Iran’s past lies are relevant to assessing present compliance

The Washington Post’s editors join the chorus of those trying to downplay the documents, captured by Israel, about Iran’s pre-deal nuclear efforts. They write that “the trove doesn’t add greatly to what was already known about Iran’s pursuit of nukes.”

The point, though, is that the trove adds greatly to what is not known about that pursuit. The effort to rein in Iran’s nuclear program through an agreement requires such knowledge. As Scott says:

The Iran deal was predicated on the full disclosure by Iran of its nuclear program to the IAEA. The requirement of disclosure was imposed on Iran under the terms of the JCPOA.

The documents the Post pooh-poohs show that Iran provided nothing approaching full disclosure. Thus, in my view, it violated the agreement.

The violation, moreover, is not a technicality. It is highly material to the agreement. Tzvi Kahn explains:

By refusing to come clean on its past nuclear work, the clerical regime prevents nuclear inspectors from establishing a baseline for verification, potentially enabling Tehran to conceal illicit nuclear activities.

This is why the disclosure requirement was imposed. And it is why Iran did not comply.

The Post declines to mention, never mind address, this point. Instead, it substitutes a straw man:

Mr. Netanyahu argued that Iran violated the deal by lying to the IAEA about its previous pursuit of a weapon. But that, too, was well known. The real purpose of the pact was to curb Tehran’s future activity, at least for a decade or so.

As I argued above, however, to ensure that we curb future activity, and to guard against future lying, we need to know the truth about Iran’s previous activity as a baseline for verification, in Kahn’s words. It wasn’t enough to know that Iran lied, we needed to know the truth, with specificity. Israel’s documents show that Iran did not provide it.

In the paper edition, the Post’s editorial is called “Mr. Netanyahu’s inconclusive case.” Before declaring the case “inconclusive” the Post should present it more fairly.


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