Using highly advanced drones as deep-penetration monitors, Israel has collected hitherto unknown data about clandestine Iranian military nuclear activity and handed it over to the Obama administration and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, DEBKA Weekly reveals.
The information was passed in the last few days directly to the White House in Washington and the IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano.
The data supported by a sample of radioactive dust was collected from hidden installations in three Iranian provinces: Fars, in the south, whose administrative center is the town of Shiraz; Khorassan in the northeast; and Sistan in the south east, whose capital is Zahedan and which borders on Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The new Israeli drones are capable of gathering radioactive dust while hovering overhead.
Our military and intelligence sources report that the unmanned aircraft can fly inside the reactor buildings of a nuclear power plant. The meter-wide six-propeller drone has a camera, a dust collector, and devices to measure radiation levels, as well as lasers to spot walls and other obstacles to be avoided – even inside a building.
Operators on the ground receive 3-D images in real time. The unmanned device can replace its own batteries and so prolong its mission.
New drone findings and sample force IAEA director to reassess
The new Israel drone is based on a prototype that was developed by Japan’s Autonomous Control Systems for inspecting the buildings of crippled reactors 1 and 3 at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear power plant after it was damaged by explosions.
The Israeli Air Force purchased the technology, after receiving approval from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his visit to Israel last January. It was then upgraded and devices installed from Israel’s own Hermes 900 Kochav Star, which is a medium size payload UAV, designed for medium altitude, long-endurance tactical missions.
The conversion readied the drone for its task as a spy in the sky for gathering nuclear intelligence and scooping up substances in Iran.
The Obama administration, which had found out about the transaction between Israel and Japan, was surprised by the speed in which the Israeli Air Force installed the Japanese technology and got its converted drones up and running. Neither did Washington expect such fast delivery of precise data and evidence.
The effect in Vienna was to persuade Amano to admit that he was no longer sure that Iran had declared all of its nuclear facilities to the agency.
Iran delays endorsement of nuclear deal
Tehran now states that it needs another five weeks for a decision on the nuclear deal it concluded in Vienna with six world powers in July, DEBKA Weekly’s Iranian sources report. That is almost a month after the US Congress is due to deliver its verdict.
Although the vote in Washington will be a major factor in the Iranian decision, Obama’s mustering of sufficient support to sustain his veto of any legislation for derailing the Vienna agreement, does not preclude possible Iranian demands for amendments.
They are to be expected in the following areas:
1. Timeline for the Removal of Sanctions
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani have said categorically that all sanctions must be lifted together with the signing of the nuclear agreement.
This position runs contrary to the terms of the accord.
First of all, sanctions relief is contingent on a favorable IAEA report confirming Iran’s compliance with its obligations. Then, there are three kinds of sanctions – one set imposed by the UN, another by the US and a third by the European Union.
The two latter types will remain in place, even after international sanctions are cancelled, a situation sharply challenged by Tehran.
Strong measures if US Congress keeps sanctions in place
On Sept. 3, Khamenei said that there will be no agreement if the sanctions remain in force, and called for their complete removal, rather than their suspension.
“If the framework of sanctions is to be maintained, then why did we negotiate?” Khamenei asked.
That question was immediately answered by White House spokesman Josh Earnest, who said. “Iran will only see sanctions relief if it complies with the nuclear deal.”
Our sources report that anti-deal hardliners in Iran are preparing to accuse Washington of non-compliance with its commitments under the agreement, if the sanctions enacted by the US Congress are not removed.
Ali Larijiani, Speaker of Iran’s parliament, the Majlis, and many other politicians in Tehran have warned that if the US fails to honor the accord, Iran will respond accordingly with strong measures.
The Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and fellow Iranian radicals are just waiting to see if they can use delayed sanctions relief as a pretext for ignoring the nuclear accord and going forward with their plans for further developing Iran’s nuclear capability.
2. Inspection Regime
Already, IRGC commanders and their radical allies have said firmly that the Non-Proliferation Treaty’s clause mandating snap inspections of suspect nuclear sites, without prior notice, will not be obeyed.
Iran’s Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan has said that every nuclear watchdog request to visit a site which is not on Iran’s accepted list will be considered individually and on no account include access to Iran’s military facilities.
Larijani indicated that Tehran will demand changes in this NPT provision.
Ballistic missile development will continue apace
On the same subject, IRGC chief Gen. Mohammad-Ali Jafari, said Tehran would need a long time to consider and answer requests for inspection visits. He was confirming the information from our sources in Tehran that procedures had been put in place by Khamenei’s office that promised lengthy procrastination for any IAEA request to inspect undeclared facilities.
3. Continuation of Missile Development
Iran claims that it has never made any commitment with regard to the development of ballistic missiles.
Even so, it must be taken into account that sanctions on this issue with remain, said Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi this week in a warning to a closed session of the Majlis special committee for scrutinizing the Vienna agreement. Sanctions will not impede Iran’s development of missiles in the future, any more than they did in the past, he insisted. Since Iran never agreed to any prohibition, the missile program will go full steam ahead regardless of international opprobrium.