Middle East/North Africa

Netanyahu: Iran hiding secret nuclear program

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday laid out his case for President Trump to scrap the Iran nuclear deal, saying Tehran lied about its desire to obtain nuclear weapons and then hid documents to ensure they retain 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 in Tel Aviv that 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.” 

Netanyahu’s speech comes a little less than two weeks before the deadline Trump has set for European allies to agree to a second deal to fix issues he sees with the original agreement. He has threatened to essentially withdraw the United States from the nuclear accord if they don’t.

The Obama-era deal between the United States, Iran, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and Germany provided Tehran billions in sanctions relief in exchange for curbing its nuclear program.

Netanyahu’s presentation detailed what he said was a trove of 100,000 documents obtained by Israeli intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program. He delivered his speech in front of a screen in which he displayed copies of some of the documents.

Netanyahu’s office cast the speech as a “significant development.” But the 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.

But 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.

Prior to the speech, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zharif tweeted a picture of Netanyahu’s widely mocked 2012 presentation to the United Nations that included a cartoon bomb diagram.

“BREAKING: The boy who can’t stop crying wolf is at it again. Undeterred by cartoon fiasco at UNGA. You can only fool some of the people so many times,” Zharif tweeted.

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

“The nuclear deal is based on lies,” he said. “It’s based on Iranian lies and Iranian deception.”

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.

“Why would a terrorist regime hide and meticulously catalogue its secret nuclear files if not to use them at a later date,” he said.

Netanyahu’s speech comes after he met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday and spoke with Trump by phone Saturday.

“We’ve shared this material with the United States, and the United States can vouch for its authenticity,” Netanyanhu said Monday.

The IAEA and international signatories of the nuclear deal have repeatedly said Iran continues to comply with the terms of the agreement.

But Trump sees three main issues with the deal that he wants to address with a follow-on deal with the United Kingdom, France and Germany: that several provisions sunset, inspectors can’t demand to see some military sites and the deal does not address Iran’s other troubling activity, including its ballistic missile program and support for terrorists.

Trump, responding to Netanyahu’s speech, said that 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.”

Updated: 3:40 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Iran Israel Middle East Mike Pompeo Nuclear weapons

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