Iran remains the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism. This week, President Trump designated Iran’s elite armed force, the Revolutionary Guard, a foreign terrorist organization. Meantime, Trump has drawn criticism for suggesting Iran continues to explore nuclear weapons development. James Rosen has some surprising evidence.
In 2015, the Obama Administration and five other world powers struck the controversial nuclear deal with Iran. The agreement restricted Iran's sensitive nuclear activities.
President Obama: Because of this deal, inspectors will also be able to access any suspicious location.
As part of the deal, the Obama Administration returned tens of billions of dollars in frozen funds to Irana move criticized in many quarters since Iran remains the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism. Last year, the Trump Administration withdrew the US from the agreement. In January, CIA director Gina Haspel told Congress Iran is nonetheless still living up to it’s part of the bargain.
Sen. Angus King: Since our departure from the deal, they have abided by the terms?
Gina Haspel: At the moment, technically they are in compliance.
But before dawn the morning after Haspel testified, President Trump tweeted the opposite: "The intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong!" And in a TV interview, the President singled out the CIA director’s assessment.
Margaret Brennan: Your intel chiefs do say Iran's abiding by that nuclear deal. I know you think it's a bad deal, but –
Pres. Trump: I disagree with them.
Margaret Brennan: You disagree with that assessment?
Pres. Trump: I have intel people, but that doesn't mean I have to agree.
But newly uncovered evidence may support the President’s suspicions that Iran is violating the nuclear deal.
Benjamin Netanyahu: We’re going to show you Iran’s secret nuclear files.
Fourteen months ago, Israeli intelligence staged an overnight raid on an unmarked warehouse in Iran’s capital. There, explained Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran kept an enormous, and secret, archive of documents about its past nuclear work.
Agents from Israel’s intel agency, known as “the Mossad," made off with half a ton of materials
Benjamin Netanyahu: Here’s a photo showing the casting process, and a cast metal core – from the archives.
Perhaps the biggest revelation was a large number of documents, photos, and blueprints showing that Iran built a secret underground complex, analysts say the archive traces the construction, in 2003-2004, of a massive tunnel system called “the Shahid Boroujerdi project.” Satellite photography places the facility on a military base called Parchin, 30-miles southeast of Tehran, where regime officials have given UN monitors only the most limited access. Archive photos show the huge tunnel-boring equipment used to build the complex, the lining of its tunnels with concrete.
Renowned nuclear physicist David Albright says the site should have been declared and inspected as part of the nuclear deal -- but never was.
David Albright: Parchin is a very important site and Iran has fought like crazy to try to keep the International Atomic Energy Agency out of there.
Albright inspected Saddam Hussein’s nuclear sites in Iraq back in the nineties. His think tank, the Institute for Science and International Security, took the lead in publishing the first detailed analysis of the Boroujerdi project.
James Rosen: A case could be made that indeed Iran is not presently complying with the terms of the nuclear deal. Correct?
David Albright: Correct.
James Rosen: And so when President Trump says that he disagrees with his intelligence chiefs about whether the Iranians are complying with the nuclear deal, in your view, as a learned scientist on this subject, there's actually some ground to agree with President Trump?
David Albright: There is. When the head of the CIA says they're technically in compliance with the nuclear deal, what does that mean? I mean, does that mean in the details, they're in compliance, but in the big picture, they're not? We think they may be working on nuclear weapons and making progress.
James Rosen: At the time that the Obama Administration and the other Western powers finalized the Iran nuclear deal, did the United States know about the Boroujerdi project?
David Albright: No.
James Rosen: Did the International Atomic Energy Agency know about the Boroujerdi project?
David Albright: No.
James Rosen: Did the Israelis know about the Boroujerdi project?
David Albright: No.
James Rosen: And to your knowledge, IAEA has taken no steps to go inspect this site?
David Albright: None that I know of.
James Rosen: Olli Heinonen is the former deputy director general, the #2 official at the International Atomic Energy Agency. He has visited Parchin and is considered one of the world's foremost experts on nuclear weapons programs.
James Rosen: Do you believe that Secretary Kerry and Secretary Moniz, principal negotiators for the United States in the Iran nuclear deal, knew about this facility when they signed off on it?
Olli Heinonen: If they knew about it, they have to have a very good explanation, why this was not exposed and dismantled.
Other world powers who finalized the nuclear agreement -- Germany, France, Britain, China, Russia, and the European Union -- have stayed in the deal, resisting US Pressure to abandon it. Opponents of President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal argued it would alienate those allies who helped negotiate the accord, and undercut the deal’s major accomplishment. Among those critics, Democratic Congressman Peter Welch of Vermont.
Rep. Peter Welch: It did address one: It required Iran to cease and desist from active development of nuclear weapons. That is a huge strategic achievement.
Sharyl: What difference does it make for the US or any other country to pull out or stay in the Iran deal?
James: A lot of it is: business opportunities. As long as the Europeans, Russia and China stay in the deal, their companies can continue do big business with Iran.
Sharyl: Will the discovery of this new material make a difference?
James: That depends on what's done about it. Sources tell me the Trump Administration is pressuring the UN to demand access to this site, so far without success. 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.