Recently uncovered documents seem to prove that President Barack Obama was involved in a deal that intentionally gave Iran an easy way to restart its nuclear weapons program.
The secret side deal was hidden from the American public for months. And it could allow Iran to quickly develop a nuclear bomb after Obama has left office.
Restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program will start to ease years before the 15-year accord expires, advancing Tehran’s ability to build a bomb even before the end of the pact.
That’s according to a leaked document that was revealed Monday, first reported by The Associated Press.
The confidential document is the only text linked to last year’s deal between Iran and six foreign powers that hasn’t been made public. It was given to the AP by a diplomat whose work has focused on Iran’s nuclear program for more than a decade, and its authenticity was confirmed by another diplomat who possesses the same document.
Both demanded anonymity because they were not authorized to share or discuss the document.
The diplomat who shared the text with the AP described it as an add-on agreement to the nuclear deal in the form of a document submitted by Iran to the International Atomic Energy Agency outlining its plans to expand its uranium enrichment program after the first 10 years of the nuclear deal.
But while formally separate from the bigger nuclear accord, he said that it was in effect an integral part of that pact and had been approved by the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, the six powers that negotiated the deal with Tehran.
It also proves that Obama apparently withheld key information from the American public about how the pact affects Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Details published earlier outline most restraints on Iran’s nuclear program meant to reduce the threat that Tehran will turn nuclear activities it says are peaceful to making weapons.
But although some of the constraints extend for 15 years, documents in the public domain are short on details of what happens with Iran’s most proliferation-prone nuclear activity — its uranium enrichment — beyond the first 10 years of the agreement.
The document obtained by the AP fills in the gap. It says that as of January 2027 — 11 years after the deal was implemented — Iran will start replacing its mainstay centrifuges with thousands of advanced machines.
Centrifuges churn out uranium to levels that can range from use as reactor fuel and for medical and research purposes to much higher levels for the core of a nuclear warhead. From year 11 to 13, says the document, Iran will install centrifuges up to five times as efficient as the 5,060 machines it is now restricted to using.
Those new models will number less than those being used now, ranging between 2,500 and 3,500, depending on their efficiency, according to the document. But because they are more effective, they will allow Iran to enrich at more than twice the rate it is doing now.
In other words, while Obama is enjoying his retirement, Iran will be enriching uranium for warheads.
While the document doesn’t say what happens with centrifuge numbers and types past year 13, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told The AP that Iran will be free to install any number of advanced centrifuges beyond that point, even though the nuclear deal extends two additional years..
In selling the deal to skeptics, the U.S. administration said it is tailored to ensure that Iran would need at least 12 months to “break out” and make enough weapons grade uranium for at least one weapon. Moniz said the document obtained by the AP posed no contradiction to that claim because “we made it very clear that we were focused on 10 years on the minimum one-year breakout time.”
Iran insists it is not interested in nuclear weapons, and the pact is being closely monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The IAEA says Tehran has essentially kept to its commitments since the agreement was implemented, a little more than six months after Iran and the six powers finalized it on July 14, 2015.
Marking the agreement’s anniversary Thursday, President Barack Obama said it has succeeded in rolling back Iran’s nuclear program, “avoiding further conflict and making us safer.” But opposition from U.S. Republicans could increase with the revelation that Iran’s potential breakout time would be more than halved over the last few years of the pact.
Also opposed is Israel, which in the past has threatened to strike Iran if it deems that Tehran is close to making a nuclear weapon. Alluding to that possibility, David Albright, whose Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security is a U.S. government go-to resource on Iran’s nuclear program, said the plan outlined in the document “will create a great deal of instability and possibly even lead to war, if regional tensions have not subsided.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.