Posted tagged ‘IAEA’

Obama Admin Did Not Publicly Disclose Iran Cyber-Attack During ‘Side-Deal’ Nuclear Negotiations

June 7, 2017

Obama Admin Did Not Publicly Disclose Iran Cyber-Attack During ‘Side-Deal’ Nuclear Negotiations, Washington Free Beacon, June 7, 2017

US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on April 22, 2016 in New York. / AFP / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump, during his trip to the Middle East in late May, talked tough against Iran and its illicit ballistic missile program but has so far left the nuclear deal in place. A Trump State Department review of the deal is nearing completion, the Free Beacon recently reported, and some senior Trump administration officials are pushing for the public release of the so-called “secret side deals.”

Infiltrating State Department emails and internal communications about where the United States stood on a number of sensitive issues could have given the Iranians an important negotiating advantage, according to David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector and president of the Institute for Science and International Security.

“The [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] had a lot of loose language at the time and the question was whether the U.S. was going to accept it,” he told the Free Beacon, referring to the weeks immediately following the Congressional Review Period, which ended Sept. 17, and Iran’s own review process, which ended Oct. 15.

“It would be to Iran’s great benefit to know where the U.S. would be” on a number of these issues dealing with the possible military dimensions of the Iran nuclear program, he said. “If they could tell the U.S. was going to punt, they could jerk around the [International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA] a bit.”

“That’s essentially what happened with the IAEA,” he added.

***************************************

State Department officials determined that Iran hacked their emails and social media accounts during a particularly sensitive week for the nuclear deal in the fall of 2015, according to multiple sources familiar with the details of the cyber attack.

The attack took place within days of the deal overcoming opposition in Congress in late September that year. That same week, Iranian officials and negotiators for the United States and other world powers were beginning the process of hashing out a series of agreements allowing Tehran to meet previously determined implementation deadlines.

Critics regard these agreements as “secret side deals” and “loopholes” initially disclosed only to Congress.

Sources familiar with the details of the attack said it sent shockwaves through the State Department and the private-contractor community working on Iran-related issues.

It is unclear whether top officials at the State Department negotiating the Iran deal knew about the hack or if their personal or professional email accounts were compromised. Sources familiar with the attack believed top officials at State were deeply concerned about the hack and that those senior leaders did not have any of their email or social media accounts compromised in this particular incident.

Wendy Sherman, who served as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs for several years during the Obama administration and was the lead U.S. negotiator of the nuclear deal with Iran, could not be reached for comment.

A spokeswoman for Albright Stonebridge LLC, where Sherman now serves as a senior counselor, said Tuesday that Sherman is “unavailable at this time and cannot be reached for comment.”

Asked about the September 2015 cyber-attack, a State Department spokesman said, “For security reasons we cannot confirm whether any hacking incident took place.”

At least four State Department officials in the Bureau of Near East Affairs and a senior State Department adviser on digital media and cyber-security were involved in trying to contain the hack, according to an email dated September 24, 2015 and multiple interviews with sources familiar with the attack.

The Obama administration kept quiet about the cyber-attack and never publicly acknowledged concerns the attack created at State, related agencies, and within the private contractor community that supports their work.

Critics of the nuclear deal said the Obama administration did not publicly disclose the cyber-attack’s impact out of fear it could undermine support right after the pact had overcome political opposition and cleared a critical Congressional hurdle.

The hacking of email addresses belonging to State Department officials and outside contractors began three days after the congressional review period for the deal ended Sept. 17, according to sources familiar with the details of the attack and the internal State Department email. That same day, Democrats in Congress blocked a GOP-led resolution to disapprove of the nuclear deal, according to sources familiar with the details of the attack and the internal State Department email. The resolution of disapproval needed 60 votes to pass but garnered just 56.

President Trump, during his trip to the Middle East in late May, talked tough against Iran and its illicit ballistic missile program but has so far left the nuclear deal in place. A Trump State Department review of the deal is nearing completion, the Free Beacon recently reported, and some senior Trump administration officials are pushing for the public release of the so-called “secret side deals.”

State Department alerts outside contractors of cyber-attack

State Department officials in the Office of Iranian Affairs on Sept. 24, 2015 sent an email to dozens of outside contractors. The email alerted the contractors that a cyber-attack had occurred and urged them not to open any email from a group of five State Department officials that did not come directly from their official state.gov accounts.

“We have received evidence that social media and email accounts are being compromised or subject to phishing messages,” the email, obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, states. “Please be advised that you should not open any link, download or open an attachment from any e-mail message that uses our names but is not directly from one of our official state.gov accounts.”

“We appreciate learning of any attempts to use our names or affiliations in this way,” stated the email. Shervin Hadjilou, the public diplomacy officer in the Office of Iranian Affairs, sent the email and cc’d four other State Department officials who deal with Iran issues, including one cyber-security expert.

Two sources familiar with the details of the hack said the State Department and outside contractors determined that Iranian officials were the perpetrators. The hack, which began Sept. 21, had compromised at least two State Department officials’ government email accounts before they regained control of them, as well as private email addresses and Facebook and other social media accounts, the source said.

“They had access to everything in those email accounts,” the source said. “Everyone in the [State Department Iranian Affairs] community was very upset—it was a major problem.”

The hack also stood out because cyber-warfare between Iran and the United States, which had been the weapon of choice between the countries for years, had cooled considerably in 2015 during the nuclear negotiations in what cyber-security experts have described as a limited détente.

Since Iran discovered the Stuxnet virus—a cyber-worm the United States and Israel planted to degrade Iran’s nuclear capabilities—in 2011, the countries have been engaged in escalating cyber warfare as Tehran’s cyber capabilities become increasingly sophisticated and destructive.

Since 2011 Iran has attacked U.S. banks and Israel’s electric grid. In 2012, Iranian hackers brought down Saudi-owned oil company Saudi Aramco, erasing information on nearly 30,000 of the company’s work stations and replacing it with a burning American flag.

Cyber-security experts have long believed that Russia helped Iran quickly build up its cyberweaponry in response to Stuxnet. A team of computer-security experts at TrapX, a Silicon Valley security firm that helps protect top military contractors from hackers, said in April they officially confirmed that Iranians were using a cyber “tool set” developed by Russians.

Tom Kellerman, a TrapX investor who also served on a commission advising the Obama administration on cyber-security, said Iranian cyberwarfare has dramatically improved over the last two or three years in large part due to Russian technical assistance.

“Much like you see the alliance between Syria, Iran, and Russia, the alliance doesn’t just relate to the distribution of kinetic weapons,” he said, but extends into cyberwarfare.

Uproar among private contracting community over cyber-attack

In the late September 2015 hack, at least two State Department officials and a handful of outside contractors lost control of access to their email and social media accounts, which were automatically forwarding emails to work and personal contacts. This spread the hack to a wider network of victims.

The private-contracting community involved in State Department Iran programs—approximately 40 private firms, some of which are based in Washington and others located throughout the United States—were outraged by the infiltration.

“They were saying ‘We’re mad—we’re angry,'” the source recalled. “We all got compromised.”

Eric Novotny, who served as a senior adviser for digital media and cyber security at the State Department at the time, was involved in trying to shut down the hack and help affected officials and private contractors regain control of their accounts. Novotny was one of the four government officials copied on Hadjilou’s Sept. 24 email.

Critics: Obama administration’s silence on hacking was needed to secure nuke deal

Critics of the Obama administration’s handling of the Iran nuclear deal argue that the State Department stayed silent about the hack because acknowledging it could have publicly undermined the pact right after it became official.

“Within hours of the Iran deal being greenlighted, Iran was already conducting cyberattacks against the very State Department that ensured passage of the [nuclear deal],” said Michael Pregent, a senior Middle East analyst at the Hudson Institute. “Acknowledging a cyberattack after the [nuclear deal] was greenlighted would be something that would immediately signal that it is a bad deal—that these are nefarious actors.”

Mark Dubowitz, the CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said Iran’s hacking of State Department personnel at such a critical period is “just one of many of Iran’s malign activities that continued and the State Department essentially ignored while the Obama administration was working out the fine points of the nuclear deal.”

“The Obama administration didn’t acknowledge it publicly out of fear that public outrage could threaten the nuclear deal,” he said.

In early November 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Iran’s hardline Revolutionary Guard military had hacked email and social-media accounts of Obama administration officials.

Yet that report wrongly tied the beginning of the uptick in Iranian cyberattacks to the arrest October 29, 2015 of Siamak Namazi, a businessman and Iranian-American scholar who has pushed for democratic reforms. Namazi and his elderly father remain imprisoned in Iran and face a 10-year sentence on espionage charges.

The Journal report also did not indicate that the attacks had occurred more than a month earlier, within three days of the end of the congressional review period, nor did it indicate any specific individual targeted nor how officials and contractors reacted to it.

The Sept. 24 email obtained by the Free Beacon shows the Iranian hacking of State Department officials occurred much earlier—the weekend after Republicans in Congress failed to push through a resolution disapproving the Iran nuclear pact, effectively sealing the foreign policy win for Obama.

The late September time period was particularly important for negotiating critical details of the nuclear deal’s implementation, what critics, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo, have labeled “secret side deals” allowing Iran to evade some restrictions in the nuclear agreement in order to meet its deadline for sanctions relief.

Among other non-public details of the pact, the side agreements involved the controversial exchange of American prisoners held in Iran for $1.7 billion in cash payments.

Infiltrating State Department emails and internal communications about where the United States stood on a number of sensitive issues could have given the Iranians an important negotiating advantage, according to David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector and president of the Institute for Science and International Security.

“The [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] had a lot of loose language at the time and the question was whether the U.S. was going to accept it,” he told the Free Beacon, referring to the weeks immediately following the Congressional Review Period, which ended Sept. 17, and Iran’s own review process, which ended Oct. 15.

“It would be to Iran’s great benefit to know where the U.S. would be” on a number of these issues dealing with the possible military dimensions of the Iran nuclear program, he said. “If they could tell the U.S. was going to punt, they could jerk around the [International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA] a bit.”

“That’s essentially what happened with the IAEA,” he added.

The IAEA is charged with verifying and monitoring Iran’s commitments under the nuclear agreement.

According to Albright, the IAEA ultimately accepted far less access to nuclear sites than it originally wanted. The United States and other world powers also accepted other concessions involving “loopholes” allowing Iran to exceed uranium enrichment and heavy water limits for a certain time period in order for Iran to meet implementation deadlines, he said.

“The IAEA didn’t know much at all and had to write a report [in December 2015] that it was content in knowing so little,” he said.

Others who credit Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard with the cyber-attack say it may not have focused entirely on gaining leverage in the negotiations but simply demonstrating a resistance to the deal among hardline factions in the country.

“Iran has two personalities, and I think you were seeing the other personality shine through,” Kellerman said of the hack during a critical phase of the nuclear deal.

Hack used common spear-phishing technique

Sources said the September 2015 hacking incidents compromised email accounts by sending spear-phishing messages, or efforts to gain unauthorized access to confidential data by impersonating close contacts.

The phishing emails targeted both State Department and private contractors’ personal email and social media accounts, including Facebook, shutting down the users’ access and sending out emails to some of the hacked individuals contacts and forwarding other information to unfamiliar emails with Persian-sounding names, two sources told the Free Beacon.

Samuel Bucholtz, co-founder of Casaba, a cyber-security firm that conducts test-hacking for Fortune 500 companies, said the hackers were likely trying to gain access to contacts and emails. The hackers also may have tried to install malware that would provide greater access to information held on computers or the entire computer network of the organizations, he said.

“If it’s a phishing account that installs malware on your machine, then they have access to all the information on your machine,” he said. “Then they start using that foothold to start exploring access throughout the entire organization.”

Iran Developing Advanced Nuclear Capabilities, Reducing Time to Weapon

June 5, 2017

Iran Developing Advanced Nuclear Capabilities, Reducing Time to Weapon, Washington Free Beacon, June 5, 2017

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani holds a press conference in Tehran on May 22, 2017. AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, bragged in April that Tehran is prepared to mass-produce advanced centrifuges on “short notice.” Work of this nature would greatly increase the amount of nuclear fissile material produced by Iran, prompting concerns the country could assemble a functional nuclear weapon without being detected.

The issue is complicated by the lack of access international nuclear inspectors have to Iran’s contested military sites, according to the report.

**********************************

Iran is believed to be developing advanced nuclear-related capabilities that could significantly reduce the time it needs to build a deliverable nuclear weapon, according to statements by Iranian officials that have fueled speculation among White House officials and nuclear experts that the landmark accord has heightened rather than reduced the Islamic Regime’s nuclear threat.

The head of Iran’s nuclear program recently announced the Islamic Republic could mass produce advanced nuclear centrifuges capable of more quickly enriching uranium, the key component in a nuclear weapon. Work of this nature appears to violate key clauses of the nuclear agreement that prohibits Iran from engaging in such activity for the next decade or so.

The mass production of this equipment “would greatly expand Iran’s ability to sneak-out or breakout to nuclear weapons capability,” according to nuclear verification experts who disclosed in a recent report that restrictions imposed by the Iran deal are failing to stop the Islamic Republic’s nuclear pursuits.

The latest report has reignited calls for the Trump administration to increase its enforcement of the nuclear deal and pressure international nuclear inspectors to demand greater access to Iran’s nuclear sites.

It remains unclear if nuclear inspectors affiliated with the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, have investigated Iran’s pursuit of advanced centrifuges, according to the report, which explains that greater access to Iran’s sites is needed to verify its compliance with the deal.

The report comes amid renewed concerns about Iran’s adherence to the nuclear agreement and its increased efforts to construct ballistic missiles, which violate international accords barring such behavior.

“Iran could have already stockpiled many advanced centrifuge components, associated raw materials, and the equipment necessary to operate a large number of advanced centrifuges,” according to a report by the Institute for Science and International Security. “The United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) need to determine the status of Iran’s centrifuge manufacturing capabilities, including the number of key centrifuge parts Iran has made and the amount of centrifuge equipment it has procured.”

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, bragged in April that Tehran is prepared to mass-produce advanced centrifuges on “short notice.” Work of this nature would greatly increase the amount of nuclear fissile material produced by Iran, prompting concerns the country could assemble a functional nuclear weapon without being detected.

The issue is complicated by the lack of access international nuclear inspectors have to Iran’s contested military sites, according to the report.

Salehi’s declaration highlights the “profound weaknesses in the JCPOA which include lack of inspector access, highly incomplete knowledge of Iran’s centrifuge manufacturing capabilities and output, and too few centrifuge components being accounted for and monitored,” according to the report.

Iran already has manufactured more centrifuge parts than needed for the amount of nuclear work permitted under the agreement.

The terms of the agreement permit Iran to operate one advanced IR-8 centrifuge. However, Iran is known to have assembled more than half a dozen such centrifuges.

Iran also is working to construct IR-6 centrifuges, which also point to an increased focus on the production of enriched nuclear materials.

“These numbers are excessive and inconsistent with the JCPOA,” according to the report. “Moreover, in light of Salehi’s comments, the excessive production of [centrifuge] rotors may be part of a plan to lay the basis for mass production.”

Iran’s work on “any such plan is not included in Iran’s enrichment plan under the JCPOA,” according to the report.

Inspectors affiliated with the IAEA should immediately investigate the total number of centrifuge parts in Iran’s possession and determine exactly how many of these parts are currently being manufactured, the report states. The IAEA also should attempt to keep tabs on any clandestine nuclear work Iran may be engaging in.

Iran may be misleading the world about its centrifuge production and it still has not declared all materials related to this work, as is obligated under the nuclear deal.

“A key question is whether Iran is secretly making centrifuge rotor tubes and bellows at unknown locations, in violation of the JCPOA, and if it takes place, what the probability is that it goes without detection,” the report concludes.

Additionally, “the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) need to determine the status of Iran’s centrifuge manufacturing capabilities, including the number of key centrifuge parts Iran has made and the amount of centrifuge equipment it has procured,” the report states.

“They need to ensure that Iran’s centrifuge manufacturing is consistent with the intent of the nuclear deal as well as the deal’s specific limitations on advanced centrifuges,” according to the report. “Moreover, the Iranian statement illuminates significant weaknesses in the Iran deal that need to be fixed.”

When asked to address the issue, a State Department official told the Washington Free Beacon that Iran’s centrifuge work remains very “limited” under the nuclear agreement.

“Under the JCPOA, consistent with Iran’s enrichment and enrichment and [research and development] plan, Iran can only engage in production of centrifuges, including centrifuge rotors and associated components, to meet the enrichment and R&D requirements of the JCPOA,” the official said. “In other words, Iran’s production of centrifuges and associated components are limited to be consistent with the small scale of R&D that is permissible under the JCPOA.”

If Iran is in violation of the deal, the United States will take concrete action to address this once the Trump administration finishes its interagency review of the Iran deal.

“The Trump administration has made clear that at least until this review is completed, we will adhere to the JCPOA and will ensure that Iran is held strictly accountable to its requirements,” the official said.

Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program: On Course, Underground, Uninspected

April 25, 2017

Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program: On Course, Underground, Uninspected, Center for Security Policy, Clare M. Lopez, April 24, 2017

The Iranian regime’s nuclear weapons program, born in secrecy and kept hidden for years, has never skipped a beat and today continues on course in underground and military facilities to which inspectors have no access. On 21 April 2017, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the oldest, largest, and best organized democratic Iranian opposition group presented startling new evidence that the jihadist regime in Tehran is violating the terms of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) agreement reached in July 2015 among the P-5 +1 (Permanent Five Members of the UN Security Council plus Germany), the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), and Iran.

As will be recalled, it was the NCRI that first blew the lid off Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program in 2002, at a time when it had been in progress for at least fourteen years (since 1988), unbeknownst to most of the world, including the IAEA. Virtually all of the Iranian nuclear sites now known publicly were only retroactively ‘declared’ by the mullahs’ regime after exposure: the Natanz enrichment site, Isfahan conversion site, Fordow enrichment and Research and Development (R&D) site, Lavizan-Shian, and more. Regularly corroborated additional revelations since 2002 by the NCRI have built a record of credibility that should prompt a closer official look at these new reports by the U.S. State and Defense Departments, National Security Council (NSC), and White House.

Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of NCRI’s Washington office, provided a devastating expose of the ongoing activities of the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research (SPND), the Tehran-based element of the Iranian Ministry of Defense that has primary responsibility for the regime’s nuclear weapons development. The SPND, established in February 2011, was officially sanctioned by the U.S. Department of State in August 2014 for engaging in nuclear weapons R&D.   Mohsen Fakhrizadeh (aka Dr. Hassan Mohseni), the founder and director of the SPND and a veteran IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps) brigadier general, was designated individually under UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1747 in 2007 and by the U.S. in July 2008 for his involvement in Iran’s proscribed WMD activities. Despite these designations, and the IAEA’s failure to resolve the many critical indicators of “Possible Military Dimensions” related to Iran’s nuclear program as specified in the November 2011 IAEA Board of Governors report, the July 2015 JCPOA inexplicably lifted sanctions against the SPND.

It is hardly surprising, then, to learn that the SPND not only continues critical weaponization research involving nuclear warheads, triggers, and explosives, but has expanded that work at each of seven subordinate locations. One of these, revealed by the NCRI in 2009 but never declared to the IAEA, is the Center for Research and Expansion of Technologies on Explosions and Impact (Markaz-e Tahghighat va Tose’e Fanavari-e Enfejar va Zarbeh or METFAZ), which works on triggers and high-impact, non-conventional explosives. The current METFAZ director is a Ministry of Defense engineer named Mohammad Ferdowsi, whose expertise is in high explosives. Ferdowsi also serves as chairman of the board of directors of the High-Explosive Society of Malek Ashtar University (affiliated with the Defense Ministry).

After conclusion of the July 2015 JCPOA, much of METFAZ’s personnel and work was moved to the Parchin military facility for better cover and security. Parchin Chemical Industries, an element of Iran’s Defense Industries Organization (DIO), was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in 2008 for importing “a chemical precursor for solid propellant oxidizer, possibly to be used for ballistic missiles.” Parchin is the location where the IAEA long suspected Iran was conducting test explosions for nuclear detonators. In October 2014, Iran finally admitted to using Parchin to test exploding bridge wires, but implausibly claimed they were not for weapons development. Equally incredibly, the IAEA concluded a secret side deal with Iran that allowed it to collect its own samples at Parchin—in which the IAEA in fact did find evidence of enriched uranium. But despite that and more evidence, the JCPOA was concluded and sanctions against Parchin Chemical Industries were lifted.

Within Parchin are twelve separate military and missile complexes. According to the NCRI’s new information, METFAZ has established a new location within one of these that is near the center of Parchin and referred to simply as the “Research Academy” in SPND internal communications. Located on the sprawling Parchin complex some 30 miles southeast of Tehran, the new METFAZ center is called the Chemical Plan of Zeinoddin and is located in a section called Plan 6. It’s completely fenced in and protected by heavy security under control of the IRGC’s Intelligence Service. What goes on there is concealed from the IAEA, and likely with good reason.

Old and New Locations for the SPND

METFAZ’s Research Academy Location within Parchin Plan 6 Area

Lambasting the Iranian regime for its ongoing regional aggression and support to terrorist organizations, as Secretary of State Tillerson did on 20 April 2017, is certainly a step in the right direction. Noting that after ten years, Iran can break out and build all the bombs it wants is also a useful observation. But neither of those comes close to fulfilling the Trump campaign pledge to “rip up” the JCPOA – or hold Iran accountable for its violations of the JCPOA. Secretary Tillerson’s 18 April letter to U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, certifying that Iran was in compliance with the 2015 deal, simply cannot be squared with the NCRI’s latest revelations, which it has shared with both the U.S. government and the IAEA. Indeed, the independent Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) issued a March 3, 2017 report in which it explicitly states about the IAEA’s 24 February 2017 Quarterly report, “Nowhere in the report does the IAEA state that Iran is fully compliant with the JCPOA, and it should not make that judgement.”

The real problem with the JCPOA—and why it needs to be ripped to shreds—is not what’s in it: it’s what’s been left out or exempted in any number of secret side deals that the U.S. and IAEA concluded with the Iranians. Among critical issues either explicitly permitted or simply not covered in the JCPOA are the following:

  • Iran keeps its entire nuclear infrastructure intact
  • Iran keeps all its centrifuges and is allowed to work on newer models
  • Iran can deny IAEA inspectors access to any site it seeks to keep off-limits
  • Iran can continue its ballistic missile nuclear weapons delivery system research, development, and testing
  • Iran’s nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and ballistic missile collaboration with North Korea is not mentioned in the JCPOA
  • Iran’s ongoing support for terrorism is off-limits for the JCPOA

The Trump administration must make good on its campaign promises with regard to Iran, its nuclear weapons program, and the JCPOA. The U.S. with its international partners and the IAEA must demand that Iran fully implement all UN Security Council Resolutions (including the one prohibiting Iran from any nuclear enrichment activities); accept the Additional Protocol; and allow unhindered access for IAEA inspectors to all suspected centers and facilities.

Beginning to fill relevant USG positions with officers untainted by association with the failed JCPOA or Iran Lobby affiliates like NIAC (National Iranian American Council) is an imperative and urgent first step. Announcing U.S. intent to end all activities associated with the JCPOA, hold Iran to account for its human rights abuses, involvement in the 9/11 attacks, and continuing support for terrorism would be natural subsequent policy positions.

We look forward to the results of the JCPOA policy review that Secretary Tillerson has announced.

Iran violating U.S. deal with secret nukes research, opposition group says

April 21, 2017

Iran violating U.S. deal with secret nukes research, opposition group says, Washington TimesRowan Scarborough, April 21, 2017

In this photo obtained from the Iranian Mehr News Agency, Iranian army members prepare missiles to be launched during a maneuver at an undisclosed location in Iran on Nov. 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Mehr News Agency, Majid Asgaripour) **FILE**

The council and MEK have a good track record over the years of disclosing Iranian nuke programs that operated under the radars of Western intelligence agencies. It boasts an extensive spying network inside the Defense Ministry, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and other organs of the hard-line Islamic state ruled by religious mullahs.

The MEK said METFAZ is operating in a secret location unbeknownst to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the world’s nuclear watchdog. In official communications, the regime refers to it as the code name “Research Academy.”

********************************

Iran is cheating on its historical deal with the U.S. by secretly conducting research into nuclear weapons components such as bomb triggers and enriched uranium, the main Iranian opposition group said Friday.

The regime is doing engineering and weaponization testing at a walled military complex south of Tehran, a location which Iran has declared off-limits to inspectors, said the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its main operational arm, the People’s Mujaheddin of Iran (MEK).

“This is the site that has been kept secret,” said Alireza Jafrazadeh, NCRI’s Washington office deputy director. “There is secret research to manufacture the bomb and basically cover up the real activities of the Iranian regime.”

The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), negotiated by the Obama administration, has become a major foreign policy issue for the Trump White House as it evaluates whether to reimpose economic sanctions on Tehran. Iran has benefited with billions of dollars in freed-up funds while it pursues interventions in Iraq, Syria and Yemen against U.S. interests.

The NCRI-MEK report came the day after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson lambasted Iran for its expansionist terrorist activities in the region which he said violated the spirit of the JCPOA. He called the deal a “failed approach” since Iran can break out and build bombs after 10 years.

The JCPOA outlaws the type of weaponization work described by the NCRI-MEK report.

The State Department reported this week that Iran was abiding by the deal hammered out by former Secretary of State John Kerry and approved by Russia and other powers.

The NCRI rebutted that conclusion during a press conference in Washington by saying it is providing new information on Iranian misdeeds.

The council and MEK have a good track record over the years of disclosing Iranian nuke programs that operated under the radars of Western intelligence agencies. It boasts an extensive spying network inside the Defense Ministry, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and other organs of the hard-line Islamic state ruled by religious mullahs.

The NCRI asserts that Iran’s so-called “declared” sites were not disclosed by Iran, but by the intelligence work of MEK.

The heart of the NCRI-MEK intelligence report is a research operation known as the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research (SPND) and its seven subdivision, which MEK said it first exposed in 2011.

“They are carrying out their research in various fields related to the manufacturing of a nuclear weapon,” the council’s report said. “In some of these fields, new initiatives have also been undertaken in order to keep the real objectives of the research a secret and to cover up the real activities.”

One those subdivisions, the Center of Research and Expansion of Technologies on Explosions and Impact (METFAZ) works on triggers and explosive yields, the statement said. The MEK disclosed METFAZ’s existence in 2009.

The MEK said METFAZ is operating in a secret location unbeknownst to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the world’s nuclear watchdog. In official communications, the regime refers to it as the code name “Research Academy.”

The council investigation said that for the mullahs to continue METFAZ’s work undetected, they downsized a center in Sanjariana and transferred the research and testing to a new site in the military district of Parchin 20 miles south of Tehran.

“We are disclosing this for the first time today,” Mr. Jafrazadeh said. “They felt this was optimum location for shielding the actives of METFAZ.”

Reporters asked Mr. Jafrazadeh why the U.S.’s latest 90-day report to Congress say Iran was complying if it is now cheating.

He answered that the assessment is based on the IAEA monitoring known sites and measuring technical metrics, such as the amounts of enriched uranium.

He said that what the council is disclosing is secret weaponization work that now needs to be investigated. He said the council provided its report in the last few days to the Trump administration and the IAEA.

“We’re talking about an extensive covert operation by the Iranian regime,” he said.

Mr. Jafrazadeh said that when the IAEA visited a limited number of sites at Parchin in 2015, Iran had cleansed them of weaponization evidence.

“It needs to be inspected immediately,” Mr. Jafrazadeh said. He predicted this new intelligence report will prompt Iran to “clean out” its illicit work.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has said that “inspection of our military sites is out of the question and is one of our red lines.” A number of Iranian leaders have repeated that warning in recent months.

The MEK provided satellite photos and descriptions of the exact locations of nuclear research inside the Parchin complex, such as “Plan 6” which is located at “the end of Babaj highway, Khojir-Parchin military road, after the tunnel on the southern side of Mamlo Dam.”

The site is protected by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the dominant security force inside Iran.

The report described the musical chairs this way: “The move resulted in the subsiding of activities at the Sanjarian site. The Iranian regime has done its utmost to keep the Research Academy, which is an important site, a secret from the eyes of international organizations. The reason for the move was based on the conclusion reached by regime officials that the probability for the IAEA to get access to Parchin in the future is extremely low, which means that the site is an optimal location for shielding the regime’s activities in this regard.”

To bolster its findings, the MEK released what it said are the nuts and bolts of Iran’s cheating, such as the identities of 15 METFAZ personnel and their jobs descriptions, and addresses of various secret sites.

The SPND network is headquartered in Tehran in the “Nour Building,” near the Defense Minister which supervises operations.

“In order to understand the regime’s secret and illicit activities, it is critical that the IAEA inspect and monitor not only the Research Academy, but also all other sites related to SPND,” the NCRIR-MEK said. “This will help shed light on the scope of the regime’s secret military and nuclear activities.”

It added, “The weaponization program must be totally dismantled. There is no reason to maintain SPND, and all its subordinate organizations, including METFAZ. They have no peaceful, energy use whatsoever and, their only function is to facilitate the development of the nuclear bomb.”

Mr. Jafrazadeh termed as “ridiculous” Iran’s restrictions on military site inspections since it is the military that oversees nuclear bomb research.

The NCRI received a boost this week when Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain, Arizona Republican, attended a council event in Tirana, Albania, its new home after spending years in Iraq.

He met privately with NCRI leader Maryam Rajavi.

The Washington Times asked the State Department to respond to the NCRI-MEK investigation.

A spokesman referred to Mr. Tillerson’s April 18 letter to Congress certifying that Iran is in compliance. Mr. Tillerson added that the Trump administration will conduct a review of whether the suspension of economic sanctions under JCPOA is in the U.S’s interest.

“Notwithstanding, Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terror through many platforms and methods,” Mr. Tillerson wrote.

How Hilary’s foreign policy ‘succeeded’ for Iran

June 4, 2016

How Hilary’s foreign policy ‘succeeded’ for Iran, DEBKAfile, June 4, 2016

6Hardline Ayatolla Ahmad Janati

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential frontrunner, declared Thursday June 2 in a major foreign policy address: ‘We are now safer than we were before this agreement (the International-Iran nuclear deal).”

A short while before her speech, the State Department, published its yearly report on world terror, and determined, as in past years, that Iran remains “the leading state sponsor of terrorism, on account of its support for designated terrorist groups and proxy militias in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.”

Three days earlier, on May 31, scientists at the Institute for Science and International Security, published an extensive analysis of the second report of the IAEA in Vienna, whose job it is to monitor the Iranian nuclear program and establish whether Tehran’s is complying with its commitments.

Their report is titled: IAEA’s Second JCPOA Report: Key Information Still Missing.

The American scientists found oversights in the international watchdog’s report, suggesting collaboration between the Obama administration and the IAEA to conceal Iranian violations.

The scientists offered some examples of these omissions:

Data is lacking on the number of centrifuges, including advanced models, operating in Natanz enrichment facilities as well as the Fordo underground plant. There is no information on what happened to the 20 percent-enriched uranium still remaining in Iran.

Another example is the lack of information on the Iran’s heavy water which is provisionally stored in Oman. Who does it belong to and who oversees it?

These are just a few examples of the blanks in the promised oversight over Iran’s nuclear program, not to mention Iran’s banned ballistic missile program which is geared to design missiles able to reach the US.

The Obama administration had based his detente with Tehran, capped by the nuclear deal, on producing a breakthrough in US-Iran relations. It was intended to strengthen the moderate, reformist and liberal political elements in Iran. ButDEBKAfile sources and Iranian experts report that the exact opposite happened, as is evident in two important elections held in Iran in the past two weeks.

In the elections to the Assembly of Experts, the body which chooses Iran’s top leader, the 91-year-old Ayatollah Ahmad Janati was elected. He is one of the most extreme hardliners in Iran.

A few days later, Ali Larijani was re-elected as Speaker of the Iranian Parliament. Larijani is close to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He won by a land slide over the reformist candidate put forward by President Hassan Rouhani.

Five months ago, when the first results of the Iranian elections to the Majlis and to the Assembly of Experts came in, there were cries of joys in the Obama administration. US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Jawad Zarif proclaimed it at the time a victory for the moderates.

Where did these ‘moderates’ disappear in the interim and how did they become supporters of the extremists?

On Friday, June 3, less than 24 hours after Clinton’s foreign policy speech, Iran’s leader Ayatollah Khamenei celebrated his victory over American policy saying: Iran has many small and big enemies, but foremost among them are America and Britain. “Any cooperation with the US,” he stressed, “is an act against Iran’s independence.”

Iran Threatens to Walk Away From Nuke Deal After New Missile Test

March 8, 2016

Iran Threatens to Walk Away From Nuke Deal After New Missile Test, Washington Free Beacon, March 8, 2016

FILE - This file picture released by the official website of the Iranian Defense Ministry on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2015, claims to show the launching of an Emad long-range ballistic surface-to-surface missile in an undisclosed location. Iran tested a ballistic missile again in November 2015, a U.S. official said Dec. 8, describing the second such test since this summerís nuclear agreement. The State Department said only that it was conducting a "serious review" of such reports. The test occurred on Nov. 21, according to the official, coming on top of an Oct. 10 test Iran confirmed at the time. The official said other undeclared tests occurred earlier than that, but declined to elaborate. The official wasnít authorized to speak on the matter and demanded anonymity. (Iranian Defense Ministry via AP)

FILE – This file picture released by the official website of the Iranian Defense Ministry on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2015, claims to show the launching of an Emad long-range ballistic surface-to-surface missile in an undisclosed location. Iran tested a ballistic missile again in November 2015, a U.S. official said Dec. 8, describing the second such test since this summerís nuclear agreement. The State Department said only that it was conducting a “serious review” of such reports. The test occurred on Nov. 21, according to the official, coming on top of an Oct. 10 test Iran confirmed at the time. The official said other undeclared tests occurred earlier than that, but declined to elaborate. The official wasnít authorized to speak on the matter and demanded anonymity. (Iranian Defense Ministry via AP)

Iranian leaders now say that they are poised to walk away from the deal if the United States and other global powers fail to advance the Islamic Republic’s “national interests.”

*************************

Iran on Tuesday again threatened to walk away from the nuclear agreement reached last year with global powers, hours after the country breached international agreements by test-firing ballistic missiles.

Iran’s most recent ballistic missile test, which violates current U.N. Security Council resolutions, comes a day after the international community’s nuclear watchdog organization disclosed that it is prohibited by the nuclear agreement from publicly reporting on potential violations by Iran.

Iranian leaders now say that they are poised to walk away from the deal if the United States and other global powers fail to advance the Islamic Republic’s “national interests.”

“If our interests are not met under the nuclear deal, there will be no reason for us to continue,” Abbas Araqchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, warned during remarks delivered to a group of Iranian officials in Tehran.

“If other parties decide, they could easily violate the deal,” Araqchi was quoted as saying by Iran’s state-controlled media. “However, they know this will come with costs.”

Araqchi appeared to allude to the United States possibly leveling new economic sanctions as a result of the missile test. The Obama administration moved forward with new sanctions earlier this year as a result of the country’s previous missile tests.

Iran’s latest missile test drew outrage from longtime regime critics on Capitol Hill.

“The administration’s response to Iran’s new salvo of threatening missile tests in violation of international law cannot once again be, it’s ‘not supposed to be doing that,’” Sen. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) said in a statement. “Now is the time for new crippling sanctions against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Ministry of Defense, Aerospace Industries Organization, and other related entities driving the Iranian ballistic missile program.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) warned that the nuclear agreement has done little to moderate Iran’s rogue behavior.

“Far from pushing Iran to a more moderate engagement with its neighbors, this nuclear deal is enabling Iran’s aggression and terrorist activities,” McCarthy said in a statement. “Sanctions relief is fueling Iran’s proxies from Yemen to Iraq to Syria to Lebanon. Meanwhile, Khamenei and the Iranian regime are acting with impunity because they know President Obama will not hold them accountable and risk the public destruction of his nuclear deal, the cornerstone of the president’s foreign policy legacy.”

McCarthy went on to demand that the Obama administration step forward with new sanctions as punishment for the missile test.

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department had difficulty Monday explaining why the nuclear agreement limits public reporting by the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, on potential deal violations by Iran.

Yukiya Amano, the IAEA’s chief, disclosed on Monday that his agency is no longer permitted to release details about Iran’s nuclear program and compliance with the deal. The limited public reporting is a byproduct of the nuclear agreement, according to Amano.

When asked about these comments again Tuesday, a State Department official told the Free Beacon that the IAEA’s reports would continue to provide a complete picture of Iran’s nuclear program, though it remains unclear if this information will be made publicly available.

“There isn’t less stringent monitoring or reporting on Iran’s nuclear program,” the official said. “The IAEA’s access to Iran’s nuclear program and its authorization to report on it has actually expanded. It’s a distortion to say that if there is less detail in the first and only post-Implementation Day IAEA report then that somehow implies less stringent monitoring or less insight into Iran’s nuclear program.”

While the IAEA “needs to report on different issues” under the final version of the nuclear agreement, the agency continues to provide “a tremendous amount of information about Iran’s current, much smaller nuclear program,” the source maintained.

The IAEA’s most recent February report—which was viewed by nuclear experts as incomplete and short on detail—“accurately portrays the status of Iran’s nuclear program,” including its efforts to uphold the nuclear deal, the official added.

“We expect this professional level of reporting to continue in the future,” the official said.

The Iran Deal: From Bad to Worse

December 21, 2015

The Iran Deal: From Bad to Worse, Power LineJohn Hinderaker, December 20, 2015

[I]s there a deal or not? It hasn’t been signed, and the parties have never agreed on what its terms are supposed to be. In the meantime, if a deal exists, Iran is violating it. Does anyone care? Certainly not President Obama.

*****************

The Iran nuclear deal has faded from the headlines. That must mean things are going well, right?

Just kidding. Amir Taheri brings us up to date:

Last month the president sent his Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to Vienna to twist the arm of International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano into issuing a favorable report on the state of the Iranian nuclear program.

The yes-or-no question Amano faced was simple: Has Iran closed the military aspect of its nuclear program?

Being an honorable man, Amano could not provide the straight “yes” that Muniz was asking for. “Much progress has been made, but much remains to be done,” he said. “More confidence building is needed, and verification of what Iran is doing may need many more weeks.”

Amano also hedged in his formal report to the IAEA board of governors. In paragraph 79 of the report, he states that the IAEA is in no position to categorically report that all of Iran’s nuclear program is entirely peaceful. That’s because the IAEA does not have access to all nuclear sites in the Islamic Republic.

I think it is blindingly obvious that Iran continues its progress toward becoming a nuclear power. Taheri makes a point that I also have emphasized repeatedly:

Meanwhile, Iran openly flouts the deal — and UN Security Council resolutions — by testing a new generation of medium-range ballistic missiles known as “Al-Qadr 110.”

These tests make sense only if Tehran continues to contemplate a military nuclear dimension to its program. The two new missiles are designed to carry warheads of between 75 to 100 kilograms. It makes no sense to deploy a ballistic missile over a distance of 1,800 to 2,000 kilometers — that is to say, capable of reaching all capitals in the Middle East and parts of Europe — simply to carry a payload of TNT.

One basic question is, is there a deal or not? It hasn’t been signed, and the parties have never agreed on what its terms are supposed to be. In the meantime, if a deal exists, Iran is violating it. Does anyone care? Certainly not President Obama.

It’s embarrassing enough that Obama pushed off implementation of the nuclear deal from last week until the end of January. But here’s the dirty little secret: It doesn’t matter. From Iran’s point of view, it’s getting everything it wants, deal or no deal.

The EU already has gotten rid of most sanctions against the nation, and Obama has suspended our sanctions for 90 days. Assets have been unfrozen, pumping an estimated $8 billion into Tehran. Iran is set to recover some $120 billion.

I can’t wait to see how that famous “snap back” provision will work.

All for a nuclear agreement that Iran has not signed and seemingly has no intention of following.

Remember when Obama claimed the deal would block Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb for fifteen years? The Iranians have never agreed to any such thing:

Behruz Kamalvand, spokesman for the Iranian Atomic Energy commission, said the Obama deal “does not change our nuclear program by a single iota.”

“We continue doing exactly what we were doing before,” he says.

Nice work, Barack! Taheri itemizes some of the fallout from the administration’s craven diplomacy:

After two years of secret negotiations, Obama, far from resolving the Iranian nuclear issue, has made it even more complicated.

In the process, he has virtually killed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, discredited the IAEA, made a mockery of the UN Security Council and emboldened the most radical faction within the Khomeinist regime.

The truth is that there is no deal. It was not the mullahs who took Obama for a ride. It was Obama who hitched a ride with them.

Obama’s “the chance of a lifetime” is just that — for Iran.

The Iran deal isn’t merely sub-par diplomacy, it is a scandal. I don’t see how a president who took seriously his duty to preserve American security could have entered into it. There is another scandal, too: a journalistic one. Here, as in so many instances, reporters have covered up for the Obama administration by deliberately failing to report the facts surrounding the Iranian nuclear debacle. It would be interesting to compare the number of minutes that network news broadcasts have devoted, over the last few months, to the fulminations of Donald Trump with the minutes they have devoted to the crumbling of the Iran agreement. Likewise with column inches in our supposedly sophisticated newspapers.

When the first Iranian nuclear bomb explodes, whether in Europe, Israel or the United States, a number of people will have much to answer for, and they won’t all be officials in the Obama administration.