Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech on Thursday about Iran at the UN is not likely to create any sudden changes in the nuclear standoff any more than US President Donald Trump’s earlier speech.
Netanyahu also did not actually go after Iran in any serious way for increasing its nuclear capabilities.
So his speech was really another very public opportunity to peel away at the Islamic Republic’s credibility on the nuclear issue.
For example, his sole more technical reference was to Iran racing to conceal and spread out a supply of 15 kilograms of “radioactive material” – presumably enriched uranium.
In and of itself, this allegation does not actually mean very much.
Iran once had and gave away at least 11,000 kilograms of uranium and is allowed to continue to possess 300 kilograms of uranium under the 2015 nuclear deal.
The allegation might have been stronger if the prime minister had said that the 15 kilograms were highly enriched to the 20% or higher level which is not permitted under the deal.
So this part was likely a bit less serious and more to score some public relations points with viewers who got to hear the words “radioactive material.”
But the overall message slashing at Iran’s credibility was quite serious.
On April 30, Netanyahu gave a press conference to the world about a secret nuclear archive that Tehran was concealing from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and which the Mossad had appropriated in a daring operation for the ages.
Netanyahu said on Thursday that the IAEA had not performed any follow-up. Whether it has or not, it has not publicized that it has.
There was a lot of debate after the April 30 Netanyahu speech about whether he had revealed anything new.
What was clearly knew was catching Iran concealing information from the IAEA. What would disturb many observers following the nuclear standoff would be that, almost five months later, the IAEA has taken no real public action to clarify or explain the concealment allegations.
This was why Netanyahu revealed a second and new hidden site.
He will probably be criticized by some in the Mossad and the intelligence community about revealing what Israeli intelligence knows, as this can risk sources being cut off and found.
But he wanted to maintain and escalate the pressure on the IAEA to do its job.
As the EU touts its special economic vehicle for trying to help companies circumvent US anti-Iran sanctions so that they can continue to do business with the Islamic Republic, it maintains that its basis for aggressively defending Iran is that it has kept the 2015 deal.
This argument becomes harder and harder to make as Israel continues to publicly out hidden sites that the IAEA has not and is not inspecting.
Netanyahu is also messaging to Iran that the Mossad and surveillance can find Tehran’s secret nuclear moves anytime and anywhere even if the IAEA is not aggressively inspecting beyond the sites it knows about.
At some point, EU support for the deal may start to become less sturdy. At that point, even if Iran is keeping aspects of the deal, Netanyahu’s continuing barrage of bombshell disclosures of concealment could be the principled basis to walk away.
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