Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned Iran not to tangle with Israel, one day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday unveiled a secret Mossad operation that lifted half a ton of documents out of Tehran.
“Iran is trying to hurt us and we will respond appropriately,” Liberman said. “The State of Israel cannot afford to ignore the threats of Iran, whose senior officials routinely threaten the State of Israel, promise to wipe it out and continue to support terror, and therefore we will do everything we need to do.”
Asked if Israel is prepared to go to war against Iran, Netanyahu told CNN, “Nobody’s seeking that kind of development. Iran is the one that’s changing the rules in the region.”
Israel claims proof Iran "lied" about past nuclear program, April 30, 2018 (Reuters
It was one of a number of interviews Netanyahu gave Tuesday on Iran’s development of a nuclear weapons program from 1999 to 2003, known as Project Amad. Israel has long known of the program’s existence, but lacked the kind of definitive proof it obtained through February’s massive intelligence operation.
“We have now turned our question marks into exclamation points,” Netanyahu said. “We verified what we suspected but could not prove and we also learned new things about Iran’s military nuclear program.”
The 2015 agreement, known on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was based in part on Iran’s assertion that it had not tried to develop a nuclear-weapons program. Had these documents been uncovered three years ago, Netanyahu said, it is doubtful such an agreement would have been signed.
Delegations from Germany, France and the United Kingdom are scheduled to arrive in Israel as early as this weekend to study the documents. Netanyahu spoke with the leaders of the so-called “E3+3” countries – including Russian President Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping – after he unveiled some of the documents at a televised press conference on Monday night.
Russia and China have yet to decide whether or to accept the invitation to view the documents.
Netanyahu personally presented the information to US President Donald Trump at a meeting between the two men in Washington on March 5.
Trump agreed that Israel would publish the information before May 12, the date by which the US president is due to decide whether to pull the United States out of the 2015 deal between Iran and six world powers – the US, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France and Germany.
Trump would prefer to gain support from the E3+3 to amend the deal, but has yet to sway those European countries to support such a move.
Netanyahu noted that, in the end, Trump will make his own decision, saying, “He is a leader who knows how to make decisions.”
In the aftermath of Monday’s dramatic revelations, the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Association did not immediately appear to be impressed.
There is “no credible indications of activities in Iran relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device after 2009,” the IAEA said Tuesday.
The IAEA, which monitors Iranian compliance with the deal, did not directly respond to Netanyahu’s charges.
It did, however, publish a statement on its web site that hinted Israel had not provided any relevant evidence with regard to Iran’s nuclear program. It noted that in December 2015, IAEA issued a report that showed Iran was developing a “nuclear explosive device.”
But a coordinated effort to do so was halted in 2003, the statement said, although some isolated activities toward that effort continued.
“These activities did not advance beyond feasibility and scientific studies, and the acquisition of certain relevant technical competences and capabilities,” the IAEA said. “In line with standard IAEA practice, the IAEA evaluates all safeguards-relevant information available to it. However, it is not the practice of the IAEA to publicly discuss issues related to any such information.”
The IAEA has also been invited to examine the documents.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and the French Foreign Ministry said the information proved the importance of the 2015 deal toward keeping Iran’s nuclear program in check.
They added they were more interested in the question of Iranian compliance with the deal now than whether Iran lied at the time the deal was signed.
“The Iran nuclear deal is not based on trust about Iran’s intentions; rather it is based on tough verification, including measures that allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency unprecedented access to Iran’s nuclear program,” Johnson said.
“The IAEA has published 10 reports certifying that Iran has fully complied with its commitments,” Mogherini stated. “The deal was put in place exactly because there was no trust between the parties, otherwise we would not have required a nuclear deal to be put in place.”
France’s Foreign Ministry said that information provided by Israel of Iran’s past nuclear weapons program could be a basis for long-term monitoring of Tehran’s nuclear activities.
Three unnamed US officials told NBC on Tuesday that Israel seems to be preparing for military action with Iran in Syria and is seeking US help.
“On the list of the potentials for most likely live hostility around the world, the battle between Israel and Iran in Syria is at the top of the list right now,” one of the officials said.
The three officials also blamed Israel for the air strike on military bases in the Syrian cities of Hamas and Aleppo on Sunday that killed more than 20 military personnel, including Iranians.
Liberman said he would not respond to charges regarding the air strikes, adding, “I don’t read foreign publications.”
“Israel has four problems: Iran, Iran, Iran and hypocrisy,” Liberman said at a ceremony marking the change of command of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, or COGAT.
“What we see in the international arena is a surreal spectacle where those same countries that many years ago supported the Munich and Molotov-Ribbentrop agreements continue to bury their heads in the sand and ignore the reality of Iran, which is trying to destabilize the entire Middle East, Yemen [and] Iraq,” he said.
“It is the same Iran that persecutes freedom of expression, minorities and all democratic values,” Liberman continued. “This is the same Iran that tried to develop nuclear weapons and entered into an agreement in order to win many economic benefits, and this is the same Iran that is currently trying to hide its weapons program and everyone is trying to ignore it.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said on Tuesday that the international agreement on limiting Iran’s development of nuclear weapons was reached under false pretenses because the country’s nuclear program was more advanced than it indicated at the time the deal was negotiated in 2015.
“The problem is the deal was made on a completely false pretense. Iran lied on the front end,” Sanders said at a regular White House briefing. “They were dishonest actors and so the deal that was made was made on things that were not accurate. Particularly the fact that Iran’s nuclear capability were far more advanced and further along than they indicated.”Reuters contributed to this report.