Israeli PM: ‘Iran lied big time’ about nuke program
Israel’s prime minister on Monday unveiled what he said was a “half-ton” of Iranian nuclear documents collected by Israeli intelligence, claiming it proved that Iranian leaders covered up a nuclear weapons program before signing a deal with world powers in 2015.
In a speech delivered in English and relying on his trademark use of visual aids, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed the material showed that Iran cannot be trusted, and encouraged President Donald Trump to withdraw from the deal next month.
“Iran lied big time,” Netanyahu declared.
In Washington, Trump said it vindicated his past criticism of the nuclear deal.
Later in the day, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the “information provides new and compelling details about Iran’s efforts to develop missile-deliverable nuclear weapons.”
But Netanyahu’s presentation, delivered on live TV from Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv, did not appear to provide evidence that Iran has violated the 2015 deal, raising questions about whether it would sway international opinion ahead of Trump’s decision.
The U.S.-led agreement offered Iran relief from crippling sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.
Netanyahu furiously fought the deal while President Barack Obama was negotiating it, and he has been a leading critic since it was signed. He says it does not provide sufficient safeguards to prevent Iran from reaching nuclear weapons capability.
Netanyahu has found a welcome partner in Trump, who has called the agreement “the worst deal ever.”
Trump has signaled he will pull out of the agreement by May 12 unless it is revised, but he faces intense pressure from European allies not to do so. Netanyahu said he already has given the information to the U.S., and he plans to share it with Western allies and the international nuclear agency.
Ahead of the announcement, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, belittled Netanyahu in a tweet, saying: “The boy who can’t stop crying wolf is at it again.”
He later tweeted: “Pres. Trump is jumping on a rehash of old allegations already dealt with by the IAEA to ‘nix’ the deal. How convenient. Coordinated timing of alleged intelligence revelations by the boy who cries wolf just days before May 12. But Trump’s impetuousness to celebrate blew the cover.”
Iran’s deputy foreign minister and senior nuclear negotiator, Abbas Araghchi, called Netanyahu’s presentation “childish and ridiculous” and said the purported evidence was “fake and fabricated.”
Iran has denied ever seeking nuclear weapons.
The exchange ratcheted up already heightened tensions between Israel and Iran. Israel considers Iran to be its biggest threat, citing Tehran’s hostile rhetoric, support for militants and growing influence in the region.