IAEA crisis or camera crisis?

Across-the-board, his opposition said that he was making the announcement only hours after losing a vote over his hard push to legalize the videotaping of polling booths in the Arab sector.

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September 10, 2019 00:07
3 minute read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reveals the Iranian nuclear bases uncovered by Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reveals the Iranian nuclear bases uncovered by Israel. . (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Top experts on Iran and its nuclear program knew very little Monday night about the significance of the nuclear site in Abadeh –  revealed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Unlike his previous bombshell disclosures regarding Shirobad (Iran’s secret nuclear archive) and Turquzabad (where radioactive material was allegedly concealed), Netanyahu gave far fewer details this time.

This fueled a debate: Was his speech about the IAEA crisis or the cameras crisis?

The IAEA crisis refers to Monday’s International Atomic Energy Agency press conference, not long before Netanyahu’s, where acting director-general Cornel Feruta revealed that he had told Iran that “time is of the essence” for it to resolve the inspection agency’s questions about radioactive traces it found at Turquzabad.

After waiting around eight months to probe Netanyahu’s accusations that Iran had concealed radioactive materials at
Turquzabad, the IAEA finally inspected the site.

Surprisingly, even though Netanyahu showed that the Iranians tried to cover up whatever they had at Turquzabad, the agency still succeeded in finding radioactive traces.

The IAEA has been seeking clarifications from Tehran regarding this issue and, for the first time since the 2015 nuclear deal, the Islamic Republic has chosen total stonewalling instead of its general approach of partial cooperation.

For the IAEA – which wants to maintain the nuclear deal at nearly all costs – to tell Iran that “time is of the essence” is like a slow turtle suddenly moving at the speed of light.

In that sense, there could be a reason for Netanyahu to emphasize Iran’s violations at this moment in time with a new reveal.

And a source close to Netanyahu told the media that apolitical defense establishment professionals recommended making the disclosure now because of the IAEA meeting on Monday.

The Jerusalem Post asked the IDF if it had made a recommendation to Netanyahu regarding the timing, but the military declined to comment.

A related possibility is that Netanyahu is seeking to pressure US President Donald Trump to not enter serious negotiations with Iran.

But if Tehran is hiding not only past nuclear files, but ongoing nuclear weapons development activities – why wouldn’t Netanyahu disclose more detail?

To date, all that is known publicly about Abadeh is that in 2012, Iran announced that it was building a large air defense site there.

True, Tehran could be lying. A large air defense site could provide cover for some kind of nuclear weapons development site hidden within the broader site – and the IAEA cannot check military sites without getting advance permission.

But again, if that were true, wouldn’t Netanyahu expose this?

In prior announcements, Netanyahu disclosed that Iran was seeking five nuclear bombs, or that it had concealed 300 kg. of radioactive material.

One can debate how significant those announcements are, but there were clear specifics.

But none were given on Monday night.

This could support the theory put forth by Netanyahu’s opposition of Blue and White, Labor and the Democratic Union.

Across-the-board, his opposition said that he was making the announcement only hours after losing a vote over his hard push to legalize the videotaping of polling booths in the Arab sector. They say this was the basis for the timing of disclosing classified intelligence, and that Netanyahu is playing politics with Israel’s national security.

So at press time, we do not know the significance of the new Iranian site that Netanyahu disclosed, nor do we know if the timing of the announcement was primarily in Israel’s national interest or in the prime minister’s political interest.

The truth is that even the previous publicizing of other intelligence revelation successes by the Mossad and Israeli intelligence, while praised by most Israelis, was criticized by many former Mossad officials who said it should have been quietly shared with foreign intelligence partners, not publicized.

One thing was clear though: if Iran destroyed the site two months ago after they realized Israel was on to them, they were hiding something that they did not want the world to see.

We knew from past Netanyahu and think-tank disclosures that Tehran had worked hard (even if unsuccessfully) to cover up the Turquzabad site before the IAEA visited. It is currently stonewalling the IAEA, even as that organization wants to bend over backward to get along.

Timing aside, all of this supports Netanyahu’s central thesis that Iran cannot be trusted in the nuclear arena – not just in the past, but also going forward.


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