Report: Iran Used Pilfered Docs From Nuclear Watchdog to Hide Extent of Program

Wall Street Journal reports that Iranian officials use documents belonging to the UN nuclear agency to 'prepare cover stories and falsified records'

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, right, welcomes IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi  in Tehran, in March.
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, right, welcomes IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi in Tehran, in March.Credit: AP

Iran used knowledge gleaned from pilfered International Atomic Energy Agency documents to obfuscate the extent of its nuclear weapons program, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing documents obtained by the paper and interviews with intelligence officials.

According to the Journal, top Iranian officials reviewed confidential documents belonging to the United Nations agency between 2004 and 2006, using them as they “prepared cover stories and falsified a record to conceal suspected past work on nuclear weapons.”

The documents were among 100,000 stolen from Iran by the Mossad and revealed to the world by then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu —who said that they were “new and conclusive proof of the secret nuclear weapons program that Iran has been hiding for years”— in 2018.

Iran has long denied that it is developing nuclear weapons, claiming that its program is strictly civilian in nature.

The Journal wrote that the documents had been confirmed by a former agency official and that it had obtained them from an unnamed “Middle East intelligence agency that hails from a country that opposes Iran’s nuclear program.”

“Some documents include handwritten notes in Persian on IAEA documents and attachments with Iranian commentary,” the paper reported, noting that a number of the documents reviewed by its journalists had attached notes, in which "Iranian credited ‘intelligence methods’ for obtaining the IAEA reports.”

The documents were used to prepare for international inspections, providing the Iranians with knowledge of the extent of the IAEA’s intelligence regarding their nuclear program and even the questions inspectors planned on asking, the report stated.

In an interview with Israel Hayom on Wednesday, Israel’s former military intelligence chief endorsed a return to the Iran nuclear deal, asserting that such a move would be in Israeli’s interests at the current time.

A renewed deal, Maj. Gen. (res.) Tamir Hayman said, would “deduct and reset the amount of enriched material that Iran has, roll it back and buy you a lot of time, because enrichment takes a long time.”

With his comments, Hayman, now the director of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), joined a growing body of former Israeli security officials diverging with Jerusalem’s hardline opposition to the deal, which was scuttled when the United States withdrew its participation in 2018.

Earlier this year, former IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said in an interview with Maariv that former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had not informed the defense establishment that Trump was about to withdraw in May 2018. While they had their own criticism of the JCPOA, they also saw the agreement as an opportunity to divert resources to priorities other than the Iranian nuclear program, and Trump’s announcement disrupted the IDF’s long-term plans.

“We weren’t warned about it, we weren’t prepared for it,” Eisenkot said,” calling the U.S. withdrawal a “a strategic mistake.” “It was like thunder on a clear day.”

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