Overnight Defense: Netanyahu argues against Iran deal ahead of Trump deadline | Trump floats locations for Korea talks | Deadly day in Afghanistan

Overnight Defense: Netanyahu argues against Iran deal ahead of Trump deadline | Trump floats locations for Korea talks | Deadly day in Afghanistan
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Happy Monday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Rebecca Kheel, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond.

 

THE TOPLINE: There's just about two weeks to go before President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump pushes back on recent polling data, says internal numbers are 'strongest we've had so far' Illinois state lawmaker apologizes for photos depicting mock assassination of Trump Scaramucci assembling team of former Cabinet members to speak out against Trump MORE has to decide whether to continue waiving sanctions on Iran or essentially withdraw the United States from the nuclear deal.

And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his case Monday for why Trump should withdraw.

In a dramatic presentation at Israel's Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu presented evidence of what he said was Iran lying about its desire to obtain nuclear weapons and then hiding that evidence to ensure it retains knowledge of how to build them.

"This is a terrible deal. It should never have been concluded, and in a few days time, President Trump will decide, will make his decision on what to do with the nuclear deal," Netanyahu said during a speech he delivered in English. "I'm sure he'll do the right thing. The right thing for the United States, the right thing for Israel and the right thing for the peace of the world."

 

The accusations: Netanyahu's presentation detailed what he said was a trove of 100,000 documents obtained by Israeli intelligence on Iran's nuclear program.

The documents, Netanyahu said, provide conclusive evidence that the goal of Iran's nuclear program was to obtain a weapon, contrary to statements from Iranian officials saying the nuclear program was peaceful.

"Iran lied. Big time," Netanyahu said.

The documents that Netanyahu displayed Monday detail "Project Amad" and included a supposed "mission statement" to "design, produce and test five warheads, each with 10 kiloton TNT yield for integration in a missile."

Iran lied further, Netanyahu said, when it did not tell the IAEA about the program in 2015, contrary to requirements of the nuclear deal.

After signing the nuclear deal in 2015, Iran "intensified its efforts" to hide the documents so that it could preserve its nuclear know-how, Netanyahu added.

 

Is this new?: Experts say no -- that the nuclear program Netanyahu detailed has been known and was the reason the deal was negotiated in the first place.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in 2011 that it had credible evidence showing Iran was doing nuclear weapons work under a structured program through 2003 and that work may have continued past that.

The IAEA then made a final judgment in 2015 as the nuclear deal was being adopted that reiterated its 2011 findings.

As such, supporters of the deal said Netanyahu's presentation only reinforced its necessity.

"There is no new information and the concern that Mr. Netanyahu emphasized that Iran retains residual technical knowledge that is useful in constructing a weapon is exactly the reason the [Iran deal] should be upheld -- to deny Iran the fissile material necessary to execute that knowledge," Thomas Countryman, a former Obama administration State Department official and current Diplomacy Works Advisory Council member, said in a statement.

 

Why it still matters: Netanyahu's speech appears to have been aimed at an audience of one -- Trump. And in that regard, the speech may have been a success.

Asked about the speech at his own press conference with the Nigerian president, Trump said that what Netanyahu had described was "just not an acceptable situation."

"I'm not telling you what I'm doing, but a lot of people think they know," Trump said of his decision on the Iran deal. "That doesn't mean I wouldn't negotiate a new agreement. We'll see what happens, but I think if anything what's happening today and what's happened over the last little while and what we've learned has really shown that I've been 100 percent right."

 

NORTH KOREA UPDATE: The flurry of diplomatic developments on the Korean peninsula picked up over the weekend and into Monday.

Among the developments was Trump confirming two sites under consideration for his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un: the demilitarization zone that separates the two Koreas and Singapore.

Here are some of the other North Korea headlines you may have missed:

 

Trump doesn't think Iran deal will affect Korea talks: Trump said Monday that pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal would not hurt upcoming talks with North Korea.

"I think it sends the right message," Trump said when asked if his approach to the deal with Tehran sends the wrong message to Pyongyang.

"You know, in seven years, that deal will have expired and Iran is free to go ahead and create nuclear weapons," he added. "Seven years is tomorrow. That's not acceptable."

Trump spoke during a press conference with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari at the White House.

 

North makes more promises to give up nukes, shut down testing facility: South Korean officials said over the weekend that North Korea agreed to give up its nuclear weapons if the United States agrees not to invade.

The promise was apparently made during Kim's summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

"I know the Americans are inherently disposed against us, but when they talk with us, they will see that I am not the kind of person who would shoot nuclear weapons to the south, over the Pacific or at the United States," Kim said, as detailed by South Korean spokesman Yoon Young-chan.

The South Koreans also said Kim plans to shutter the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in May and disclose the process to experts and journalists from South Korea and the United States.

 

Trump for Nobel Peace Prize?: South Korean President Moon became the latest to suggest Trump might deserve a Nobel Peace Prize if peace on the Korean peninsula is achieved.

"President Trump should win the Nobel Peace Prize. What we need is only peace," Moon told South Korean officials.

 

DEADLY DAY IN AFGHANISTAN: One U.S. service member was killed and another injured during a combat operation in eastern Afghanistan on Monday, the U.S. military said.

Several Afghan security forces were also killed or injured, according to a statement from U.S. Forces-Afghanistan.

"My thoughts and those of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan are with the families and friends of our fallen and wounded service members," Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement. "Their valiancy in battle, and that of the brave Afghan partners they fought alongside, will endure in our hearts and history."

The wounded U.S. service member is in stable condition and was taken to Bagram Airfield's hospital for treatment, according to the statement.

The identity of the service member who died is being withheld until 24 hours after next of kin is notified.

The statement does not specify where in eastern Afghanistan the operation was, nor what the goal was.

 

Other attacks: Monday was a particularly bloody day in Afghanistan, with a series of attacks in Kabul that killed dozens of people, including journalists and emergency workers who rushed to the scene after the first bombing. ISIS took responsibility for the attacks.

Separately, a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden van into a convoy of foreign forces near a mosque near Kandahar, killing 11 children. Eight Romanian soldiers who are part of the NATO-led Resolute Support mission were injured.

 

Context: The United States has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan on a dual mission of training, advising and assisting Afghan troops in their fight against the Taliban and conducting counterterrorism operations against groups such as ISIS and al Qaeda.

That's an increase of about 3,000 that Trump sent there after announcing his Afghanistan strategy last summer meant to reverse the tide of a deteriorating security situation.

Attacks like Monday's show the security situation in Afghanistan remains precarious.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

Army Secretary Mark Esper will speak about "Army Vision and Modernization Priorities at 10 a.m. at the Atlantic Council. https://bit.ly/2raOUg5

 

ICYMI:

-- The Hill: US shuts down ground operations command in Iraq

-- The Hill: Historic Korean summit sets high bar for Trump

-- The Hill: Trump: Didn't discuss 's---hole' comments with Nigerian president

-- The Hill: White House pushes back on reports of Jackson's ouster as Trump's physician

-- Military Times: Lawsuit calls acting VA Secretary Wilkie's appointment illegal, demands immediate removal