Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran of lying about its nuclear program in a speech broadcast live Monday, revealing information he said showed the Islamic Republic had for years worked on developing nuclear weapons, and continued to pursue such weapons even after signing the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
The premier, who has repeatedly called for the accord between world powers and Iran to either be altered or scrapped, said Israel had obtained 100,000 secret Iranian files a few weeks ago in one the “greatest achievements” of Israeli intelligence.
Speaking in English at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu gave a presentation including videos and slides he said exposed Iran’s nuclear dossier.
“You may well know that Iran’s leaders repeatedly deny ever pursuing nuclear weapons,” he said, before playing clips of Iran’s supreme leader, president and foreign minister denying the country ever sought such capabilities.
“Iran lied. Big time,” said Netanyahu, adding that the trove included a half-ton of material.
The cache, he said, contained “incriminating documents, incriminating charts, incriminating presentations, incriminating blueprints, incriminating photos, incriminating videos and more.
“We’ve shared this material with the United States, and the United States can vouch for its authenticity,” he said of the information.
Netanyahu went onto detail the so-called Project Amad, which beginning in the early 1990s put Iran on a path to “design, produce and test… five warheads, each with a 10 kiloton TNT yield, for integration on a missile.”
“That is like five Hiroshima bombs to be put on ballistic missiles,” he said of the plan.
Netanyahu said Project Amad included five key elements — designing nuclear weapons, developing nuclear cores, building nuclear implosion systems, preparing nuclear tests, and integrating nuclear warheads on missiles.
“These files conclusively prove that Iran is brazenly lying when it says it never had a nuclear weapons program. The files prove that,” he said.
Amid growing pressure, Iran decided to shut down Project Amad in 2003, Netanyahu said, instead splitting its nuclear program into covert and overt tracks in order to avoid scrutiny.
“This is exactly what Iran continued to do,” said Netanyahu. “Iran planned at the highest levels to continue work related to nuclear weapons — under different guises and using the same personnel.
Netanyahu said despite Iran’s denials of its past nuclear weapons work to the International Atomic Energy Agency watchdog upon the signing of the nuclear deal, the files showed Iran “authorized, initiated and funded Project Amad.
“What I’ve shown you tonight is just a fraction of the total material that we have. But even from this fraction you can draw four main conclusions. First, Iran lied about never having a nuclear weapons program,” said Netanyahu.
Second, “Even after the deal, Iran continued to preserve and expand its nuclear know how for future use.”
Third, “Iran lied again in 2015 when it didn’t come clean to the IAEA as required by the unclear deal.”
And fourth, he said, “The nuclear deal is based on lies. It is based on Iranian lies and Iranian deception… 100,000 files right here prove that they lied.”
Repeating his past criticisms of the deal, Netanyahu said the accord gave Iran a “clear path” to uranium enrichment and did not address its missile program or nuclear weapons ambitions.
“This is a terrible deal. It should never have been concluded,” he said.
With US President Donald Trump’s May 12 deadline to “fix or nix” the deal looming, Netanyahu said he was sure Trump would “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,” he said, before briefly summarizing his speech in Hebrew.
Ahead of his remarks, Netanyahu cancelled a speech he was to make at the Knesset and his Likud party called off its weekly faction meeting due to the security tensions. The opposition Zionist Union and Yesh Atid parties withdrew their proposed no-confidence vote in the government.
On Twitter, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said ahead of Netanyahu’s remarks: “The boy who can’t stop crying wolf is at it again… You can only fool some of the people so many times.”
Earlier Monday, Netanyahu convened an unscheduled meeting of Israel’s decision-making security cabinet at the Defense Ministry HQ. Hadashot said he briefed ministers on the intelligence info.
Netanyahu’s announcement came a day after he met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said will withdraw from the nuclear accord on May 12 barring significant changes. Netanyahu reportedly also discussed the intelligence material with the secretary.
Both Trump and Netanyahu have harshly criticized the 2015 nuclear deal, taking aim at its “sunset” clauses and saying it does not address Iran’s ballistic missile program or involvement in numerous regional conflicts.
The premier also spoke with Trump by phone Sunday, with the White House saying the two discussed Iran’s “destabilizing activities” in the region.
Former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said on Twitter: “Obviously, Netanyahu’s announcement tonight on the Iranian nuclear program is fully coordinated with the US side. The call with Trump yesterday and Pompeo’s visit would have locked it in.”
The Netanyahu announcement also came after an airstrike in Syria early Monday, attributed by some to Israel. The strike destroyed some 200 surface-to-surface missiles and killed 16 people, including 11 Iranians, according to a New York Times report.
Iran denied that any of its soldiers were killed or that its bases had been targeted in the raids, although Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei later warned the Islamic Republic’s foes they will be “hit multiple times” if they attack Iran.
That attack came after an earlier airstrike this month on an Iranian military facility in Syria that was blamed on Israel, in which Iran acknowledged seven of its soldiers were killed and vowed to respond to the attack. PJC
Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.