Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a broadside to the Iran nuclear deal ahead of a deadline for the U.S. to decide on whether to withdraw, presenting what he called new evidence that Iran maintained a secret plan to build nuclear weapons but repeatedly lied about it.
Mr. Netanyahu’s Monday allegations, broadcast in Israel and the U.S., came as President Donald Trump nears a self-imposed May 12 deadline to make a call on the international agreement, which halted Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for economic benefits. Iran has threatened to restart its program if the U.S. leaves the deal.
Mr. Netanyahu said the documents—which he said Israel obtained from a hidden archive in Tehran, without specifying how—included 100,000 files on paper and disks, and show “Iran is brazenly lying when it says it never had a nuclear-weapons program.”
Mr. Netanyahu, displaying replicas of binders and CDs, said the 2015 agreement was a mistake and urged Mr. Trump to do “the right thing.” Iran’s false denials, he argued, represented a violation of the agreement.
Mr. Trump maintains the agreement was a mistake, saying it would allow Iran to resume nuclear activities in seven years.
“That is just not an acceptable situation,” Mr. Trump said at a press conference with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, after he was asked about Mr. Netanyahu’s presentation. He added that his criticism of the accord “doesn’t mean I wouldn’t negotiate a new agreement.”
Mr. Netanyahu said the U.S. has vouched for the authenticity of the materials Israel uncovered and has shared the documents with the U.S.
Mr. Pompeo told reporters traveling with him that he discussed the material with Mr. Netanyahu on Sunday. “We’ve known about this material for a while,” Mr. Pompeo said. “I can confirm to you that these documents are real, they’re authentic.”
He said the U.S. is still reviewing the documents.
The White House issued a statement Monday saying the materials show Iran “has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world and from its own people.”
Israeli officials hope Europe will join in a hard line against Iran, and Mr. Netanyahu’s office said he spoke by phone on Monday with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He also spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
U.S. intelligence officials and Mr. Pompeo also have said Iran is complying with the 2015 agreement.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that the nuclear deal is “written almost with an assumption that Iran would try to cheat, and that the verification procedure is “actually pretty robust as far as our intrusive ability to get in.”
The Trump administration charges the deal provides Iran too much in economic benefits for too few nuclear restrictions, and has been negotiating a way to address its concerns with European officials.
Mr. Pompeo said the documents call into question why Iran would preserve material about its nuclear-weapons program.
“The world can decide if this was for the Iranian museum, if they decided to hold onto them,” he said, en route from Jordan to Washington Monday.
Mr. Netanyahu has lobbied furiously against the nuclear agreement since before it was reached. On Monday, he displayed photos and documents he said were part of Iran’s “Project Amad,” engineering and design work on weapons and the nuclear core of a warhead. He said officials who were in charge of the country’s weapons efforts held defense positions that would enable them to return one day to their previous pursuits. Mr. Netanyahu has been issuing dire warnings about Iran’s nuclear ambitions since 1996.
Mr. Netanyahu’s presentation touched off a debate among experts and former officials about the value of the new information claimed by Mr. Netanyahu, whether it offered any new information or backed either side of the argument about the Iran nuclear deal.
Several experts said Iran’s apparent decision to preserve the documentation was a troubling indication that Tehran hasn’t shut the door on developing nuclear weapons in the future.
“The Iranians are preserving an option that can be acted upon quickly in the future,” said David Albright, president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security.
“Why would you maintain this kind of documentation?” added Ollie Heinonen, the former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who favors strengthening the Iran nuclear accord. “The concern is that they are keeping it for a rainy day. We now need a bigger fix than we thought.”
Source » WSJ