iran lied Benjamin Netanyahu
© AMIR COHEN/ REUTERS
Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv, Israel April 30, 2018.
Every year or so Benjamin Netanyahu treats the entire globe to cartoonish nightmares of a 'nuclear Iran,' exhorting us all to do something 'before it's too late!' Just like with the 'global warming' myth, there's the exhortation that, if we just did something, we could all be saved. And, just like the global warming myth, we are never told 'it's too late' because then the myth loses its political usefulness.

In the latest edition that will no doubt dominate headlines for days, Netanyahu, utilizing a 'professional' PowerPoint presentation, provides what he calls incontrovertible proof that Iran had a nuclear weapons program and is still secretly pursuing nuclear weapons. He sums it up as follows:
"First, Iran lied about never having a nuclear weapons program. 100,000 secret files prove it did. Second, even after the deal, Iran continued to preserve and expand its nuclear weapons knowledge for future use," Netanyahu said.

"Third, Iran lied again in 2015 when it didn't come clear to the IAEA as required by the nuclear deal."
What about Israel lying that Iran would 'have the nuke' back in 1992, or 1995, or 1996, and that the world would be doomed?


Or what about when Netanyahu claimed that, "As dangerous as a nuclear-armed North Korea is, it pales in comparison to the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran. A nuclear-armed Iran in the Middle East wouldn't be another North Korea. It would be another 50 North Koreas." Flash forward to today, after multiple nuclear tests, the Korean peninsula just experienced a peace unlike anything they've known for generations. If Iran gaining the nuclear bomb is anything close to '50 times' that, then perhaps we should just give them a few!

But let's take Netanyahu's assertions at face value first, apply a little bit of evidence and logic, and see where that gets us.


First: 'Iran lied about having a 'nuclear weapons program'. Clearly it is, by now, common knowledge - Iran had a nuclear weapons program (that's why there is an 'Iran deal' in the first place), just as Israel had a nuclear weapons program. However, Israel's relied extensively on stolen US intelligence, and was considered by the CIA a proliferation threat due to its offer of nuclear materials to apartheid South Africa, and their joint testing of weapons. It also drastically altered the balance of power in the region, something which Netanyahu wants to keep despite the disastrous consequences.

Second - even after the deal, Iran continued to preserve and expand on its knowledge, and lied about it. Netanyahu's evidence here hinges on the claim that the alleged head of Iran's nuclear AMAD project, Fakhrizadeh, went on to run the SPND, or Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, and continued nuclear weapons research under its auspices. However this information was well known to the US State Department as early as 2014, when they sanctioned him and the SPND itself for its role in nuclear weapons research. And, in their 2015 Final Report the IAEA lays out quite clearly that they were well aware of this alleged 'secret nuclear weapons' center, where it was located, what it was doing, and that it was part of their analysis of Iran's nuclear program:
"Information available to the Agency prior to November 2011 indicated that Iran had arranged, via a number of different and evolving management structures, for activities to be undertaken in support of a possible military dimension to its nuclear programme. According to this information, the organisational structures covered most of the areas of activity relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device. The information indicated that activities commenced in the late 1980s within Departments of the Physics Research Centre (PHRC) and later, under the leadership of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, became focused in the early 2000s within projects in the AMAD Plan, allegedly managed through the 'Orchid Office'. Information indicated that activities under the AMAD Plan were brought to a halt in late 2003 and that the work was fully recorded, equipment and work places were either cleaned or disposed of so that there would be little to identify the sensitive nature of the work that had been undertaken. Eventually, according to the information, a new organization known as the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research was established by Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and based at the Mojdeh Site near Malek Ashtar University in Tehran.
How are we to square these facts, then, with the claim that Iran 'lied to the IAEA' and that Netanyahu's presentation thus blew the lid off the entire operation? It's fairly difficult, since it was information commonly held by the most critical parties to the deal prior even to the year 2011, and the IAEA itself maintains that Iran is in full compliance. Instead it's easier to see it as simply more 'fear porn' issued in order to pressure Trump to scrap the deal and to further isolate Iran from the 'international community' (read Western nations).

But why scrap the deal? Because that's what it was made for - scrapping. The JCPOA only constrained Iran's ability to actually build a nuclear weapon within a 10-15 year time frame - well within the amount of time the West believed was necessary to topple Assad and move on to target Iran.

During that time however, no one expected Russia to intervene and completely re-balance the playing field in the Middle East. Rather, it was hoped that the world would see Iran throw away a 'good deal' and thereby legitimize foreign intervention. As a report published by the Brookings Institute in 2009, titled Which Path to Persia, reveals,
"Regime change would seem far more palatable to Americans, Middle Easterners, Europeans, and Asians - and probably even to the Iranian people - if they believe that Iran had been offered a very good deal and turned it down. Indeed, if this is the perception among Iranians, more of them might be willing to oppose the regime. Thus, starting with some effort at Persuasion would be a good way to begin, but if regime change were really Washington's goal, the United States would have to ensure that the Iranians turned down the offered deal, while making sure that the deal looked attractive to others. ...

The best way to minimize international opprobrium and maximize support (however, grudging or covert) is to strike only when there is a widespread conviction that the Iranians were given but then rejected a superb offer - one so good that only a regime determined to acquire nuclear weapons and acquire them for the wrong reasons would turn it down. Under those circumstances, the United States (or Israel) could portray its operations as taken in sorrow, not anger, and at least some in the international community would conclude that the Iranians "brought it on themselves" by refusing a very good deal."
As non-residential Georgetown professor Paul Pillar states regarding the scrapping of JCPOA, the last time a US administration kicked international inspectors out of a Middle Eastern country before they could get to the truth of WMDs, "it was a prelude to a long, costly, and highly destabilizing war." This time we won't see overt military intervention, as it probably is 'too late' even if Iran doesn't have the bomb - because it does have Russian military backing. Instead we can expect an increase in sanctions and rhetoric and, as Pompeo promised, an increase in covert operations.

Not that it will pan out the way they hope for, however. When Russia intervened in Syria their entire plan hit the skids - the jihadis lost, Assad is still in power, and Israel is no longer able to intervene unilaterally in her neighbors' affairs. Russia delivered the S-300 missile system to Iran in 2016 and, by all reports, they are now fully operational. Russia is also stepping up its delivery of the S-300 to Syria, flatly stating that Israel will suffer "catastrophic consequences" if it dares to target the system once it is in place.