(January 29, 2019 / JNS) Iran has been in compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal and has not been constructing a nuclear weapon, according to the U.S. intelligence community, which challenges the key claims made by U.S. President Donald Trump on Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“At the moment, technically they are in compliance,” testified CIA director Gina Haspel to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.
However, she warned, “I think the most recent information is the Iranians are considering taking steps that would lessen their adherence to JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or Iran nuclear deal] as they seek to pressure the Europeans to come through with the investment and trade benefits that Iran hoped to gain from the deal.”
“They are making some preparations that would increase their ability to take a step back if they make that decision,” she added.
U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the committee: “We do not believe Iran is currently undertaking the key activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device.”
He added that Iran isn’t taking any measures to create a nuclear bomb, though Iranian officials have “publicly threatened to push the boundaries” of the nuclear accord if they determine there’s no benefits under it.
Barbara Slavin, who leads the Atlantic Council’s Future Iran Initiative, called the assessments “encouraging,” and that they “are much less alarmist than that coming from the State Department or the National Security Advisor [John Bolton].”
“Coats noted that Iran remains in compliance with the nuclear deal despite receiving no tangible benefits from it (due to the U.S. unilateral withdrawal and resumption of sanctions.) The language used about terrorism was also nuanced,” she added. “He said that ‘Iran almost certainly will continue to develop and maintain terrorist capabilities as an option to deter or retaliate against its perceived adversaries.’ The two most concerning issues appear to be missiles and cyber. But Iran hardly rates as a major threat compared to Russia, China and North Korea, which, unlike Iran, has nuclear weapons.”
However, former Pentagon official Michael Rubin told JNS that “the intelligence community has a long history of playing word games and redefining what steps toward a nuclear bomb constitute. The 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, for example, concluded that Iran stopped working on its military program only because it redefined covert enrichment to be non-military.”
“Coats knows—because the IAEA found—that Iran had previously worked on warhead design. Coats knows—because Iran acknowledges—that Iran enriched uranium,” he continued. “And Iran has conducted at least two dozen missile tests since the JCPOA was signed. So, what does Coats believe warhead design plus enrichment plus delivery systems mean? It seems that the intelligence community is once again playing politics with the evidence in front of it.”
Behnam Ben Taleblu of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies said that “while Iran is generally adhering to the broad boundaries imposed on its nuclear program pursuant to the JCPOA, it does continue to flight-test ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. The continued refinement of nuclear delivery vehicles by Tehran thus remains worrisome.”
He added, “Iran’s decision to agree to the JCPOA needs to be understood in context. It is a time-limited deal that doesn’t resolve the Iranian nuclear challenge.”