The Iran Deal

There’s just about two weeks to go before President Trump has to decide whether to continue waiving sanctions on Iran or essentially withdraw the United States from the nuclear deal.

And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his case Monday for why Trump should withdraw.

In a dramatic presentation at Israel’s Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu presented evidence of what he said was Iran lying about its desire to obtain nuclear weapons and then hiding that evidence to ensure it retains knowledge of how to build them.

“This is a terrible deal. It should never have been concluded, and in a few days time, President Trump will decide, will make his decision on what to do with the nuclear deal,” Netanyahu said during a speech he delivered in English. “I’m sure he’ll 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.”

 

The accusations: Netanyahu’s presentation detailed what he said was a trove of 100,000 documents obtained by Israeli intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program.

The documents, Netanyahu said, provide conclusive evidence that the goal of Iran’s nuclear program was to obtain a weapon, contrary to statements from Iranian officials saying the nuclear program was peaceful.

“Iran lied. Big time,” Netanyahu said.

The documents that Netanyahu displayed Monday detail “Project Amad” and included a supposed “mission statement” to “design, produce and test five warheads, each with 10 kiloton TNT yield for integration in a missile.”

Iran lied further, Netanyahu said, when it did not tell the IAEA about the program in 2015, contrary to requirements of the nuclear deal.

After signing the nuclear deal in 2015, Iran “intensified its efforts” to hide the documents so that it could preserve its nuclear know-how, Netanyahu added.

 

Is this new?: Experts say no — that the nuclear program Netanyahu detailed has been known and was the reason the deal was negotiated in the first place.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in 2011 that it had credible evidence showing Iran was doing nuclear weapons work under a structured program through 2003 and that work may have continued past that.

The IAEA then made a final judgment in 2015 as the nuclear deal was being adopted that reiterated its 2011 findings.

As such, supporters of the deal said Netanyahu’s presentation only reinforced its necessity.

“There is no new information and the concern that Mr. Netanyahu emphasized that Iran retains residual technical knowledge that is useful in constructing a weapon is exactly the reason the [Iran deal] should be upheld — to deny Iran the fissile material necessary to execute that knowledge,” Thomas Countryman, a former Obama administration State Department official and current Diplomacy Works Advisory Council member, said in a statement.

 

Why it still matters: Netanyahu’s speech appears to have been aimed at an audience of one — Trump. And in that regard, the speech may have been a success.

Asked about the speech at his own press conference with the Nigerian president, Trump said that what Netanyahu had described was “just not an acceptable situation.”

“I’m not telling you what I’m doing, but a lot of people think they know,” Trump said of his decision on the Iran deal. “That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t negotiate a new agreement. We’ll see what happens, but I think if anything what’s happening today and what’s happened over the last little while and what we’ve learned has really shown that I’ve been 100 percent right.”

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