WASHINGTON — Israeli officials and pro-Israel lobbyists in the US castigated the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Tuesday decision to close the file on possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program, saying a report into past activites showed the move was unwarranted.
The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said “Serious doubts and outstanding issues,” remained after the report, released earlier this month, which showed that Iran halted most activity toward a nuclear weapon in 2003 and all activity in 2009.
“The IAEA report clearly indicates once again that Iran has conducted a coordinated effort to develop a nuclear explosive device, including activities taking place after 2003. For over a decade, Iran has been non-cooperative and deceptive,” the ministry said in a statement.
For years, Iran claimed that its nuclear program was entirely civilian in its application – but for over a decade, the IAEA sought greater access for inspectors to verify these claims.
Iran agreed to allow increased oversight as part of the deal inked with the P5+1 powers in July – but also warned afterwards that unless the probe into possible military dimensions was closed, it would not proceed in the final steps required for the deal’s full implementation.
The IAEA was required to receive a full report on the possible military dimensions as part of the preconditions for lifting sanctions on Iran, and the IAEA’s decision brings the deal a step closer to its implementation.
The move to close the probe was welcomed by officials in Iran, the US and elsewhere.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said the report was consistent with Washington’s intelligence and the sides could now move forward toward implementation of the nuclear deal.
“The focus now appropriately moves toward full implementation of the JCPOA [nuclear deal] and its enhanced verification and transparency regime,” Kerry said in a statement.
But Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz accused the IAEA of being politically motivated in its decision to close the probe.
“The IAEA decision does not correspond to the report by IAEA chief Yukiya Amano, who said Tehran continued partial development of a bomb until 2009. It seems, therefore, that the decision made today was political and not practical, and for this reason it sends a wrong message to the Iranians, that the international community is willing to look the other way,” he said, according to the Ynet news website.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one of the most vehement opponents of this summer’s Iran nuclear agreement, wrote in a statement that it “deplores the vote” by the IAEA’s board, complaining that “the IAEA is closing this file even after discovering further suspicious evidence and experiencing additional Iranian obstinacy.”
“By closing the PMD file and thereby acquiescing to an incomplete accounting of Iran’s past nuclear weapons activity, the board of the IAEA weakens the credibility of its institution and lessens the prospect that Iran will comply with the JCPOA in the future,” AIPAC said.
A number of experts, particularly those skeptical of the deal, have said that the full disclosure of previous military dimensions is necessary for establishing a baseline to understand Iran’s nuclear activities. Without such a baseline, they warn, it will be difficult to police Iran’s compliance with the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – the deal reached in July and expected to be implemented in early 2016.
AIPAC claimed Iran had “withheld critical information from the IAEA and has lied by consistently denying nuclear weaponization work in the face of solid evidence to the contrary.”
Instead of closing the file, AIPAC said that the IAEA could have recommended delaying Implementation Day – which could be reached as early as next month – until Iran fully complied with all of the IAEA’s demands regarding previous military dimensions.
“This decision to whitewash the past represents an inauspicious beginning to the implementation process of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” the group suggested.
The statement echoed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who earlier this month released a statement asserting that “Israel expects the international community to continue its investigation through the IAEA on these issues,” adding that “without completing this investigation, the world will not know how far Iran went in its secret program, and what its current status is.”
AIPAC called on the United States to “demand that the IAEA examines any new evidence of Iranian violations, and that the agency exercise maximum vigilance for Iranian compliance with the JCPOA.”
On Thursday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold an oversight hearing focusing on the implications of the IAEA’s December 2 report, as well as on the US response to Iran’s recent violations of a United Nations’ ban on ballistic missile testing, and a certification expected later this week from the Obama administration on Tehran’s compliance with the nuclear deal as required by the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act.