Sanctions imposed by the United States Treasury Department on Iran will make those associated with its illicit nuclear program “radioactive,” according to a senior administration official at a State Department briefing, NBC News reported Friday. An administration official quoted in the briefing acknowledged that the information used in imposing the sanctions was derived from the nuclear archive Israel recovered last year from Iran.
The Iranians designated by Treasury are all affiliated with Iran’s Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, also known by the acronym, SPND. The organization was founded by Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
According to the State Department, the scientists affiliated with SPND were previously employed by Iran’s AMAD program, whose goal was to create a nuclear weapon.
A second State Department official said that Iran retained the scientists, who are experts in the technologies needed to create a nuclear weapon, “to keep their skills sharp” until the time that Iran would choose to revive its overt pursuit of nuclear weapons.
“Punishing those who have supported Iran’s past illicit nuclear drive is another way for the administration to offset Iranian hedging efforts should the regime return to a full-court press for the bomb,” Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, explained.
“The United States strongly condemns Iran’s efforts to maintain its band of former nuclear weapons researchers, preserve their work, and continue sensitive procurement activities,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said. “Other Iranian individuals who work for the regime’s nuclear program should know they risk being sanctioned by the United States.”
“This is a danger that was highlighted by the so-called Iranian nuclear archive, which the Israelis rather daringly spirited out of Iran not too long ago, but is an extraordinarily important point to remember because the very squirreling away of all of those carefully preserved records from that program also goes to this point of reconstitution, a senior administration official explained in the briefing. “And so what you have is essentially a regime that has been trying to prepare for itself what we might think of in the outside world as the perfect storm for proliferation breakout. You have a situation in which, under the JCPOA, Iran would have been permitted in a number of years’ time to build, essentially, any enrichment capacity it wanted for uranium and to hold, essentially, any quantity of enriched uranium.”
Last April, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that Israel had raided a warehouse in Tehran and seized a half-ton of documentation of Iran’s past nuclear weapons work.
Experts at the Institute for Science and International Security and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who subsequently studied the materials in the archive concluded that Iran had made advances in its nuclear weapon program that inspectors had been unaware of and that Iran was also likely in violation of its obligations according to the 2015 nuclear deal.
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