iran’s ties with al-Qaeda in Iraq, the terror group’s predecessor.
In April, noting that Iran didn’t extend its forces or those of its allies to fight ISIS in Iraq, former U.S. military intelligence officer Michael Pregent concluded that “Iran needs the threat of ISIS and Sunni jihadist groups to stay in Syria and Iraq in order to become further entrenched in Damascus and Baghdad.” (via TheTower.org)
During his first official visit to Australia this week, Chief Scientist at the Israeli Ministry of Economy Avi Hasson signed a research-and-development agreement with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. With branches in New Zealand, Fiji, across Asia, the US and Britain, Commonwealth Bank is the first Australian member of a program in which the Office of the Chief Scientist helps multinational companies find relevant Israeli technologies and provides matching financial support for completing necessary R&D. “This testifies to the program’s global nature and its benefits even for companies from distant countries, especially those that do not yet have a permanent presence in Israel,” said Hasson. “In addition, this is the first bank joining the framework. The Australians were impressed with the program’s value and its potential contribution to banks and the financial industry in general.” Hasson clarified that the private bank – with profits of $7.7 billion last year — is interested mainly in Israeli innovation in cyber-security. In Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, Hasson is meeting with government and corporate officials to bolster bilateral scientific and technological ties between Israel and Australia. Among them are Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Christopher Pyne, Assistant Minister for Innovation Wyatt Roy, New South Wales Premier Mike Baird, Australian Industry Group Chief Executive Innes Willox, Minister of Trade and Investment Andrew Robb, incoming chair of Innovation Australia Bill Ferris, and Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade Philip Dalidakis, Hasson also is re-launching the VISTECH R&D cooperation program with the state of Victoria. “This visit is clearly a testament to the high regard Australia has for the Israeli innovation economy,” said Hasson. “A number of Australian government and trade delegations have visited Israel in recent months, focusing on lessons from the ‘Startup Nation’ in promoting innovation and entrepreneurship.” (via Israel21c)