Is Iran Heading for a Collapse? – Nuclear Implications


Thank you, Dore. I’m going to speak about the nuclear aspects of what’s going on. I’m not going to go back to discussing the JCPOA, and if anybody wants to learn about that we have plenty of stuff on our website. I recommend the piece that I co-authored with Alan Baker, Ambassador Alan Baker here, about the meaning of the JCPOA, which, summarized in one sentence, says that actually the purpose of the JCPOA in the eyes of the Iranians (and with the strange acquiescence of the other signatories or participants in the JCPOA, because it was never signed actually), is to allow Iran to have a nuclear arsenal in 15 years without bothering about the economic and legitimacy issues that they had to cross on their way to a first nuclear bomb.

This was their path, the path they chose until 2015, so it’s a much better option for the Iranians. This is important to remember because I’m going to come back to that in the end. But what have we learned since the JCPOA came into action? The first thing that we learned, and this is very important, is that it’s a fact. It’s not an assessment. It used to be an assessment. It was never accepted as a fact, but it’s now become a fact that the Iranian nuclear program was a military program.  This became a proof because we brought the archives of the Iranian nuclear program. So, we have the documents that they were ordered by the leadership to produce five nuclear military bombs. That’s clearly a military program, and it is inspired also from what the Iranians are saying now, when they are faced with U.S. pressure. They’re saying, “If the pressure goes up, if it becomes unbearable, what we are going to do is to resume our military nuclear program,” which means that it was a military nuclear program. In the beginning, everybody knows now that this is not potential military dimensions of the Iranian project, as was referred to until 2015. This is the case. This was a military project and intended to have a militant nuclear arsenal, five bombs at least at the first stage.

The other thing that we learn out of that is this entire JCPOA is based on a lie because the IAEA was supposed to come up with the result of the investigation they did into the potential military dimensions and without the approval of Amano at the time, the JCPOA was not able to come into effect. Now we know that there was a lie, and we know that everybody knew that it was a lie because when we brought all the evidence the reaction we got from everybody was we knew it all along the way. What’s news? This trove of information that you brought? We knew it all the way. So, if you knew it all the way, then you knew that you were lying when you were supporting the bringing of the agreement into effect. They knew they were lying, not only because I’m making this line of logic.  They knew they were lying enough to listen to Secretary Kerry and to Secretary Moniz in their testimony in Congress, to note that they knew what this agreed-upon arrangement between the Iranians and the IAEA was, that would provide the basis for the coming of the JCPOA into effect. Secondly, we know that there is no monitoring in this agreement. Now we know that because it was not the IAEA that found the trove of the documents, that found the storage. It was Israeli intelligence, so clearly the most basic thing that the IAEA should have asked after the coming of the agreement into effect was, “Give us the information. We wanted information. You probably have some documents about how to produce nuclear weapons. We want to see them.” They were not able to even to ask this question. If it was not for the interference of the Israeli intelligence, nobody would know where this is and definitely would not have access to it.  So, there’s no monitoring. All this attempt to say that there is better monitoring in the JCPOA is a joke because there’s no monitoring, and the other reason why there’s no monitoring is that there is no access by the IAEA monitoring teams to the scientists, and the most important asset of the Iranians are the scientists. But according to this agreement, there is no access to the scientists. And why is that important?

Coming back to what Dore was describing here, this means that now that Iran controls another country that is not subject to any kind of monitoring – it’s called Syria – they can take their scientists, move them into Syria and do whatever they like over there. There’s no monitoring, and there’s no limitation on what they can do outside of Iran, with the exception of if they want to carry out some agreements with other countries. But they don’t need an agreement in Syria. They can do whatever they want without any agreement, so one has to remember that one of the purposes of controlling Syria, or controlling chunks of Syria, by the Iranians may well be the ability to produce all kinds of things where there is some danger that somebody would look at them and they’d ask to see them in Iran. And there’s, as I said, no monitoring, and this option is there.

Fourth, we know, that Iran is continuing their efforts, both on missile development, and on buying all kinds of stuff around the world for their non-conventional military project. German intelligence is repeatedly giving us information about all kinds of attempts of the Iranians to buy forbidden stuff in Germany. There were more than 50 cases like that, only in Germany. I guess they like Germany so much that they do business only in Germany. It’s just the others don’t follow what what’s going on.

Moreover, what we’re learning right now is that the Iranians are, according to this agreement, in a much better position nuclear-wise then what the Obama administration was trying to sell to us. The Obama administration was trying to say that under this agreement, it is going to take them a year before they are going to have enough fissile material for a first bomb. The Iranians are declaring again and again that: a) they are going to reactivate the Isfahan facility for the conversion of uranium, which will give them efficient enough raw material to start enriching. Secondly, that within two weeks, that’s the Iranians saying, within two weeks we can come back to production of 20 percent enriched uranium, which is nothing, and because of all the centrifuges. Two things happened in the last two years. First, the Iranians had 19,000 centrifuges, 13,000 out of which are put in Hall B in Natanz, which is like two meters away from where they were installed before. They were not dismantled. They were disassembled, so everything is kept there so that they can put them all together within no time and they can have 19,000 centrifuges working, which will require them only something like – I have an argument with another big expert on whether it’s going to be six or seven months before they have it. Okay so I don’t know, so I’ll take his version – seven months. That’s the time needed for the Iranians to have under this agreement and they are saying all the time we shall do that. If we decide to do that, we should do that and that is something we have to keep in mind where this Agreement actually puts them how far back. The second thing is that they have started already developing, working under the more advanced centrifuges. Once they finish developing these centrifuges, they will shorten the time needed to have all of that very fast.  They have already alluded to the possibility in which they take advantage of this poor agreement of using the Fordow facility in order to use it again for nuclear purposes because the Fordow was supposed to be dismantled as Minister Steinitz was saying here about the infrastructure. But since Obama decided to give up on that too, the Iranians still have the facility of Fordow that was built only for one purpose – to enrich uranium to a high enrichment level for military purposes. Now nobody builds a facility like that in the heart of a mountain for any other purpose but military purposes, and yet it was not dismantled.

So what it means is we are already referring to the possibility that they will reactivate it, and of course beyond all that is what Dore said before – all the expectations for moderation, for the Iran’s acting in order to be reintegrated into the family of nations, all of this wishful thinking, never became a reality. But beyond all of that, what we learned in recent weeks is something far more disturbing than that. After President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo came up with their plan of sanctions, after so many companies have already declared that they’re moving away from Iran, and with all the pressures they are under, was the situation inside Iran that we shall discuss in a minute. After all of that, the Iranians prefer to stick to the agreement, so we learned from that two things. First, how wonderful this agreement is, even without the participation of the United States. Even if the United States would not have given up its sanctions on Iran, still the Iranians would have taken it. So, all of the bunch of goodies that they got from the United States is just a bonus because even without that the Iranians will have the agreement. Such a wonderful agreement! And why? Because it gives them the ability to have a nuclear arsenal without any problems. So now that might have a little bit more trouble, but it will still allow them to have a nuclear arsenal within 15 years.

So that’s why they are so happy to stick with it, even with the American sanctions. It’s amazing! It tells you how naive and how totally detached the American negotiators were from understanding the wonderful gifts they were giving to the Iranians. They totally didn’t understand how much they’re giving away. The second thing that we learn out of it is how limited the Iranian options are. I mean, if it was a good option to leave the deal after the Americans left, maybe they would have considered that. But even without the American participation in the deal, still the Iranians understand that they don’t have any other options. They have to stick to the deal. It is a good deal for them and there are no other options.

All the effort is being focused on keeping the Europeans in, but they don’t have to work hard. The Europeans volunteer. So, the guaranteed participation of the Europeans is there. Not that it’s going to help them much because, as the minister said, the Europeans are helpless. But at least it’s an excuse that the Iranians can use, you know, to justify why they stay in the agreement. The Europeans are still there, so we are also there. But the truth is that they don’t have any other option, and the deal is still good for them even without the American participation. That is the point where we are, and in fact if, as President Trump and Secretary Pompeo keep saying correctly, if the American administration had used the leverage they had in 2015, after having sanctions between 2012 and 2015 in order to get a really good deal, they could have done it. But, of course they decided to be nice to the Iranians and convince themselves that they this is unachievable, and that is not achievable, and everything is unachievable, and that’s how we ended up in this very difficult situation.

What happens if the pressures grow up, and instead of what Mr. Steinitz said, that they were ready to renegotiate (which I still believe is something with a very high probability, not immediately but in some time), what happens if they decide to leave the agreement? Then, first of all, there is the question that Mr. Steinitz raised about the resolve of the Americans to do something about it. I think the Americans are speaking today differently to what they did in the past. In the past they never were ready to actually refer to the credible military option, unless an Israeli was sitting next to them.  That was always referred to as a suggestion to Israel, and the Iranians knew that this is the case. Today the Americans are not using this term but actually they refer to this possibility in a more convincing way. That’s it. But if this is not the case, the question is what’s going to be the European reaction, because if the Europeans are going to leave the agreement if Iran decides to leave the agreement then, it’s a totally difficult situation for the Iranians. They can’t even lose Europe, too – and strangely enough I must say that I was trying to check what is the European position on this, and the Europeans are in a state of denial. They’re saying, “This is not going to happen. This cannot happen. Iran’s economic situation is good enough, in spite of everything, in spite of American pressure, and we shall come up with all kinds of arrangements that will even improve the Iranian situation.”

This was the meeting in Vienna the week before last, and by that we shall be able to make sure that Iran will never end up in a situation where they have to leave the agreement. Are they able to do that? I doubt it. I think there is a possibility that if the Iranians are pushed into the corner, they will go in this direction. Much depends on what Mr. Steinitz said about what’s going to happen. It was North Korea, too, but we don’t know what’s going to happen with North Korea. Nobody knows. So, with all the linkage there are still two stories that may be linked, but they are two separate stories, and it’s difficult to say what’s going to happen.

Anyhow, the last remark is, what does that mean to Israel? I think that Israel has a role once in what Dore described as denying Iran the ability to take advantage, the full advantage of the agreement, because one of the major advantages of the agreement was the opening of Syria to the Iranians. We have to make sure that this doesn’t happen, both because of nuclear aspects of that to prevent Iran from having the ability to produce what they need to produce in Syria instead of him doing it in Iran, and because of the regional and the immediate terror security. Israel has to keep supplying the world and the basis of its intelligence capabilities the information that is so necessary in order to understand what really the Iranians are doing, because many dangerous organizations around the world are not that willing to know, because if they knew, it would make them face difficult choices. It’s amazing, by the way. We brought this archive, the Americans make use of it, and Trump referred to that when he declared his policy, but the Europeans they are like nothing happened, that it never happened. We didn’t bring anything. And the same with the IAEA. I haven’t seen any real reference of IAEA to the fact that it’s a new situation. Now you have the archive. You can look at it. I haven’t seen anything coming from them either, so we have to keep showing the world what’s really going on in Iran. Thank you.

About Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser

Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser is Director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center. He was formerly Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence.