Stolen documents shed new light on Iran weapons technology: reports

Stolen documents shed new light on Iran weapons technology: reports
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New details on stolen Iranian nuclear documents obtained by Israeli spies earlier this year shed light on Tehran's nuclear ambitions and show that Iran more than two decades ago had assembled the materials it needed to produce a nuclear bomb, according to multiple media reports. 

The details expanded on those provided by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in April, first in a private briefing with President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rallies in Nevada amid Supreme Court flurry: 'We're gonna get Brett' Trump: 'Good news' that Obama is campaigning again Trump boosts Heller, hammers 'Wacky Jacky' opponent in Nevada MORE and later in an open presentation. 

The information came from a trove of documents stolen from a storage facility in Tehran by agents for the Israeli agency Mossad. Journalists from The New York Times, The Washington Post and others were invited by the Israeli government to view key documents obtained in the raid.

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The documents provide details on Project Amad — the code name for Iran's nuclear weapons development. That project was ordered halted in 2003, and no information provided shows that the Iranians had violated the 2015 deal with five other countries, including the U.S., to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

Trump withdrew from that deal in May, days after Netanyahu had presented the stolen nuclear plans as evidence that Tehran was lying about its efforts to develop a nuclear weapon. 

Iran had previously insisted that its nuclear endeavors were peaceful in nature, intended for energy and medical purposes — not to build a bomb.

But details from the stolen documents presented to reporters show that Iranian officials had discussed how to divide the nuclear program into "overt" and "covert" elements. For example, one note from an Iranian physicist recommends concealing the country's work on neutrons, which spark the chain reaction necessary to create a nuclear explosion, the Times reported.

The documents also discuss uranium deuteride, a substance used in making the devices that set off a nuclear explosion, according to the Times. 

How the Mossad agents made away with the Iranian documents reads like a spy thriller. According to reports in the Times and the Post, intelligence officials had learned that Iran had begun collecting its nuclear documents in a single storage facility.

That storage facility, part of a row of warehouses in southern Tehran, lacked round-the-block security to avoid suspicions that it contained troves of secret documents about Iran's nuclear ambitions, the Times reported. 

Mossad agents learned the layout of the facility and the general contents of 32 safes, as well as the schedules of its security guards, before moving forward with the dead-of-night raid, according to the Post. The break-in happed on Jan. 31, the newspaper reported, and agents had exactly six hours and 29 minutes to carry out their mission.

The first security guards were set to arrive at the facility at 7 a.m., but agents were told to be out of the building by 5 a.m. to give them time to escape, the Times reported. From there, the spies made away with the materials on several different routes, acting out of concern that some would be apprehended. 

According to the Times, Israeli officials would not disclose whether the agents left Iran by land, air or sea. But they returned to Israel with roughly 50,000 pages and 163 compact discs of memos, videos, photos and plans. 

One photo published by the Times and the Post shows a giant metal chamber that was apparently intended to test massive explosive devices. 

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the organization charged with inspecting Iranian facilities to ensure the government is following the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, has repeatedly certified Tehran's compliance. But the details published in media reports on Sunday show that Iran was putting the pieces in place for a nuclear weapon before the program was shuttered. 

After the Israeli heist, Iran was silent about the stolen documents and has since said that they were forged by Israel to undermine confidence in the nuclear deal.