Atomic amnesia: The forgotten military aspects of Iran’s nuclear program

Ali Akbar Salehi and Yukiya Amano in Tehran

Emily Landau, Ephraim Asculai, and Shimon Stein, writing in The National Interest, argue for the necessity of clarifying Iran's past military nuclear activities as part of any final deal. Concerns over those past activities, they write, are the reason for negotiations in the first place. Iran must elucidate its past actions in order for the P5+1, and for Iran itself, to be satisfied with a nuclear deal.

By Emily Landau

As the nuclear negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran move toward the July 20th deadline, the military aspects of Iran’s nuclear program cannot be left unresolved in a comprehensive deal. One way of integrating the military dimensions into the negotiations would be to focus exclusively on verification issues, while enabling the negotiators to skirt around the question of Iranian admission of working on a military nuclear program. While this could be a face-saving mechanism for Iran, it would come at the unacceptable cost of enabling Iran to continue its narrative that it has done no wrong in the nuclear realm.

In fact, clarifying the nature of Iran’s military nuclear activities -- and the fact that Iran has worked on a military program for years while violating the terms of the NPT -- is essential to the negotiations and to any prospective final deal. This is not for the sake of humiliating Iran, but to create a common basis for the negotiation and deal. Otherwise the P5+1 are insisting that Iran back away from something (military ambitions) that Iran emphatically claims it does not have. How does one negotiate effectively with such unequal terms of reference? 

Exposing the military dimensions would put an end to the erroneous Iranian claim of innocence of any wrongdoing. With the shadow of the Iraq War still looming, the lingering doubts regarding the Iranian case need to be resolved once and for all so that it is clear to everyone concerned that Iran did break the rules, and for that reason it is being compelled by the international community to change course. In order to improve future verification of Iran’s activities, but also in order to improve overall dealing with Iran, as well as the ability to confront additional proliferation down the road, a final agreement with Iran must explicitly address the resolution of its weaponization activities. 

Read the full article here.

Emily B. Landau is Head of the Arms Control Program at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), at Tel Aviv University and the author of “Decade of Diplomacy: Negotiations with Iran and North Korea and the Future of Nuclear Nonproliferation.” 

Ephraim Asculai is a Senior Research Fellow at INSS and a former senior scientist at the Israel Atomic Energy Commission. 

Amb. Shimon Stein is a Senior Research Fellow at INSS and a former deputy director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, and ambassador to Germany.

Photo credit: ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images