Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented dramatic evidence Monday that Iran lied about its extensive nuclear program and violated the terms of the controversial 2015 nuclear deal with then-President Barack Obama from the start.
Speaking in English in Tel Aviv before repeating his presentation in Hebrew, Netanyahu revealed that his nation’s intelligence service had managed to spirit away a treasure trove of top-secret documents from Iran’s atomic archive.
“Well, tonight I’m here to tell you one thing — Iran lied. Big time,” he said.
The revelation comes just days before a May 12 deadline facing President Donald Trump about whether to remain in the agreement Obama negotiated. That deal called for Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions and allow international inspectors in exchange for the return of some $150 billion in Iranian U.S. assets frozen in the wake of the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
Netanyahu lobbied publicly for Trump to withdraw from the Obama Iran deal.
“I’m sure he’ll do the right thing — the right thing for the United States, the right thing for Israel,” he said. “And the right thing for the peace of the world.”
Speaking at a joint news conference at the White House with the president of Nigeria, Trump declined to tip his hand about what he might do with respect to the nuclear deal. But he suggested he is open to talks even if he does withdraw.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said. “I’m not telling you what I’m doing, but a lot of people think they know. And on or before the 12th, we’ll make a decision. That doesn’t mean we won’t negotiate a real agreement.”
Trump expressed vindication.
“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,” he said.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, tweeted that the intelligence presentation shows “all along it [the nuclear deal] was built on a crumbling foundation of lies, deception, and naiveté. This ‘deal’ should be shredded.”
Experts: Iranian intentions are clear. Ariel Cohen, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told LifeZette that he believes Trump would like to build support from France and Germany to renegotiate the pact. Any renegotiation should be backed by the threat of renewed sanctions and should include Iran’s ballistic missile program and insistence on participation by American inspectors.
Israel’s impressive intelligence triumph adds important details to a larger view of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“It was known,” he said. “It’s just that they proved the Iranians were lying all the time, and they are pursuing a very dangerous policy.”
He added that Iran’s long-time goal of becoming a nuclear power should be clear.
“Whether it’s going to happen now or in nine years, it doesn’t matter,” he said.
Robert Kaufman, a professor of public policy at Pepperdine University, said Monday’s revelations from the Israelis strengthen Trump’s hand and makes the case “overwhelming” in favor of pulling out of the accord.
“This should at least give President Trump a lot more leverage to shame our European allies rather than bury their heads in the sand,” he said.
Kaufman, who this year is the visiting conservative professor at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Center for Western Thought, said the evidence that Netanyahu unveiled is damning and reflects poorly on the Obama administration.
“I’m not surprised Iran lied … If was an enormous amount of circumstantial evidence that the Obama administration deliberately downplayed,” he said.
Netanyahu’s presentation was laced with drama and theatrics, with a large monitor behind him and black curtains that the prime minister pulled to reveal the secret records. He showed an aerial photograph of the building where he says Iran moved its stock of nuclear information in 2017.
“Few Iranians knew where it was — very few— and also few Israelis,” he said. “Now, from the outside, this is an innocent-looking facility. It looks like a dilapidated warehouse. But from the inside, it contained Iran’s secret atomic archives, locked in massive files.”
“That’s like five Hiroshima bombs to be put on ballistic missiles.”
The information that Israeli spies managed to remove includes 55,000 pages of documents and another 55,000 files on 183 compact discs. It includes memos, diagrams, charts, blueprints, photos, videos and more.
Netanyahu insisted that the material — which he said has been placed in a safe location — conclusively proves the existence of Project Amad, which Iran long had denied.
“We can also prove that Iran is secretly storing Project Amad material to use at a time of its choice to develop nuclear materials,” he said.
‘Like five Hiroshima bombs.’ Netanyahu said detailed plans called for the development of five nuclear warheads, each with a 10 kiloton TNT yield.
“That’s like five Hiroshima bombs to be put on ballistic missiles,” he said.
Netanyahu said Iran shelved Project Amad in 2003. “But it didn’t shelve its nuclear ambitions,” he added.
The documents obtained by Israel do not just demonstrate that Iran’s historical program was as advanced as critics feared. Netanyahu said it shows that Iran was in violation of the nuclear agreement from the moment the ink dried. He noted that one of the provisions of the deal was for Iran to come fully clean to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about its program.
“It’s based on Iranian lies and Iranian deception,” he said. “A hundred thousand files right here prove that they lied. So here’s the bottom line: Iran continues to lie.”
Netanyahu said that today, Iran is carrying out its secret nuclear program through the SPND — a division within its Defense Ministry — by the same people who oversaw Project Amad.
“You also will not be surprised that Iran insisted on keeping Fordow, and amazingly, the nuclear deal enabled it to do it,” he said.
This is a reference to a nuclear facility Iran built underneath a mountain to protect against a possible airstrike.
Netanyahu said Iran continued to build the facility since the 2015 deal.
What’s more, the Israeli leader noted, the nuclear deal will allow Iran in a few years to begin enriching uranium — ostensibly for peaceful energy purposes.
Netanyahu said that uranium, combined with the nuclear weapons knowhow revealed Monday, the Fordow facility, and Iran’s ballistic missile program — which the nuclear deal did not address — will allow Iran to restart its nuclear weapons program very quickly whenever it chooses.
“What I’ve shown you tonight is just a fraction of the total material that we have,” he said.
Samantha Vinograd, who served on the National Security Council during the Obama administration, acknowledged that the information Netanyahu presented would constitute a violation of the nuclear deal by Iran.
“The key thing to focus on here is whether Iran lied when the IAEA was inventorying what they had leading up to the 2015 agreement,” she said on CNN. “That’s a key point. And then second, whether they have lied since that agreement was signed.”