Iran deal can be effectively verified to prevent "sneakout"
The agreement is based on verification, not trust. According to the U.S. fact sheet, Iran has agreed to accept the IAEA’s Additional Protocol as well as several even more intrusive monitoring and inspection measures that will provide high confidence that Iran is not making bomb material at its declared nuclear facilities and will significantly strengthen the ability of inspectors to detect clandestine facilities
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Of course, the agreement is far from perfect as no tough international negotiation yields a deal that is completely satisfactory to all sides. Perhaps the greatest weakness of the agreement is that some of the constraints on Iran’s nuclear activities are lifted after 10–15 years, particularly with regards to its centrifuge capacity and ability to conduct research and development on next-generation centrifuges. Opponents will rightfully argue that there is a danger that this agreement leaves in place the potential for Iran to become a nuclear threshold state in 15 years and it is certainly true that permanent restrictions would have been more effective.
The good news is that the agreement still leaves in place a number of sufficient checks that last longer than 15 years. Most important, the key elements of the inspections regime, including the Additional Protocol, remain in place forever or for 25 years, giving the United States and its partners unprecedented visibility into Iran’s nuclear program. Iran is also forbidden from ever pursuing any research and development activities that could contribute to the development of a nuclear explosive device, including uranium or plutonium metallurgy activities. Through the joint oversight mechanism the United States will have the ability to gain visibility into Iran’s research and development plans and block any changes Iran proposes that the United States find unacceptable.
But what about secret facilities? The brute fact about unknown facilities is that we cannot know what we don’t know. No agreement can provide 100-percent confidence that Iran will not cheat at a secret facility. Indeed, no one can have 100-percent confidence today that Iran has not already built a nuclear bomb at a secret facility. What has prevented the Iranians from doing this so far has been Tehran’s judgment that such an undertaking would be discovered and that the United States would act decisively to deny them success. The keys to sustaining effective deterrence are (1) rigorous efforts by the intelligence agencies of the United States and its allies, and (2) a credible military capability to act if Iran dashes toward a bomb.
Since the agreement imposes the most intrusive verification and inspection regime ever negotiated, it will significantly add to the ability of intelligence officials to discover any prohibited activity and enhance the legitimacy of U.S. or other countries’ military actions to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons should it violate its commitments. Nonetheless, as experts and so-called experts debate a 24-day delay for direct inspections of suspicious activity, or insufficient answers about Iran’s earlier nuclear pursuits, no one should miss the larger truth: 99 percent of the work to assure that any Iranian cheating is discovered will be done by U.S. intelligence agencies and those of allies. That was true before the agreement and will remain so after—even though the new inspections regime will provide some helpful information and observations that would otherwise be unavailable.
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The IAEA uses cameras to monitor facilities and sends inspectors to check seals placed on facilities. However, both because the IAEA must gain the consent of the inspected party and because of funding constraints, it does not remotely monitor facilities in near-real-time in Iran. Given the Islamic Republic's history of cheating, obfuscating, and lying, the lack of near-real-time monitoring represents a major procedural weakness. The IAEA or other international consortia should break with current practice, and use remote cameras which provide near-real-time surveillance capabilities and employ onsite inspectors 24 hours per day, seven days each week. However, video monitoring can only apply to Iran's declared sites. Written into any agreement should be verification procedures to address undeclared nuclear programs inside the country. Given the IAEA's inability to detect undeclared activities with confidence, however, such verification procedures might resemble mechanisms applied by the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) to Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
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Moreover, responding to Iranian violations need not depend on proof gathered by the IAEA on site. While an IAEA inspection that catches Iran red-handed would probably provide the strongest basis for going to the Security Council and re-imposing sanctions, the United States would not need to wait for IAEA confirmation of Iranian cheating. If the United States acquired reliable intelligence of Iranian violations that posed a serious security threat and could be shared with others, the nuclear deal enables Washington to go directly to the Security Council without waiting for IAEA access. Indeed, depending on the scale and time-urgency of the threat, the United States could choose to act on its own to penalize Iran.
Inspections are only one component of the JCPOA’s comprehensive monitoring system. Continuous surveillance of the entire nuclear supply chain, including the prohibition of sensitive imports other than those individually approved and monitored for legitimate purposes, will make it difficult for Iran to pursue an undetected covert enrichment program. To succeed, a covert program requires not just a single clandestine site but a substantial number of effectively hidden facilities and undetected movement of equipment and materials between them. It requires unaccounted-for or successfully diverted supplies of uranium ore, processed uranium, uranium gas, centrifuge components, and facilities designed to produce those supplies. The JCPOA’s layered monitoring system will greatly increase the likelihood of detecting one or more of the necessary elements of a covert program and provide a substantial deterrent to Iranian cheating.
Basic technical capabilities to detect violations of commitments like those Iran would make under a comprehensive nuclear deal have improved significantly since 1994. This augments the deterrence of cheating, including by heightening the probability that such cheating could be detected in time to allow military interdiction.
Moreover, the proposed agreement to monitor the entire supply of specified materials and technology going to Iran and to limit Iran’s procurement to a declared channel eases the burden of verification and intelligence gathering and assessment. Any procurement that was detected outside the monitored supply chain and declared channel would presumably be deemed a violation of the agreement. Unlike today, intelligence analysts and policymakers would not have to debate whether a detected activity actually signifies a violation of the NPT or of any other international nonproliferation norm or guideline.
Intrusive IAEA inspections also allow intelligence officials to worry less about keeping watch over Iran’s known nuclear sites, allowing them to focus on the hunt for any nuclear activity Iran might be conducting in secret.
Multiple intelligence arms of the U.S. government are focused on Iran, including the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA’s Iran operations division.
Schiff said he is urging his undecided colleagues to read a classified assessment prepared for Congress by U.S. intelligence agencies, which he said gives him confidence in the ability of U.S. spy agencies to catch Iran in the act of cheating.
He said that Washington would be stepping up cooperation with allies to monitor Iran beyond the declared scope of the nuclear deal’s IAEA inspections.
That point was echoed by Ami Ayalon, a former chief of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, in a recent interview with POLITICO.
“I know something about the American [intelligence] capabilities, and I can tell you that some specific areas, we can improve them with some specific capabilities that we have,” Ayalon said. “I believe that we can reach the point at which, if we share our intelligence… we shall know almost everything what is happening at every site every moment in Iran.
Although the chances of an Iranian sneak-out attempt are relatively great, however, its odds of success are extremely low. With the world’s spy agencies devoting huge resources to tracking events inside Iran, any serious attempt at cheating under a new nuclear deal would probably get caught. If Tehran somehow did manage to cheat without notice, its secret program would nonetheless advance slowly. Moreover, even in the unlikely eventuality of a highly efficient secret effort, Iran would still fall short of a bona fide nuclear weapons arsenal. The major powers, then, are right to focus on getting an agreement that limits Iran’s genuine breakout potential, not its highly questionable sneak-out potential.
Iran has often tried to build advanced nuclear capabilities in secret. But time and again, it has gotten caught in the act. Both of Iran’s uranium enrichment plants, for example, were discovered at early stages of construction. Pessimists point to this past cheating as evidence of Tehran’s untrustworthiness, but that same track record also demonstrates that the United States and its partners cannot be easily duped. Moreover, a diplomatic accord with Iran would not stop Western intelligence agencies from looking out for possible Iranian malfeasance. And the more access the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspectors have to Iran’s nuclear program, the easier it will be to detect any covert activities.
MYTH: Allowing inspections within twenty-four days gives Iran enough time to hide/dispose of nuclear material.
Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain will be under 24/7 surveillance and monitoring. IAEA inspectors will have the right to visit any part of that supply chain immediately. If suspicious activity is detected elsewhere in Iran, Tehran must allow international inspections within twenty-four days. Disposing of nuclear material is different from disposing of illicit drugs or murder weapons: Nuclear materials leave traces that endure for thousands of years. The U.S. intelligence community and IAEA nuclear inspectors are fully confident they can detect nuclear activities well beyond twenty-four days.
The ultimate fear is that an Iranian sneak-out could result in not just a secret stockpile of weapons-grade uranium but also functional nuclear bombs. Yet this scenario is even more far-fetched than the proposition that Iran might be able to mount a huge parallel nuclear program without anyone noticing.
The vast majority of nuclear weapons states have conducted an explosive test prior to the construction of operational nuclear weapons. Typically, this first test has preceded the birth of a genuine military arsenal by several months or more. Such tests may not be strictly necessary from an engineering point of view, but they are almost always necessary for political reasons. And thanks to advances in seismic monitoring technology, nuclear tests can’t be concealed anymore. If Iran were to go for the bomb, then, its nuclear test would open a clear window for a preemptive strike by the United States.
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[PRO] The agreement is based on verification, not trust. According to the U.S. fact sheet, Iran has agreed to accept the IAEA’s Addi- tional Protocol as well as several even more intrusive monitoring and inspection measures that will provide high confidence that Iran is not making bomb material at its declared nuclear facili- ties and will significantly strengthen the ability of inspectors to detect clandestine facilities. Of course, no verification measures are perfect. In the end, good intelligence is the most important tool for detecting secret activities, but intelligence and enhanced inspections will complement each other, making it less likely that Iran will take the risk of pursuing secret activities and more likely that the U.S. will catch Iran if it tries.
Iran has received nearly two snap nuclear inspections a month and almost double the overall number of visits it had just five years ago, indicating the value of the deal the U.S. and its allies reached in 2015 to rein in the country’s nuclear program.
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United Nations inspectors will be present with Iranian technicians as they take samples from a key military site, two Western diplomats said, undercutting an objection by U.S. Republicans to the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
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America’s top spy says he’s “pretty confident” that the U.S. will be able tell whether Iran is cheating on the proposed nuclear deal, thanks in part to special new tools the intelligence community has developed to buttress inspections and international monitoring efforts.
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The authors explain how the IAEA's environmental sampling process with Iran would work, concluding that "[o]n the basis of what has been made known so far, there is no reason to suspect that the IAEA’s conclusions about Iran won’t be sound."
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The head of the United Nations agency charged with leading an investigation into Iran’s past nuclear activities defended the probe, hitting back at suggestions that the watchdog had ceded control of inspection of one important site to Iran.
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In a letter published Thursday, ten current and former members of the House Intelligence Committee -- all Democrats -- urged other members of Congress to visit a secure facility in the House and read the U.S. intelligence community's classified assessment of the deal. That assessment, the members write, makes it clear that it will be "nearly impossible for Iran to develop a covert [uranium] enrichment effort without detection" under the agreement.
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In classified hearings before a joint Congressional intelligence committee, intelligence community officials affirmed that with the combination of the intel they will gain from the Iran deal and their existing technical collection means, they will be able to successfully verify and monitor Iran's compliance with the agreement.
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The author reports on how state of the art anti-neutrino detectors will be employed to monitor and verify Iran's compliance with the nuclear agreement.
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James Acton reviews the verification proceedings of the nuclear deal and argues that while not perfect, they allow "effective verification" to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons at a covert facility.
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The UN’s nuclear monitors have great new sensors, but eavesdropping gear and radioactive residue will make their job of monitoring the nuclear deal with Iran harder than ever.
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