A drawing based on information from inside an Iranian military site shows an explosives containment chamber of the type needed for nuclear arms-related tests that U.N. inspectors suspect Tehran has conducted there. Iran denies such testing and has neither confirmed nor denied the existence of such a chamber.
The computer-generated drawing was provided to The Associated Press by an official of a country tracking Iran’s nuclear program who said it proves the structure exists, despite Tehran’s refusal to acknowledge it.
That official said the image is based on information from a person who had seen the chamber at the Parchin military site, adding that going into detail would endanger the life of that informant. The official comes from an IAEA member country that is severely critical of Iran’s assertions that its nuclear activities are peaceful and asserts they are a springboard for making atomic arms.
A former senior IAEA official said he believes the drawing is accurate.
This should not surprise anyone who has been paying attention to revelations about Iran’s nuclear weapons progress. However, it is hardly insignificant. Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams tells me that “it shows what we know is true, that Iran is trying to build a warhead. Those who think Iran hasn’t decided whether to build a weapon are contradicted by these reports.”
Coupled with other data (including images revealing the Iranians’ scrubbing of a nuclear site), this latest evidence reveals, as Jeffrey Goldberg put it, “the inadequacy of the current P5+1 agenda.” The notion that sanctions have “isolated” Iran or that economic pressure has caused a slowdown in its weapons program is nothing more than White House spin. What we have been doing isn’t working.
Some policymakers are sounding the alarm. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released a statement Monday that read in part:
The released images of an explosives chamber needed for nuclear weapons-related testing in Iran paint a disturbing picture: that, while the world is chasing more negotiations, Iran is racing towards a nuclear weapons capability. Just two months ago President Obama extended the national emergency with respect to Iran declaring that the regime’s activities pose ‘an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.’ Well, prolonged negotiations and concessions will only increase the threat, rather than curtail it.
Iran has consistently played fast and loose with Western governments, engaging in bad-faith negotiations to buy time to achieve a nuclear weapons capability, as it commissioned attacks on U.S. soil. This week, Iran’s proxy Hezbollah announced that it is capable of launching rocket strikes that could hit anywhere in Israel, while reiterating calls for Israel’s destruction. The negotiations track is having the opposite of its intended effect by making a nuclear Iran more likely.
The report on Iran’s nuclear weapons activity comes ahead of the next round of talks on May 23 between Iran and the P5+1. Barring a nearly unimaginable capitulation by Iran, it will be fair to conclude after that discussion that the window for sanctions and negotiations is closed, or nearly so. (Gerry Seib describes the situation this way: “In other words, if serious diplomacy is going to take root, this month is when it will have to happen. If not, Israeli or American military action to stop Iran becomes much more likely.”)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, recognizing where things stand, has formed a unity government, as broadly based as any in Israel’s history. Earlier this month Netanyahu “issued emergency call up orders to six reserve battalions in light of new dangers on the Egyptian and Syrian borders. And the Knesset has given the IDF permission to summon a further 16 reserve battalions if necessary.” Israel is prepared to do what it must.
Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in an email summed up the current situation for the U.S. “While the veracity of this [latest] image is yet to be confirmed, the overall picture hasn’t. changed for those looking at this crisis realistically. Iran is developing a nuclear program to produce dangerous weapons-- not for medical research. The window for diplomacy is nearly shut, and the window for intervention may be closing fast, too. How much longer can the West sit this one out?”
For President Obama the question remains: At what point does he acknowledge his three years of engagement and sanctions have failed to halt, let alone slow, Iran’s nuclear weapons program? One suspects the answer is “never,” and that it will be up to Israel to act in its defense and that of the West. Guaranteeing the security of the Free World used to be America’s job. No more, it seems.