NEW YORK – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu disclosed on Thursday the existence of a facility in Iran’s capital that he referred to as an “atomic warehouse” full of material related to the country’s nuclear program, and yet undisclosed to the UN’s atomic watchdog agency, in a speech to the UN in New York .
Seeking to pressure the International Atomic Energy Agency to pay attention to Israel’s findings and inspect the new site, Netanyahu declassified details of its contents and warned that Iran was in the process of clearing the facility since he revealed in April a special ops raid of a nearby Iranian nuclear archive facility by Israeli agents.
“The IAEA still has not taken any action. It has not posed a single question of Iran. It has not demanded to inspect a single new site discovered in that secret archive,” the prime minister said. “So I decided to reveal today something else that we revealed to the IAEA and to other intelligence agencies.”
Netanyahu brought photos and maps of the nondescript building, which he described as adjacent to a nearby rug cleaning facility. He claimed that Iranian officials had already removed 15 kilograms of radioactive material from the clandestine structure.
“They had to get it out of the site, so they took it out and they spread it around Tehran in an effort to hide the evidence,” he asserted, suggesting that Iranian citizens were at risk of exposure.
He demanded prompt IAEA inspections of the new facility before the site is completely cleared, mocking their claim that they have access to “anytime, anywhere inspections” under a 2015 nuclear deal brokered between Iran, Germany and the permanent five members of the Security Council.
“Israel knows what you’re doing, and Israel knows where you’re doing it,” he said. “What Iran hides, Israel will find. How about inspections right here, right now?” While the Israeli premier was thankful to US President Donald Trump for withdrawing the US from the nuclear deal, he made note of one exceptional, unintended consequence: Israel’s natural alignment with the Arab world against Iran, as the Islamic Republic, in his telling, gained power and ambition in the wake of the agreement.
But he offered searing criticism of the European Union, which this week revealed a special mechanism it is designing to help its business circumvent renewed US sanctions on companies engaged in the Iranian marketplace.
“I just used a strong word: appeasement,” Netanyahu said. “Unfortunately, that’s exactly what we’re seeing again in Europe.”
“Have these European leaders learned nothing from history?” he asked. “Will they ever wake up?” He also accused Iran’s proxy organization in Lebanon, Hezbollah, of shielding its massive missile stock-piles behind civilian buildings – including Beirut’s main airport – in a tactic long employed by Hamas in Gaza.
In the past year, Hezbollah has been trying to build an infrastructure to convert ground-to-ground missiles to precision missiles in the Ouzai neighborhood of the Lebanese capital, near Beirut’s airport. Hezbollah officials reportedly made a conscious decision to transfer the center of gravity of this precision missile project, which they have been dealing with for some time, to that civilian space in the heart of the Lebanese capital.
One of the sites, according to Netanyahu, is inside a football stadium belonging to the Lebanese terror group. A second site near Rafic Hariri International Airport, and a third sits some 500 meters from the airport’s landing strip, in the heart of the Ma’aganah residential neighborhood close full of residential buildings.
Hezbollah’s effort to build accurate and precise missiles, facilitated by Iranian expertise, funding and guidance, has been targeted by Israel on numerous occasions in Syria – most recently on September 17, when Israeli jets struck a military warehouse which held vehicles which were set to smuggle systems designed to convert precision rockets from Syria to Lebanon.
There are other sites in Beirut and elsewhere, in which Hezbollah operatives are working in a similar attempt to establish infrastructure designated for future storage and conversion of precision missiles. According to sources, Israel monitors these sites with a variety of capabilities and means and holds a great deal of information about Hezbollah’s project to build accurate missiles.
Extensive efforts of operational responses, methods and tools, have made it so that as of September 2018 there are no active factories in Lebanon that have been able to carry out industrial-level conversions of inaccurate missiles to precision weapons for the Lebanese Shi’ite terror group.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, Israel’s ambassador to the UN previewed Netanyahu’s speech and explained the premier “views the information that was captured in Tehran as critical,” and said his boss had hoped to grab the attention of parties that have grown complacent to the Iranian threat.
“We used to be the only one in the room speaking about this issue, and here you have the president of the United States representing it on the floor,” Ambassador Danny Danon said, explaining their new Iran strategy coordinated with Washington. “I think the end goal should be that the Iranians understand they cannot continue with their ballistic missile test, acquiring ballistic missile capabilities. The result will be a better agreement.”
Both Danon and Netanyahu praised the Trump administration, and in particular US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, for their consistent defense of Israel throughout the UN, and for their aggressive approach to an increasingly hostile Iran.
Netanyahu received several rounds of applause from the general assembly audience – a relatively rare phenomenon for an Israeli prime minister at the UN, where he said the halls still reek of a “foul stench” from past efforts to label the Jewish state a racist entity.
“It’s the same old antisemitism,” he said. “The Jewish state is slandered and held to a different standard.”
He directed criticism toward Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as well, who only one hour before spoke at the same podium and called for Palestinian self-determination while characterizing Jewish nationalism, or Zionism, as racist.
Trump’s special envoy to the peace process, Jason Greenblatt, sat with the US delegation during Netanyahu’s speech, and could be seen applauding several of his lines. Netanyahu said he “looks forward” to working with Trump on his peace plan, which is expected to be released by the end of the year.Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.
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