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Middle East Issues





Is there a deal with Iran on Stuxnet too?


The recently announced parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, are supposed to be a framework for a formal agreement with Iran that will, for a period of at least 10 years, prevent Iran from producing enough weapons grade fissile material to produce a bomb.

No document was ever signed, however, and the US version differs significantly from the Iranian version.

For example, while the US version asserts that nuclear-related sanctions against Iran will be lifted in phases and only after Iran is seen to live up to its obligations, the Iranian version claims that all sanctions will be lifted with the signing of the envisioned agreement.

These discrepancies have helped to provoke numerous questions about the framework deal, but at least one extremely important issue has apparently so far been ignored – what assurances did the Iranians demand regarding attacks against their nuclear program, and what assurances did the United States provide?

The efforts to derail the Iranian program have included direct attacks on Iranian scientists, and malware-based attacks on Iran's nuclear infrastructure. The most well known example of the latter was the Stuxnet worm, supposedly a joint effort between Israel and the United States, which targeted the controls of Iran's centrifuges, leading many of them to spin out of control and self-destruct.

In light of the malware attacks against their nuclear program, it seems extremely unlikely that Iranian negotiators would agree to a nuclear deal with the United States without reliable assurances that such attacks would stop. Did the US provide such assurances – even verbally – and did the US also provide assurances that it would use its technical assets to blunt similar Israeli attacks?

And what of an attack on Iran's nuclear sites by the Israeli air force? It seems extremely likely that between human intelligence assets in Israel and spy satellites and other "national technical means," the US would pick up telltale signs that Israel was preparing to launch an attack. Did the Iranians demand, and did the US offer assurances, that such an attack would be prevented by, for example, leaking the information to the media?

These are extremely important and sensitive questions, and it would be foolish to expect the administration to offer answers publicly. But behind closed doors one might expect the relevant committees in both the Senate and the House to insist that senior administration officials give full and forthright answers.


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