Trump Admin Seeks Investigation Into New Claims of Secret Iran Nuclear Sites

White House ramping up international effort to expose Iran's nuclear warehouse

Hassan Rouhani
Getty Images
October 2, 2018

The Trump administration is pushing international nuclear inspectors to launch a new investigation into evidence Iran has been stockpiling nuclear weapons technology and materials at a secret undisclosed site, according to U.S. officials who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.

Evidence of this previously unknown nuclear site was presented last week by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during an address before the United Nations General Assembly.

The disclosure sent shockwaves through the international community and prompted the Trump administration to push for a renewed investigation into the claims by the IAEA, or International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. body tasked with performing oversight on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.

The United States is expected to spearhead efforts to further expose what Netanyahu described as a massive atomic warehouse in Iran, according to U.S. officials and senior congressional sources familiar with the Trump administration's strategy, which aims to further isolate Iran economically and diplomatically.

"We look to the IAEA to continue to act in a responsible and timely manner in pursuit of any credible information, including the information presented by [Prime Minister] Netanyahu, that could indicate Iran has fallen short of the nonproliferation obligations the IAEA is charged with verifying," a senior State Department official told the Free Beacon.

The official would not comment on the veracity of Netanyahu's information, telling the Free Beacon the administration was "not a party to any planning to disclose it."

While the IAEA has been subjected to wide-ranging criticism by U.S. officials for its failure to inspect Iran's most contested nuclear sites, insiders say the Trump administration is working on plans to become more aggressive in holding the organization accountable.

A large part of this strategy will include Ambassador Jackie Wolcott, who was confirmed on Tuesday to serve as the next U.S. representative to the IAEA. Wolcott has been a vocal critic of Iran and has worked with organizations to expose the Islamic Republic's secret nuclear endeavors.

Her confirmation, sources say, is a sign the Trump administration seeks to hold the IAEA accountable for the gaps in its Iran reporting in a far different manner than the Obama administration.

"For the Iran deal to work the IAEA has to look the other way at Iranian cheating, including keeping options available to build nuclear weapons, but they can't make it obvious," one senior Republican congressional staffer who works on Iran issues told the Free Beacon.

"So they've been spinning their wheels and inspecting everywhere that Iran isn't cheating, while missing warehouses are filled with nuclear weapons plans," said the source, who was not authorized to speak on record about the sensitive situation. "The United States is committed to getting the IAEA to actually do its job, and now we're going to have Ambassador Wolcott on the ground to push them directly."

The evidence presented by Netanyahu is being viewed by many Iran hawks as a sign the United States must get tougher with the IAEA and push it to investigate Tehran's nuclear undertakings since the landmark agreement was put into effect in 2016.

The Free Beacon reported at the time that multiple portions of the nuclear agreement, which has since been scrapped by the Trump administration, prevented the IAEA from performing surprise inspections and restricted access to most of Iran's military sites.

"I'm revealing the site of a second facility— Iran's secret atomic warehouse," Netanyahu told the U.N. last week. "It's right here, in the Turquz-abad District of Tehran, just there miles away."

"The Iranian officials cleaning out that site still have a lot of work to do because they've had at least, at least 15 ship containers, they're gigantic, 15 ship containers full of nuclear related equipment and material stored there," he said. "Now, since each of those containers can hold 20 tons of material, this means that this site contains as much as 300 tons, 300 tons of nuclear related equipment and material."

In the days since Netanyahu disclosed evidence of the Iranian nuclear warehouse, Tehran has launched several missile attacks in Syria and has promised more.

U.S. officials have been reluctant to confirm the veracity of Netanyahu's information, unlike in previous situations in which the United States quickly affirmed similar claims and stood firm with the Israeli leader.

"We cannot comment on the specific information that was disclosed and were not a party to any planning to disclose it," a State Department spokesperson told the Free Beacon. "We have full confidence in the IAEA to carefully evaluate all available information relevant to its monitoring and verification mandate and to seek clarification of any questions or inconsistences as appropriate."

The administration, the official added, is now working overtime to pressure the IAEA to investigate the claims and additional information indicating Iran has been hiding illicit nuclear weapons work.

"The United States remains determined to ensure that Iran is denied all paths to a nuclear weapon," according to the State Department official. "The United States strongly supports the IAEA's role in providing independent international verification that Iran is fully meeting its nuclear nonproliferation commitments."

"In that role, the IAEA has the right and obligation to investigate all information it considers relevant to its verification mandate, and the IAEA has a long track record of acting responsibly in Iran—and globally—based on its mandate," the official said, referring to the recent claims presented by Netanyahu.

The Trump administration is clear-eyed about Iran's past efforts to lie and obfuscate its nuclear weapons work, the official said.

"Iran's long history of previous noncompliance with its IAEA and UNSC [U.N. Security Council] obligations and its recently revealed effort to preserve an archive of nuclear weapons-related information makes it absolutely imperative that the IAEA fully exercise its authorities in order to provide confidence to the international community that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran," the official said.