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
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.
MYTH: A comprehensive deal will not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons using a covert program.
REALITY: A comprehensive agreement will block Iran's uranium and plutonium pathways to the bomb. Among other features, the agreement will set verifiable limits on Iran's uranium-enrichment capacity and its stockpiles of enriched uranium. It would also dramatically cut the output of weapons-usable plutonium at the Arak heavy-water reactor. U.S. negotiators have stated that an acceptable final deal will push the time it would take Iran to produce enough highly enriched uranium for one bomb to 12 months.
A comprehensive deal also would put in place additional measures to ensure that any covert program is deterred or quickly detected. The additional monitoring and verification under the interim agreement has already dramatically expanded international oversight of Iran's nuclear program through increased IAEA access to sites. A comprehensive deal will provide additional monitoring and verification.
In addition, Iran has agreed to implement and ratify the additional protocol as part of a comprehensive deal. Specifically, it gives the IAEA expanded right of access to information and sites. With the additional protocol, the agency will have regular access to Iran's entire fuel cycle, including facilities such as Iran's uranium mines, centrifuge production facilities, and heavy-water production plant. This will make it far more difficult for Iran to siphon off materials for a covert program.
The additional protocol also helps the IAEA check for any clandestine nuclear activities in Iran by providing the agency with greater authority to carry out inspections in any facility with nuclear material. It also enables the agency to visit the nuclear facilities on short notice, making it more difficult to cover-up any activities intended to divert materials or that are inconsistent with a facilities' stated purposes.
MYTH: 2) Inspection and verification measures in the deal won't stop Iran from cheating.
Think again. Iran already has the most heavily monitored nuclear program in the world save Japan. Global powers have already demonstrated their ability to acquire information about previously undisclosed nuclear activities in Iran. Still, the inspection and verification measures being discussed as part of a comprehensive nuclear deal will be unprecedented in nature and scope. The international community will acquire information and insight into Iran's nuclear program at a level never previously achieved. From start to finish, there will be state-of-the-art science and technology monitoring every link in Iran's nuclear supply and production chain.
Furthermore, if Iran sees timely and sustained benefits from a nuclear deal, it will maximize the incentives for following through on its commitments. Buy-in from Iranian decision-makers and the Iranian public is the only way to prevent a deal from collapsing in Tehran. Iran already has the technical capacity to build nuclear weapons, but it has not made the political decision to do so. The cost-benefit analysis in Tehran is clear: Sanctions and other forms of pressure produced 20,000 Iranian centrifuges. Diplomacy, respect, and the potential for political and economic reintegration were the incentives that produced previously unthinkable limitations to Iran's nuclear program.
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Iran’s second option for a breakout would be a covert sneak out in which it uses an entirely new set of facilities that has not been detected by the IAEA. Such an approach is difficult to carry out and would take a few years.7 Iran has twice tried to build covert enrichment facilities, first Natanz and then Fordow, both of which were detected long before they ever came online.8
The parameters agreed to in Lausanne, which create robust monitoring and verification mechanisms, will make it exceedingly more difficult for Iran to secretly develop covert facilities. Most importantly, the inspections regime will include continuous video monitoring of Iran’s uranium mines and uranium mills for the next 25 years and the monitoring of centrifuge production facilities for 20 years.9 This cradle to grave monitoring of the entire process will force Iran to develop secret alternative sources of uranium and centrifuges if it ever wishes to develop a covert nuclear program – a difficult proposition indeed.10
The International Atomic Energy Agency can field a sophisticated array of gadgetry to detect if Iran is departing from its obligations: fiber-optic seals on equipment that can signal the IAEA if they are cut; infrared satellite imagery that can track down hidden reactors; environmental sensors that can detect minute signs of nuclear particles; hardened cameras built to withstand tampering and radiation.
To that list, the West’s intelligence services can add even more: sophisticated cyber espionage operations; an array of seismic and acoustic sensors; and networks of old-fashioned, human spies.
As a deal nears—another deadline looms this week—the Obama administration’s allies are emphasizing these technologies as evidence that the United States will be able to detect Iranian cheating, and in so doing, be able to deter such action.
“This will be a state-of-the-art verification regime, with sophisticated sensors, seals, cameras, coupled with comprehensive audits, interviews, inventories, and a controlled import channel for all Iranian purchases of nuclear-related technology,” said Joseph Cirincione, the head of the Ploughshares Fund, a WMDs nonproliferation organization. “If Iran tries to break out, sneak out or creep out of this agreement, we will catch them."
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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