Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel has evidence Iranian officials were "brazenly lying" when they said Iran wasn’t pursuing nuclear weapons and that the Islamic republic is keeping an "atomic archive" at a secret compound.
"Tonight, I’m here to tell you one thing: Iran lied — big time," Netanyahu said late Monday during an address from the Israel Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv.
Calling it one of the greatest achievements in the history of Israeli intelligence, Netayahu displayed what he said were files that demonstrate Iran planned to continue pursuing a nuclear weapons program despite the 2015 deal it brokered with the international community.
Speaking in English, Netanyahu accused Iran of ramping up efforts to obscure the files in 2015 and moving them to a secret location in Tehran last year.
The files were kept in massive vaults inside an "innocent-looking compound" in Shorabad District, the Prime Minister said. The 100,000 files contain, among other things, blueprints, charts, photos, videos and presentations dealing with nuclear weaponry.
"Iran planned at the highest level to continue work related to nuclear weapons under different guises and using the same personnel," he said.
Iranian, U.S. reaction
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi called Netanyahu’s comments "childish" and "laughable."
"What we saw from Netanyahu was a childish play which we had also witnessed in previous years and also from the MKO terrorist group," Araghchi said, as quoted by the state-run IRNA news agency.
Referring to claims by Netanyahu that it has 55,000 documents from a facility in Iran is "ridiculous" because Iran would never harbor such important documents in an abandoned area, Araghci said.
President Donald Trump applauded the announcement and said it shows he was "100% right" in criticizing the 2015 pact agreed to by former President Barack Obama, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France and Germany. Iran agreed to reduce its uranium stockpile in return for international sanctions being lifted.
"In seven years, that deal will have expired and Iran is free to go ahead and create nuclear weapons. That is not acceptable. Seven years is tomorrow," Trump said.
Asked what might come of the deal, Trump responded, "We’ll see what happens." Even if he does pull out of the deal, he said, "that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t negotiate a new agreement."
Trump has until May 12 to decide whether to continue waiving sanctions on Iran that were lifted under the Iran deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Before Netanyahu’s address, Zarif tweeted, "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." Zarif was referring to a cartoon drawing of a bomb that Netanyahu referred to during a September 2012 appearance before the UN General Assembly about Iran’s nuclear program.
After Netanyahu spoke, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted:
"Pres. Trump is jumping on a rehash of old allegations already dealt with by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) 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."
Netanyahu alleged that Iran for years operated the secret Project Amad, which sought to produce five nuclear warheads, each with an explosive yield equivalent to five of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima during World War II, The nation stored material related to Project Amad to use later, he said.
Iran lied about Project Amad, he said, when one of the conditions of the nuclear deal was that Iran had to "come clean" about its activities related to nuclear arms.
Netanyahu said during his address that Zarif — along with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, and President Hassan Rouhani — had all previously lied when they said Iran had no interest in nuclear weapons.
The Prime Minister vehemently opposes the deal and said Monday it provides Iran "a clear path to an atomic arsenal" by allowing for unlimited uranium enrichment within a few years, and by failing to address the country’s development of ballistic missiles and its advanced work on weaponization.
Netanyahu promises to share intelligence
Hours after showing the purported evidence of Iran’s deception around the nuclear deal, Netanyahu spoke with the leaders of France, Germany and Russia, promising to share the intelligence he publicized, according to the Prime Minister’s office.
Netanyahu’s office described the material as the "exposure of the documents on the Iranian plan to achieve nuclear weapons."
Netanyahu told the leaders of France and Germany that he would send professional teams to brief them on the material Israel revealed. The Prime Minister intends to speak to the leaders of Great Britain and China "forthwith," his office said.
The White House said Trump on Monday spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday to "address developments concerning Syria and Iran." Details were not provided.
In his presentation, Netanyahu dramatically pulled aside dark sheets to reveal shelves holding books he said were copies of 55,000 pages of Iranian nuclear information and a display of discs he said were 55,000 files.
He didn’t provide details about how Israel obtained the purported documents.
"You may want to know where are the originals," he said. "Well, I can say now they’re in a very safe place."