Yazd Iran
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The re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s prime minister could very well lead to the annexation of the West Bank and an end to the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But it has been clear for a while now that Netanyahu has another foreign policy goal in the Middle East. He desperately wanted Trump to pull the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear agreement and would welcome this country’s military intervention in Iran.

Just a week before Trump announced his decision about the Iran nuclear agreement, Netanyahu staged a massive public relations event in which he announced that an undercover Israeli operation had stolen documents verifying Iran’s previous nuclear arms program. He had to walk a fine line to acknowledge that most of the material had to do with a program that ended in 2003, while implying that the threat remained. To do so, he claimed that Iran lied about their efforts, something that surprised no one—especially those who had been involved in the negotiations leading up to the 2015 agreement.

While U.S. intelligence officials reaffirmed as recently as the end of January that Iran is still in compliance with the agreement—even after the U.S. pulled out—Trump made a show of undermining their assessment, claiming that they are wrong and should go back to school.

On Sunday, Trump enabler Sharyl Attkisson hosted a report on her show purporting to have new evidence suggesting that Iran could be hiding evidence of a nuclear project. The story came from Jay Rosen, the former Fox News correspondent who was investigated by the Obama administration for conspiring with State Department employee Stephen Jin-Woo Kim on a story about a possible nuclear test by North Korea. It was reported that Rosen’s story put intelligence assets in that country at risk.

The “new evidence” Rosen reported on Sunday came from the Iranian archives that were previously discussed by Netanyahu at his public relations event. Apparently some of the documents related to an underground facility referred to as “the Shahid Boroujerdi project,” which was built in 2002-2003 at the Parchin military facility near Tehran.

Rosen pulled a quote from David Albright, founder of the non-governmental Institute for Science and International Security, in which he says, “We think they may be working on nuclear weapons and making progress.” The tape of Rosen’s interview with Albright has been edited both before and after that statement, so it is impossible to know the context of that remark. But here is how Albright and his colleagues ended a report on their review of the documents related to the Boroujerdi project.

The provisions of the JCPOA, with the current IAEA monitoring regime, would not be able to detect and precipitate action in time to block Iran from dashing to a nuclear weapon within a short period of time, particularly as restrictions on enrichment start to end beginning in five years.

In other words, nothing in those documents suggests that Iran is currently working on nuclear weapons. Rosen basically admits that at the end of his report.

Analysts believe the site has some active military purpose, and when major restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programs are lifted in the next decade, this facility could help them build a nuclear weapon faster than we thought.

The big threat is that if the Shahid Boroujerdi facility still exists (something that hasn’t been proven), and if Iran begins to enrich uranium in five years, this program could be used in the development and production of nuclear warheads.

This isn’t the first time that an Iranian military facility has been used to inflame criticism of the nuclear deal. As Max Fisher explained, one month after the agreement was signed, the Associated Press ran a story claiming that Iran would be allowed to inspect the Parchin facility itself.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Associated Press published an exclusive report on the Iran nuclear program so shocking that many political pundits declared the nuclear deal dead in the water. But the article turned out to be a lot less damning that it looked — and the AP, which scrubbed many of the most damning details, is now itself part of this increasingly bizarre story…

[Jeffrey Lewis, an arms control expert at Middlebury College’s Monterey Institute of International Studies] suspects that the point of the leak was to make the IAEA agreement on Parchin sound as bad as possible, and to generate political attention in Washington, with the hopes that political types who do not actually understand normal verification and inspection procedures — much less the Parchin issue — will start making demands.

“Normally people don’t care about this kind of thing,” Lewis said. “Normally, if the IAEA is satisfied, everyone is satisfied. But now [with this story] the IAEA being satisfied is now no longer good enough; people are going to insist that they personally be satisfied.”…

“I think there are some people who really want an Iranian admission of guilt not because it helps to verify the deal, but because they will then use that on the front page of the New York Times to end support for the deal,” Lewis said.

Now that Trump has pulled the U.S. out of the deal, the idea is to promote the lie that Iran could be hiding evidence of a nuclear project to back up the president’s statements about how we can’t trust intelligence sources or the IAEA. You can expect this story to start bubbling up on right wing news sites, with calls for a U.S. military intervention in Iran, which is exactly why Netanyahu planted it in the first place.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.