Posts Tagged ‘centrifuges’

Trump’s Iran Threat May Wreck Talks With North Korea

April 2, 2018

The New York Times

April 1, 2018

President Trump, President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on a TV at the railway station in Seoul, South Korea.CreditAhn Young-Joon/Associated Press

As he prepares for possible talks with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un about controlling the North’s nuclear weapons program, President Trump is facing his most complicated national security challenge so far. He has made the task far harder by threatening to blow up the only other recent deal to control a nuclear program, with Iran.

After decades of effort, Iran was close to producing enough enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb when it reached the deal with the major powers in 2015.

Iran gave away about 97 percent of its low-enriched uranium, destroyed 13,000 of its 19,000 centrifuges and pledged to incapacitate a heavy-water facility intended to produce weapons-grade plutonium.

If Iran tries to cheat, the most rigorous technological verification system in the world can detect the violations and alert the world in time to intervene. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors the agreement, has repeatedly found Iran in compliance; scores of experts, including American diplomats and military officers, have affirmed the deal’s efficacy. Israel’s army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, told Haaretz on Friday that the deal has delayed the “Iranian nuclear vision by 10 to 15 years.”

Although Iran never had a nuclear weapon, the agreement required months of talks and two years of technical and political negotiations. Now consider North Korea, with 20 to 60 nuclear weapons, and facilities for producing plutonium and enriching uranium, many of which are hidden.

Mr. Trump has insisted on the North’s complete and verifiable denuclearization. And, by all indications, he wants it done immediately. Yet by threatening to abrogate the Iran deal and reimpose sanctions Mr. Trump has added to the challenge of making that happen.

He has claimed, without a shred of evidence, that Iran is out of compliance, and has complained that Iran is still building ballistic missiles, arming Hezbollah and supporting President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. None of these concerns were supposed to be prevented by the deal.

He has demanded that Britain, France and Germany fix what he calls “flaws” in the pact by May 12, presumably so he will have someone else to blame when it falls apart.

The president, and his new hard-line team of national security advisers, may think that walking away from the Iran deal will persuade Mr. Kim of his toughness and his determination to secure terms that go far beyond those reached with Iran. More likely, Mr. Kim will see it as proof that the United States cannot be trusted to stick to its commitments and will be reluctant to reach any agreement.

Persuading a country to give up weapons is never easy. The North Koreans have said they need nuclear weapons to deter American aggression. And Mr. Kim has set the pace for most of the recent diplomacy — including his surprise invitation to Mr. Trump and his visit with President Xi Jinping in China. That said, he reportedly told China and South Korea he will discuss “denuclearization” with the Americans.

Denuclearization has had some successes. After Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus inherited thousands of nuclear weapons when the Soviet Union collapsed, the United States persuaded them to transfer the devices to Russia. South Africa had about a half-dozen warheads but gave them up after the end of apartheid. Libya shed its rudimentary nuclear program under pressure from Britain and the United States after the Iraq war.

And in 1994, most likely before North Korea had any nuclear weapons, a limited agreement with the United States froze the North’s plutonium program for about eight years until it fell apart under President George W. Bush.

A serious negotiation with North Korea would include Mr. Trump pressing Mr. Kim to freeze nuclear and missile testing, halt the production of nuclear weapons fuel and the deployment of nuclear weapons and put an Iran-like verification system in place. But why would Mr. Kim agree to any of that if the Americans walk away from the Iran deal? Why would Mr. Kim, or any future adversary for that matter, assume Mr. Trump is negotiating in good faith?

The Iran deal has achieved what it was intended to do — limit Iran’s nuclear program. There is still hope that something similar can be achieved in North Korea. Indeed, Mr. Trump could contribute in an unprecedented way to international peace and security by engaging with Mr. Kim. That possibility will be squandered, though, if the American president escalates a manufactured nuclear crisis with Iran at the very time he is trying to defuse one with North Korea.

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A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A22 of the New York edition with the headline: Trump’s Iran Threat Imperils Korea Talks.

Iran’s foreign minister Zarif boasts about Tehran’s plans to expand its uranium enrichment program as a “matter of pride”

July 19, 2016


U.S Secretary of State John Kerry with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

The Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s foreign minister is extolling the country’s ability to bring its nuclear program back on track as limits on the 15-year accord ease in the coming years.

Mohammad Javad Zarif says a document, submitted by Iran to the International Atomic Energy Agency and outlining plans to expand Iran’s uranium enrichment program, is a “matter of pride.”

He says it was created by Iran’s “negotiators and experts.”

Zarif’s remarks, carried by the semi-official Fars news agency on Tuesday, followed revelations the day before of the confidential document — an add-on agreement to the nuclear deal with world powers — that Iran gave the IAEA.

The document, obtained by The Associated Press in Vienna, outlines Tehran’s plans to expand its uranium enrichment program after the first 10 years of the nuclear deal.



(R L) Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani attend Supreme Leader’s meeting with authorities of the country and ambassadors of Islamic countries, in Tehran, Iran July 6, 2016. Reuters photo

Iran Can Build Nuclear Weapons Earlier Than Experts Thought — Iran Nuclear Deal: “The Devil Is In The Details”

July 18, 2016



iran missile

By George Jahn
The Associated Press

VIENNA (AP) — Key restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program imposed under an internationally negotiated deal will start to ease years before the 15-year accord expires, advancing Tehran’s ability to build a bomb even before the end the pact, according to a document obtained Monday by The Associated Press.

The document is the only text linked to last year’s deal between Iran and six foreign powers that hasn’t been made public, although U.S. officials say members of Congress have been able to see it. It was given to the AP by a diplomat whose work has focused on Iran’s nuclear program for more than a decade, and its authenticity was confirmed by another diplomat who possesses the same document.

U.S Secretary of State John Kerry with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

The diplomat who shared the document with the AP described it as an add-on agreement to the nuclear deal. But while formally separate from that accord, he said that it was in effect an integral part of the deal and had been approved by the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, the six powers that negotiated the deal with Tehran.

Details published earlier outline most restraints on Iran’s nuclear program meant to reduce the threat that Tehran will turn nuclear activities it says are peaceful to making weapons.

But while some of the constraints extend for 15 years, documents in the public domain are short on details of what happens with Iran’s most proliferation-prone nuclear activity – its uranium enrichment – beyond the first 10 years of the agreement.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was Iran’s President from 2005 to 2013. Under his direction, Iran started its quest to obtain nuclear warheads and land range ballistic missiles.

The document obtained by the AP fills in the gap. It says that as of January 2027 – 11 years after the deal was implemented – Iran can start replacing its mainstay centrifuges with thousands of advanced machines.

Centrifuges churn out uranium to levels that can range from use as reactor fuel and for medical and research purposes to much higher levels for the core of a nuclear warhead. From year 11 to 13, says the document, Iran can install centrifuges up to five times as efficient as the 5,060 machines it is now restricted to using.

Those new models will number less than those being used now, ranging between 2,500 and 3,500, depending on their efficiency, according to the document. But because they are more effective, they will allow Iran to enrich at more than twice the rate it is doing now.

The U.S. says the Iran nuclear agreement is tailored to ensure that Iran would need at least 12 months to “break out” and make enough weapons grade uranium for at least one weapon.

But based on a comparison of outputs between the old and newer machines, if the enrichment rate doubles, that breakout time would be reduced to six months, or even less if the efficiency is more than double, a possibility the document allows for.

The document also allows Iran to greatly expand its work with centrifuges that are even more advanced, including large-scale testing in preparation for the deal’s expiry 15 years after its implementation on Jan. 18.

A senior U.S. official noted, however, that the limit on the amount of enriched uranium Iran will be allowed to store will remain at 300 kilograms (660 pounds) for the full 15 years, significantly below the amount needed for a bomb. As well, it will remain restricted to a level used for reactor fuel that is well below weapons grade. Like the diplomats, the official demanded anonymity in exchange for discussing the document.

“We have ensured that Iran’s breakout time comes down gradually after year 10 in large part because of restrictions on its uranium stockpile until year 15,” the official said. “As for breakout times after the initial 10 years of the deal, the breakout time does not go off a cliff nor do we believe that it would be immediately cut in half, to six months.”

Iran’s Ghadr-110 Missile

The official said the document wasn’t made public because it was part of Iran’s long-term enrichment plan submitted to the IAEA. Such submissions are confidential, but the text was “closely reviewed” by Washington and the other five powers that negotiated the nuclear deal, said the official.

Still the easing of restrictions on the number and kind of centrifuges means that once the deal expires, Tehran will be positioned to quickly make enough highly enriched uranium to bring up its stockpile to a level that would allow it to make a bomb in half a year, should it choose to do so.

The document doesn’t say what happens with enrichment past year 13. That indicates a possible end to all restrictions on the number and kind of centrifuges even while constraints on other, less-proliferation prone nuclear activities remain until year 15.

Iran insists it is not interested in nuclear weapons, and the pact is being closely monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The IAEA says Tehran has essentially kept to its commitments since the agreement was implemented, a little more than six months after Iran and the six powers finalized it on July 14, 2015.

Marking the agreement’s anniversary Thursday, President Barack Obama said it has succeeded in rolling back Iran’s nuclear program, “avoiding further conflict and making us safer.” But opposition from U.S. Republicans could increase with the revelation that Iran’s potential breakout time would be more than halved over the last few years of the pact.

Also opposed is Israel, which in the past has threatened to strike Iran if it deems that Tehran is close to making a nuclear weapon. Alluding to that possibility, David Albright, whose Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security is a U.S. government go-to resource on Iran’s nuclear program, said the plan outlined in the document “will create a great deal of instability and possibly even lead to war, if regional tensions have not subsided.”

The deal provides Iran with sanctions relief in exchange for its nuclear constraints. But before going into recess, U.S. Congress last week approved a bill to impose new sanctions for Tehran’s continuing development and testing of ballistic missiles, a program the White House says is meant to carry atomic warheads even if it is not part of the nuclear agreement.

It also approved a measure that calls for prohibiting the Obama administration from buying more of Iran’s heavy water, a key component in certain nuclear reactors.

The White House has said removing the country’s surplus heavy water denies Tehran access to a material that may be stored for potential nuclear weapons production. But critics note that the purchase was made only after Iran exceeded heavy water limits proscribed by the nuclear deal and assert it rewarded Tehran for violating the agreement.

Associated Press writer Matthew Lee contributed from Washington.



(R L) Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani attend Supreme Leader’s meeting with authorities of the country and ambassadors of Islamic countries, in Tehran, Iran July 6, 2016. Reuters photo

Hillary Clinton Opened Door to Key U.S. Shift Toward Iran Nuclear Deal

September 9, 2015


Iran Deal: At State Department, the Democratic front-runner and an aide softened their stance against letting Tehran enrich uranium

President Barack Obama talks with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, center, and her top aide, Jake Sullivan, to her left, in Cambodia in 2012. 
President Barack Obama talks with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, center, and her top aide, Jake Sullivan, to her left, in Cambodia in 2012. Photo: Pete Souza/The White House/Zuma Press

WASHINGTON—Hillary Clinton, in her last months as secretary of state, helped open the door to a dramatic shift in U.S. policy toward Iran: an acceptance that Tehran would maintain at least some capacity to produce nuclear fuel, according to current and former U.S. officials.

In July 2012, Mrs. Clinton’s closest foreign-policy aide, Jake Sullivan, met in secret with Iranian diplomats in Oman, but made no progress in ending the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program. In a string of high-level meetings here over the next six months, the secretary of state and White House concluded that they might have to let Iran continue to enrich uranium at small levels, if the diplomacy had any hope of succeeding.

“She recognized the difficulty of reaching a solution with zero enrichment,” said Mr. Sullivan, who now serves as Mrs. Clinton’s top campaign adviser on both domestic issues and foreign policy.

Mrs. Clinton left the State Department in early 2013. Later that year, in the midst of international talks, the Obama administration agreed publicly that Iran could continue to enrich uranium, completing the shift in policy that had been set in motion before Mrs. Clinton left her post.

Mrs. Clinton’s role in this critical early debate hasn’t been previously reported and shows that the Democratic presidential front-runner and her top aide, Mr. Sullivan, were key players in the Iran deal. Given united Republican opposition to the deal, the issue is likely to be central in the 2016 election.

Mrs. Clinton on Wednesday will deliver a major address on the Iran agreement and will voice support for President Barack Obama’s signature foreign-policy initiative, which has gained sufficient support from Democratic senators in recent days to take effect.

She will also seek to assuage skeptics of the deal, which include the majority of Congress and many American Jews, by stressing that as president she would vigorously guard against Tehran cheating on the agreement and would increasingly challenge Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East.

This will include maintaining financial pressure on Tehran, potentially through additional sanctions on Iran’s elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to her aides. She also referred to possible military action, telling NBC News last Friday that “no options were off the table” for confronting Tehran, if it is found to cheat on the nuclear deal.

“I think the American people are going to want a president who supports diplomacy…but who will also get up every day and enforce the agreement,” Mrs. Clinton said.

Republicans believe Mrs. Clinton’s deep role in the Iran diplomacy will make her vulnerable in the coming campaign. They note that successive U.S. administrations, including Mr. Obama’s initially, opposed Iran enriching uranium, on the grounds that the nuclear fuel can be used for both civilian and military purposes.

“The cave on enrichment wasn’t just any concession,” said former Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday.

Mrs. Clinton has taken a hawkish stance toward Iran throughout her career. In the 2008 presidential campaign, she called Mr. Obama “naive” for believing he could directly negotiate with Iran’s theocratic regime.

But after she became Mr. Obama’s secretary of state in 2009, Mrs. Clinton and top aides worked to hold direct talks with Iran in Kabul on the future of Afghanistan, according to Clinton aides. In 2010, after a Tehran request, the State Department sanctioned a Pakistan-based militant group, Jundullah, for terrorist attacks against Iran. A year later, Mrs. Clinton promoted an increase of visas issued to Iranian students, another step sought by Tehran.


In 2012, Mrs. Clinton dispatched Mr. Sullivan, her deputy chief of staff, to Muscat to lead the first one-on-one talks with Iran on the nuclear issue. Iranian diplomats expressed disappointment that July with the initial progress, according to attendees. Mr. Sullivan, just 35 years old at the time, seemed too young to the Iranians to spearhead a serious effort to end the decadelong standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. The U.S. also wasn’t yet prepared to concede that Iran would be allowed to maintain thousands of centrifuge machines it had installed to enrich uranium.

After this first round stalled, the Obama administration reviewed its position, according to current and former U.S. officials involved in the process.

The issue of allowing uranium enrichment in Iran had bedeviled the Obama and George W. Bush administrations. Both were of the view that Iran shouldn’t be allowed to deploy any centrifuge machines.

The United Nations Security Council demanded in six resolutions starting in 2006 that Tehran suspend its enrichment program, citing violations of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

But in high-level gatherings held after the first Muscat meeting, Obama administration officials concluded the diplomacy likely wouldn’t succeed without enrichment on the table. Mrs. Clinton hated the idea of allowing Iran that capacity, said her aides, but became open to a change in policy if Tehran agreed to serious restrictions on its nuclear program. But she hadn’t committed to the shift or to enrichment on a large scale, they said.

“By the time she left, her position was: ‘I’m not an absolute firm hard ‘no’ on enrichment.…Let’s see how it unfolds and reserve judgment on whether we’d accept enrichment until a later date,’ ” said a Clinton campaign foreign-affairs adviser.

After Mrs. Clinton left the State Department, Mr. Sullivan became Vice President Joe Biden’s national security adviser at the White House. From there, he continued negotiating with the Iranians for another two years. He is credited, along with former Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, with developing much of the framework for the nuclear agreement eventually reached in Vienna this July.

Under the final deal, Iran’s centrifuge program would be reduced to 5,000 machines from nearly 20,000. But Iran is allowed to expand this capacity to an industrial scale after a decade.

After leaving the State Department, Mrs. Clinton said in an interview with Atlantic Media that she preferred Iran have no enrichment capacity.

Mrs. Clinton has thrown her support behind the Iran deal since it was forged on July 14, though with caveats. On the day it was announced, Mrs. Clinton was on Capitol Hill meeting with congressional Democrats. In those sessions, she spoke favorably of the agreement, but didn’t offer a full-throated endorsement, according to lawmakers who met with her.

It wasn’t until late into the evening on July 14 that she issued a public statement of support. Even then, she highlighted her concerns, including the need for strict enforcement, and suggested she would try to defuse tensions between the Obama White House and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mrs. Clinton and her campaign team—including Mr. Sullivan and campaign chairman John Podesta—have regularly reached out to opponents of the Iran deal in recent weeks, including American Jewish leaders.

Mrs. Clinton has said she would stress the need to challenge Iran, in part by strengthening military support for Israel and the U.S.’s Persian Gulf allies. She is also focused on keeping financial pressure on Tehran.

In conversations with Jewish allies who oppose the deal, the campaign’s high command has emphasized these concerns and how she would address them as president.

“She is absolutely insistent that all of us, starting with her, understand and acknowledge the concerns, recognize them as legitimate, underscore that we get it,” the senior aide said.

The outreach to the Jewish community appears to be working. A number of Jewish leaders said they remained deeply concerned about the agreement, but said Mrs. Clinton wasn’t facing the same type of criticism as Mr. Obama. They credited her low profile since the deal was announced; a sense that she doesn’t fully approve of the deal, even though she is backing it; a belief that she would take a tough line against Iran if elected president; and her long relationship with Jewish leaders.

“Her history and her personal relationships give her credibility and the benefit of the doubt that the president just doesn’t get,” said Jarrod Bernstein, who managed relations with the Jewish community for Mr. Obama’s White House and who, with his wife, recently hosted a Clinton fundraiser at his home.

Still, even her supporters say she will be politically targeted. “In the general election, this is going to be the Obama-Clinton Iran deal,” said Greg Rosenbaum, who heads the National Jewish Democratic Council. “They’re going to need to be prepared at every stop to defend the Iran deal.”

Wednesday’s speech will go into detail about how she thinks concerns with Iran and with the nuclear deal can be mitigated, and how the deal can be enforced and “embedded in a broader regional strategy,” an aide said.

“It is a rigorous and robust and clear-eyed strategy that does not proceed from the premise that this is going to change Iran’s orientation,” the aide said. “We need to confront [Iran] outside the nuclear context on all these other issues.”

Write to Jay Solomon at and Laura Meckler at

Iran Nuclear Deal and John Kerry, Dick Cheney

September 6, 2015


Secretary of State John Kerry appeared on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Sept. 2, 2015.
Secretary of State John Kerry appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Sept. 2, 2015.

Enactment of the nuclear deal with Iran may now be a fait accompli, with enough Democratic senators having announced their support to prevent Republicans from derailing the agreement in the Senate. But that doesn’t mean the squabbling over the agreement is over.

On the Sept. 2, 2015, edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, former Vice President Dick Cheney, a foe of the deal, and Secretary of State John Kerry, one of its chief architects, sat for back-to-back interviews. We checked one claim from each of them.

Kerry rejected the claim that the agreement “sunsets,” thus allowing Iran the relatively unfettered ability to proceed with building a nuclear weapon.

“No, it never sunsets,” Kerry said. “There’s no sunset in this agreement.”

On the one hand, Kerry’s vigorous denial that any sunsets exist “in this agreement” is not entirely accurate.

As Kerry himself subsequently points out, a number of provisions of the agreement expire over time. Several provisions last for 10 years, including a limit of 5,060 operating centrifuges and curbs on research and development on advanced centrifuges. Other provisions last for 15 years, including a variety of caps on uranium enrichment, international inspector access in no more than 24 days, and prohibitions on new heavy-water reactors and reprocessing. Meanwhile, continuous surveillance of centrifuge production areas would last for 20 years, while continuous surveillance of uranium mines and mills would last for 25 years.

On the other hand, critics of the deal are wrong when they suggest that the agreement all but disappears after these expirations.

While a number of the particularly intrusive provisions will lapse after 10, 15, 20 or 25 years, Iran will still be bound — permanently — by other curbs on its ability to produce a nuclear weapon.

Iran must comply with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that it signed in 1974. This commits Iran to not pursuing nuclear weapons. It must also ratify the stricter curbs contained in the “Additional Protocol,” which expanded the types of sites inspectors could visit on short notice. Iran signed the protocol in 2003 but quit adhering to it three years later and has never ratified it. The agreement also demands that Iran implement “modified Code 3.1,” which requires the country to notify the International Atomic Energy Agency when it decides to build a nuclear facility, rather than six months before introducing nuclear material, and to keep the agency informed on changes to designs of existing nuclear sites.

So Kerry was right that the agreement as a whole does live on, and scrutiny of Iran’s nuclear ambitions will continue indefinitely under both earlier agreements and certain provisions within the nuclear deal. But his statement glosses over the fact that a number of key elements of the agreement expire in 10, 15, 20 or 25 years. On balance, we rated the claim Half True.

As for Cheney, he said that one of the agreement’s fundamental flaws is it allows Iran to continue to enrich uranium.

“When they allow Iran to continue with enrichment, they are breaking one of the key requirements with respect to the nonproliferation treaty where enrichment has been limited to basically the weapons states,” Cheney said. “And here we are sanctioning giving enrichment capability to the Iranians.”

However, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, or NPT, was designed in part to allow countries to pursue the peaceful use of atomic energy while preventing them from turning their nuclear materials and technology into weapons.

“Former Vice President Cheney is incorrect in asserting that the NPT prohibits enrichment by non-nuclear weapon states,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. “Article IV of the treaty does not ‘allow it,’ nor does it prohibit it.’ ”

Brian Finlay, managing director of the Stimson Center, a defense-policy group in Washington, also found Cheney’s words problematic.

“He is correct to say that France, the United States, Russia, China and the United Kingdom all have enrichment capacities,” Finlay said. “But so do Germany, Japan, the Netherlands — definitely not nuclear weapons states.”

Ultimately, while it’s debatable whether the treaty grants nations the right to enrich, if a non-nuclear nation wants to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes, the treaty doesn’t stand in the way. We rated the claim False.


Fox News Embarrasses Dick Cheney On Iraq And Iran

The former vice president waved off numbers that showed Iran’s nuclear capacity grew rapidly under the Bush administration.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Sunday shrugged off the rapid growth of Iran’s nuclear capacity during the Bush years, insisting that the American invasion of Iraq had curbed Iranian nuclear ambitions.

“There was military action that had an impact on the Iranians when we took down Saddam Hussein,” Cheney said on “Fox News Sunday.” “There was a period of time when they stopped their program because they were afraid what we did to Saddam we were going to do to them next.” 

The invasion of Iraq in fact deeply strengthened Iran’s hand in the region, ousting a traditional enemy of Iran and installing a new government far more sympathetic to the Iranian regime. Much of Iraq has effectively functioned as a client state of Iran for years.

Fox News host Chris Wallace pointed out to Cheney that Iran had no uranium enrichment centrifuges prior to the Iraq War, but had 5,000 of them by the time Bush and Cheney left office.

Cheney waved off the statistic. “I think we did a lot to deal with the arms control problem in the Middle East,” he said.

Cheney also claimed that the Iraq invasion forced Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi to dispose of his own weapons of mass destruction — a claim that was debunked several years ago.

In 2006, Time magazine reported that Hussein’s ouster nearly derailed lengthy nuclear negotiations with Gaddafi. American and British leaders had been pressing since the Clinton years to cut a deal with Gaddafi that would require him to dispose of weapons of mass destruction. When Hussein was toppled, Time reported, Gaddafi nearly walked away from the talks, concerned that diplomacy with the United States would make him look weak in the face of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke about the shortcomings of the invasion of Iraq on “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

“The fact of the matter is, we did it right in the first Gulf War. We had to listen to arguments for years afterwards about, ‘Why didn’t you go to Baghdad?’ And the 2003 war came along and you saw why you didn’t want to go to Baghdad,” Powell said. “We had a clear mission, clearly defined and put resources against that mission and took out the Iraqi army in Kuwait, restored the government, what we set out to do.”

“Once you pull out the top of a government, unless there’s a structure under it to give security and structure to the society, you can expect a mess,” he added.

Cheney’s comments on Iraq came amid his criticism of President Barack Obama’s recent diplomatic deal that aims to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Cheney said the U.S. is a “loser” in the pact, while the Iranian regime is “the only winner.”

Supporters of the pact have noted that economic sanctions against Iran have not curbed its nuclear capacities, and that other nations will not be willing to enforce economic levies against Iran if the U.S. abandons the deal. They argue that rejecting Obama’s agreement would leave war as the only remaining tool to deal with a potential nuclear threat.

Israel’s Former Military Intelligence Chief Suggests U.S., Israel Bilateral Agreement on Responses to Future Nuclear Activities

August 30, 2015

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) listens as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the media from the Colonnade outside the Oval Office of the White House in Washington September 1, 2010. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Because Iran nuclear agreement is so problematic, suitable response to future dangers is required, argues Amos Yadlin.

The U.S. and Israel should enter into a bilateral, parallel agreement in response to the highly problematic Iran nuclear agreement, former Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin said over the weekend.

In a paper published at the International Institute of National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, which Yadlin directs, the former senior defense official said a parallel agreement “should provide a suitable response to future dangers inherent in the agreement with Iran.”

“The agreement signed between the P5+1 and Iran is very problematic for Israel,” Yadlin stated in his paper, adding that it nevertheless appears as if President Obama will be successful in getting the deal through Congress.

“Though convinced that the agreement entails potential dangers for Israel, I stand by my previous position, namely, that the Israeli government should avoid interfering in the United States internal debate about this very charged issue. I therefore call on Prime Minister Netanyahu to take measures now toward formulation of a ‘parallel agreement’ between Israel and the United States that mitigates” the Vienna agreement’s weak points, he added.

A side agreement should clearly spell out a response to scenarios in which Iran seeks to break out to nuclear bomb production before the agreement lapses, Yadlin wrote. Additionally, it should provide a response to Iran’s regional positioning as a nuclear threshold state, led by a fundamentalist regime that sticks by its call to annihilate Israel. Thirdly, Yadlin said, a parallel agreement should “specify what constitutes a significant breach of the nuclear agreement, detailing the nature and scope of the response to that breach.”

A fourth clause would be dedicated to enhancing American – Israeli intelligence cooperation, and “efforts to close the gaps expected in the verification regime imposed by the IAEA in Iran. Fifth, the parallel agreement will have to enhance intelligence and operational cooperation to prevent Iranian nuclear development outside of Iran, as well as a nuclear arms race in other Middle East states.”

An effective parallel agreement would tackle the negative role played by Iran’s Quds Force in the region, which organizes hostile activity against Israel and other Middle Eastern countries.

“This goal will best be achieved by removing Assad’s murderous regime in Syria – an Iranian strategic asset of the highest degree – and by weakening Hezbollah through the interdiction of its weapon transfers and the undermining of its activities in Lebanon and Syria,” Yadlin wrote.

“As part of US-Israel cooperation, it is also necessary to emphasize the strengthening of moderate, pragmatic partners in the region, such as the Hashemite Kingdom in Jordan, Sisi’s regime in Egypt, and moderate factions in Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority,” he added.

“Within the framework of the parallel agreement, it is necessary to establish a joint annual review forum that would examine the status of the threat from Iran. It would assess the probability of a scenario in which Iran breaks out to the bomb and the possibility of Iran sneaking toward it. It will periodically review trends and changes in the nature of the Iranian regime, and evaluate the scope of Iranian subversive and terrorist activities in the Middle East and beyond,” Yadlin said.

“Israel is a powerful nation, strong enough to confront the challenges that lie ahead, including those expected from implementation of the [Vienna] agreement,” the former Military Intelligence chief said.

“Nonetheless, the best way to do so runs through Washington, and requires US-Israeli cooperation that manages the risks and maximizes the strategic possibilities expected after the agreement goes into effect,” he added.

Assessing the threats inherent in the Vienna agreement, Yadlin warned that “once it expires (10-15 years), Iran will consolidate a legitimate nuclear infrastructure of unrestricted scope. This infrastructure will include unlimited numbers of advanced centrifuges and vast amounts of 20 percent enriched uranium, placing Iran at what President Obama termed ‘almost zero breakout distance’ from a bomb.”

“Another hazardous scenario is one in which Iran violates the agreement before it expires, either by creeping, sneaking, or breaking out to the bomb. The weakness of the IAEA supervision procedures, especially at undeclared Iranian sites, makes it imperative to supplement the inspection efforts with the highest levels of intelligence possible, such that a good picture of Iran’s nuclear status is maintained at all times.”

Iran could also move to establish military nuclear capacity through acquisition or development efforts in a third country, Yadlin cautioned.

“On the conventional level, the financial boost expected in Iran upon the lifting of sanctions will generate and reinforce threats to Israel. A conventional arms race between Iran and the rich Gulf states that feel threatened by Tehran’s armament is quite likely, and the first signs of Iranian buildup are already visible.”


Evidence mounts that soon-to-be flush Iran already spurring new attacks on Israel

By Paul Alster
Fox News

An unsettling surge in terrorism by Iranian proxies has many Israelis convinced the release to Tehran of tens of billions of dollars in frozen funds is already putting the Jewish state in danger.

In recent days, rockets have rained down on Israel from Gaza in the south and the Golan Heights to the north, Israeli forces foiled a bomb plot at the tomb of biblical patriarch Joseph, and Gaza-based terrorist groups that also have a presence in the West Bank have openly appealed for aid on Iranian television. Israeli officials fear the terrorist activity is spiking as groups audition for funding from Tehran, which is set to receive the long-frozen funds as part of its deal to allow limited nuclear inspections. They say the international focus on Iran’s nuclear ambitions has left its more conventional methods of attacking regional adversaries unaddressed.

“The nuclear context is just one aspect of the negative Iranian activities in the region,” Emmanuel Nahshon, senior Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, told “We can see the demonstration of this on a daily basis in Syria, in Yemen, and in Iraq. We see it also when we see the [Iranian] support of Hezbollah and other groups who operate against Israel.”

Last month, National Security Adviser Susan Rice admitted that some of the money due to be released as part of the deal negotiated by the U.S. led P5+1 “would go to the Iranian military and could potentially be used for the kinds of bad behavior that we have seen in the region.”

Shi’ite cleric wearing military uniform with Hezbollah members. Reuters photo

Aside from the soon-to-be-released billions, Iran’s finances will also be strengthened by the easing of trade embargoes that have seen a horde of major international business – many from P5+1 countries – rushing to sign lucrative deals with the ayatollahs. Earlier this week, British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond scoffed at the fears of Israel and many Arab countries in the Middle East, saying the deal would “slowly rebuild their sense that Iran is not a threat to them.” Less than 24 hours later, the spokesman for Iran’s top parliament member said, “Our positions against [Israel] have not changed at all; Israel should be annihilated.”

If that remains Iran’s intention, terror groups Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are showing a renewed eagerness to continue as its proxies. Four rockets apparently fired by the PIJ from Syria into northern Israel last week – two into the Golan Heights and two more into the Upper Galilee – were the first such attacks since the start of Syria’s bloody civil war more than four years ago. Israel responded with targeted missile strikes, including one which hit a car killing “five or six PIJ terrorists.”

On Aug. 18, Iranian state TV broadcast images of a new, 2.5-mile tunnel leading from Gaza into Israel. Dug by the Fatah-linked terror group the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, and seemingly competing with arch-rivals Hamas for a share of the imminently unfrozen Iranian funds, the terrorists made an unabashed appeal for more cash. In a segment translated by Palestinian Media Watch, the terror group’s representatives said, “This is why we are asking [for money]… especially [from] Iran, which is a known long-time supporter of the resistance and the Palestinian cause.”

On Tuesday, Israeli officials revealed that a joint Israeli internal security and military operation thwarted a potentially lethal bomb attack planned by the Islamic Jihad on visitors to Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem in the Palestinian-controlled West Bank, the resting place of the biblical figure revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.

The pace of attacks, as well as the diversity of their perpetrators, has prompted speculation that terrorist groups are competing for Iranian funding, and trying to show they are capable of giving Tehran bang for its buck. The terrorist groups however operate on budgets that are tiny given the scale of Iran’s financing capability.

“The amount that Iran gives Hezbollah is not very much – around $200 million – not even 1 percent of Iran’s budget last year,” Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born Israeli expert on the region who writes at, told “If you want to stop Iranian support of Hezbollah you would need to have inspectors on the ground in Syria and Lebanon, the most dangerous of places, checking Hezbollah’s arsenal, bank accounts, bases, and Syrian bases which Hezbollah uses. I don’t see any UN force, or anyone else volunteering to do that.”

Paul Alster is an Israel-based journalist. Follow him on Twitter @paul_alster and visit his website:

Why Iran Deal Is So Deadly: Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu Talks With Steve Forbes

July 16, 2015

This sobering interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was conducted in Israel several days ago on condition that it be embargoed until formal announcement of the Iran nuclear deal. It covers Iran’s ominous nuclear program, the now-announced agreement and other critical security issues. Make no mistake: The very safety of the U.S. itself is at stake.

Steve Forbes

By Steve ForbesForbes Staff

STEVE FORBES: Prime Minister, President Obama has said that if there isn’t a deal with Iran it will mean war. What we’ve learned about the deal is not reassuring. What’s your take on this?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I think if the deal goes through we’re in danger of war, and it might be the worst kind of war we can imagine. Because this deal will open the way for Iran not to get a bomb but many bombs. Within a decade it will be free to enrich uranium on an unlimited basis. And it will be able to make the fissile cord for dozens of bombs–indeed, hundreds of bombs–which it can then put on the hundreds of ICBMs it already has.

Under this deal Iran is going to get $100 billion to $300 billion, which it will be able to use to fund its terrorism and its aggression in the region–its aim being to destroy Israel. Given Iran’s history of aggression, I’d say that this double bonanza of a guaranteed pathway to a nuclear arsenal and a jackpot of money to continue its aggression actually makes the danger of war, even nuclear war, a lot greater.

SF: You make a very important point. Even if Iran sticks to the deal, which is highly problematical, in a decade it will be a major global nuclear power, and it will have ballistic missiles.

BN: Iran is producing them, and guess what? Within a few years they will be able to reach the Eastern seaboard of the United States. And then every point in the United States. But this deal will also enable Iran to tip those missiles with nuclear weapons, with atomic bombs. And I think it’s a huge mistake to allow the foremost sponsor of terrorism in the world, Iran, to have nuclear weapons, as well as the capacity to give such weapons to its terrorist surrogates. This is a big, big mistake. Not only endangering Israel and the entire Middle East but the entire world, specifically the United States. The mullahs, the dictators in Tehran, they call us the little Satan; they call America the big Satan. You are their ultimate target, and you should not give such a terrorist regime the weapons of mass destruction. Because I think the greatest danger facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons. Here you have a militant Islamic state, Iran, arming itself with nuclear weapons and receiving a huge cash bonanza in the bargain. That’s a mistake.

SF: The prospect of Iran becoming a nuclear power is going to set off a nuclear arms race in this part of the world, is it not?

BN: It is. The greatest danger in this deal is not that Iran will violate the agreement. That’s a danger–and it’s probably a certainty, given its record of cheating. The fact is that within ten years Iran won’t have to violate anything; it can just walk into the bombs. Into many bombs. The Iranians are openly saying that they won’t have the 6,000 centrifuges they’re allowed under this deal, they can have 190,000 centrifuges. Which is a vast amount.

They’ll be able to take yellow cake, put it into those centrifuges, spin it and make the material needed for nuclear bombs within weeks–and on a vast scale. And they don’t have to violate the agreement. They merely have to keep it to get a nuclear arsenal.

And that’s why countries in the region–Iran’s Arab neighbors and others–are saying, “Well, if Iran is going to be given a license to produce an atomic bomb arsenal, then we have to do that, too.” So this deal will spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East tinderbox.

And, you know, this could be the deal that will be the ultimate nuclear proliferator, that more than anything else in history will cause the proliferation of nuclear weapons. That’s bad news for everyone.

SF: Iran clearly wants to become the dominant power in the Middle East. We see its proxies operating everywhere. Iran seems, ultimately, to have its eyes on Saudi Arabia’s oil, not to mention Iraq’s.

BN: And the holy places.

SF: And the holy places. Putting aside the nuclear issue, how do we counter Iran’s ambitions in the region, which have global implications?

BN: Well, don’t give Iran the $100 billion to $300 billion to fund its proxies and its own arms industry–its rockets, its drones and its submarines. Why give the most dangerous regime on Earth the power to further its aggression? This is a big, big mistake. So, the first thing is: Don’t give Iran the funds to multiply its aggression 10 times, 100 times over.

Second, resist Iran and its proxies. Support your allies, support those who are resisting Iran. And the principal ally, the best ally that the U.S. has in this region is Israel. I think that America has no better friend than Israel, and Israel has no better friend than America. And we should stand together against Iranian aggression, and against ISIS’ aggression. Both of them are our enemies. You shouldn’t strengthen one and weaken the other; you should weaken both.

SF: What happens if Congress doesn’t derail this deal?

BN: We always have the right and the duty to protect ourselves against a regime that, while denying the Holocaust, is planning another Holocaust against the six million Jews of Israel. That will not happen. We won’t let it happen.

SF: Is this like the 1930s?

BN: No, it’s worse, because we have the example of the 1930s, which wasn’t available then.

Israel’s military option won’t vanish in a post-Iran deal era

July 14, 2015

Israel:  So long as Iran continues to call for Israel’s destruction, the defense establishment will not stop developing means to attack its nuclear program


Satellite image shows a nuclear facility in Iran. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Israel’s defense establishment is quietly monitoring every development in the nuclear talks between world powers and Iran, and any forthcoming deal will be subject to the most intense scrutiny.

The final form of a nuclear deal will influence Israeli military plans for the possibility of, one day, receiving an order from the cabinet to launch an assault on the Iranian nuclear program. This is a capability that Israel has no intention of forfeiting, even in a post-deal era.

The IDF will need to set aside considerable defense budget funds in the forthcoming multi-year military plan, dubbed Gideon, to continue to build on its long-range strike options.

According to Israeli intelligence assessments, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has not given up on his goal of possessing nuclear weapons. Yet, constraints posed by a complex reality have forced Khamanei to delay this goal, at least for the time being.

Hence, the first conclusion one can draw is that a nuclear deal does not mean Iran has given up on nuclear weapons as a goal, but also, that an arrangement, even a poor one, could result in a short-term decrease of the threat of Iran breaking out to the weapons production stage.

As a result, the option of a military strike remains firmly on the table, but does not appear to be imminent, since only an Iranian attempt to break through to the nuclear weapons stage can trigger an Israeli attack.

Over the past year, Israel has not detected an active nuclear weapons project in Iran.

What is active in Iran is a large-scale uranium enrichment program, based on a relatively high number of spinning centrifuges.

Additionally, Iran continues to make progress in research and development of more advanced enrichment techniques.

The Iranian missile arsenal, which could act as a delivery mechanism for a future nuclear weapon, is expanding. Iran has hundreds of liquid fuel missiles that can strike Israel and parts of Europe, and it is working on solid fuel missiles for much longer strike ranges.

Senior Israeli defense sources hold that in the short term, a combination of intelligence monitoring and intrusive international inspections could actually result in a decrease of the threat from Iran.

It seems, however, that the deal being put together in Vienna now falls short of ensuring adequate inspections, meaning that intelligence will play a crucial role as a tool that can deliver a warning of an Iranian breakout attempt. Iran could reactivate the nuclear weapons project at any time.

The reason the nuclear deal is bad is because it leaves too much enrichment capability in Iranian hands and infrastructure that can lead to nuclear weapons in the future. A good agreement would have ensured that Iran would not possess enrichment abilities for many years.

Instead, Iran is left with a high number of centrifuges and no guarantee that these won’t be diverted into a nuclear weapons production drive in the future. That is bad news for Israel, the region, and for international security.

The Iranian regime continues to officially call for Israel’s destruction, and so long as Tehran retains a basis from which it could one day build nuclear weapons, the defense establishment will retain its ability to intervene, if ordered to do so.

In the meantime, the IDF and intelligence agencies will have their hands full with Iran’s regional subversive activities and aggression, and its weapons and funding network, for Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Islamic Republic’s many activities in Syria.

Iran parliament bars key nuclear concessions in talks with big powers — Nuclear Deal Called “Fatally Flawed”

June 23, 2015

By Parisa Hafezi

ANKARA (Reuters) – Iran’s parliament passed a bill on Tuesday banning access for U.N. inspectors to its military sites and scientists, potentially complicating chances for a nuclear accord with world powers as a self-imposed June 30 deadline approaches.

Two major stumbling blocks to a deal have been disputes over how much transparency Iran should offer to ease suspicions that it has covertly sought to develop nuclear bombs, and the timing and pace of relief from sanctions imposed on Tehran.

France has spearheaded the powers’ demand that Iran grant unfettered U.N. access to military bases — where Western officials believe Iran has conducted nuclear bomb research — as part of any final settlement that would curb Tehran’s nuclear program in return for a phase-out of sanctions.

The legislation prohibiting any such access, as well as stipulating that all sanctions be lifted as soon as a nuclear accord takes effect, was approved by 214 of 244 lawmakers present on Tuesday, state television reported.

The powers say sanctions can be dismantled only gradually to reward Iranian compliance with various aspects of an agreement.

State TV said the bill allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency solely to inspect Iran’s nuclear installations under its existing Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA.

“But it bans any inspection of military, security and non-nuclear sites as well as access to documents and scientists.”

The bill must still pass through the Guardian Council, an unelected, hardline watchdog body close to clerical Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all important matters of state, before becoming law.


Khamenei has publicly voiced trust in his negotiating team but, echoing hardline Iranian military commanders, also ruled out inspections of military sites and interviews with nuclear scientists that the IAEA has long called for.

Iran has long said it is enriching uranium solely for civilian nuclear energy, and suggested that unlimited IAEA inspection powers would be abused by Western intelligence to glean Iranian security secrets.

Parliament’s intervention could pressure Iranian negotiators striving to clinch a deal that could usher in a cautious detente with the West after years of mounting confrontation that threatened a wider Middle East war.

Some senior Iranian negotiators had raised the possibility of some limited IAEA access to non-nuclear sites, albeit with Iranian officials present to control process.

The bill also obliges Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s top negotiator, to report to parliament every six months on the process of implementing the accord.

“The government must preserve Iran’s nuclear rights and achievements … Any deal reached by the government with the powers must be approved by parliament,” state TV said.

But the official news agency IRNA quoted government spokesman Mohammad Baqer Nobakht as saying that provision in the bill was “unconstitutional” as the Islamic Republic’s defense and security policies were not the province of parliament.

Zarif said on Monday he saw a good chance of reaching a final agreement by June 30 or a few days later, provided there was political will to do so.

Britain said Iran had to show more flexibility and the powers could not compromise on red lines including enhanced IAEA access to ensure any accord is verifiable.

(Editing by Mark Heinrich)


The Iran Deal’s Fatal Flaw

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S main pitch for the pending nuclear deal with Iranis that it would extend the “breakout time” necessary for Iran to produce enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon. In a recent interview with NPR, he said that the current breakout time is “about two to three months by our intelligence estimates.” By contrast, he claimed, the pending deal would shrink Iran’s nuclear program, so that if Iran later “decided to break the deal, kick out all the inspectors, break the seals and go for a bomb, we’d have over a year to respond.”

Unfortunately, that claim is false, as can be demonstrated with basic science and math. By my calculations, Iran’s actual breakout time under the deal would be approximately three months — not over a year. Thus, the deal would be unlikely to improve the world’s ability to react to a sudden effort by Iran to build a bomb.

Breakout time is determined by three primary factors: the number and type of centrifuges; the enrichment of the starting material; and the amount of enriched uranium required for a nuclear weapon. Mr. Obama seems to make rosy assumptions about all three.

Most important, in the event of an overt attempt by Iran to build a bomb, Mr. Obama’s argument assumes that Iran would employ only the 5,060 centrifuges that the deal would allow for uranium enrichment, not the roughly 14,000 additional centrifuges that Iran would be permitted to keep mainly for spare parts. Such an assumption is laughable. In a real-world breakout, Iran would race, not crawl, to the bomb.

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Czech Republic Stopped Nuclear Enrichment Transfer To Iran

May 13, 2015



The Czech Republic blocked an attempted purchase by Iran this year of a large shipment of sensitive technology useable for nuclear enrichment after false documentation raised suspicions, U.N. experts and Western sources said.

The incident could add to Western concerns about whether Tehran can be trusted to adhere to a nuclear deal being negotiated with world powers under which it would curb sensitive nuclear work in exchange for sanctions relief.

The negotiators are trying to reach a deal by the end of June after hammering out a preliminary agreement on April 2, with Iran committing to reduce the number of centrifuges it operates and agreeing to other long-term nuclear limitations.

Iran’s then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits an Iranian nuclear facility in 2012

Some details of the attempted purchase were described in the latest annual report of an expert panel for the United Nations Security Council’s Iran sanctions committee, which has been seen by Reuters.

The panel said that in January Iran attempted to buy compressors – which have nuclear and non-nuclear applications – made by the U.S.-owned company Howden CKD Compressors.

A Czech state official and a Western diplomat familiar with the case confirmed to Reuters that Iran had attempted to buy the shipment from Howden CKD in the Czech Republic, and that Czech authorities had acted to block the deal.

It was not clear if any intermediaries were involved in the attempt to acquire the machinery.

There was no suggestion that Howden CKD itself was involved in any wrongdoing. Officials at Prague-based Howden declined to comment on the attempted purchase.

The U.N. panel, which monitors compliance with the U.N. sanctions regime, said there had been a “false end user” stated for the order.

“The procurer and transport company involved in the deal had provided false documentation in order to hide the origins, movement and destination of the consignment with the intention of bypassing export controls and sanctions,” it added.

The report offered no further details about the attempted transaction. Iran’s U.N. mission did not respond to a query about the report.

CONTRACT WORTH $61 million

The Czech state official said the party seeking the compressors had claimed the machinery was needed for a compressor station, such as the kind used to transport natural gas from one relay station to another.

The official declined to say exactly how the transaction was stopped, provide specifications of the compressors or confirm the intended purchaser. However, he made clear it was the Czech authorities who halted the deal

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the total value of the contract would have been about 1.5 billion Czech koruna ($61 million).

This was a huge amount for the company concerned, the previously named CKD Kompresory, a leading supplier of multi-stage centrifugal compressors to the oil and gas, petrochemical and other industries.

The firm was acquired by Colfax Corp. of the United States in 2013 for $69.4 million. A spokesman for Colfax declined to comment.

The United States and its Western allies say Iran continues to try to skirt international sanctions on its atomic and missile programs even while negotiating the nuclear deal.

The U.N. panel of experts also noted in its report that Britain informed it of an active Iranian nuclear procurement network linked to blacklisted firms.

While compressors have non-nuclear applications in the oil and gas industry, they also have nuclear uses, including in centrifuge cascades. Centrifuges purify uranium gas fed into them for use as fuel in nuclear reactors or weapons, if purified to levels of around 90 percent of the fissile isotope uranium-235, in weapons.

“Such compressors can be used to extract enriched uranium directly from the cascades,” Olli Heinonen, former deputy director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency and a nuclear expert currently at Harvard University, told Reuters.

“In particular, they are useful when working with higher enrichment such as 20 percent enriched uranium,” he said, adding that precise specifications of the compressors in question would be necessary to make a definitive assessment.

Iran has frozen production of 20 percent enriched uranium, a move that Western officials cite as one of the most important curbs on Iranian nuclear activities under an interim agreement in 2013.

Tehran rejects allegations by Western powers and their allies that it is seeking the capability to produce atomic weapons and says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

The IAEA and the United States have said repeatedly that Tehran has adhered to the terms of the 2013 interim deal.

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by David Storey and Stuart Grudgings)