JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informed US President Donald Trump about evidence of a past secret Iranian nuclear arms programme in March, a senior Israeli official said, a move apparently aimed at killing an international deal with Tehran that both leaders oppose.
Mr Trump agreed Israel would publish the information before May 12, the date by which he is due to decide whether the US should quit the nuclear deal with Iran, an arch foe of both countries, the Israeli official said.
In a prime-time televised statement on Monday night Mr Netanyahu presented what he said were Iranian documents obtained in a daring Israeli intelligence operation that purportedly prove Iran had been developing nuclear weapons before the 2015 deal that it signed with the US and world powers.
Mr Netanyahu told CNN yesterday that “nobody” sought war with Iran, a prospect seen by some as a possible result of the deal’s collapse.
But his presentation said the evidence shows Iran lied going into the deal, a landmark 2015 agreement seen by Mr Trump as flawed but by European powers as vital to allaying concerns that Iran could one day develop nuclear bombs.
Tehran, which denies ever pursuing nuclear weapons, dismissed Mr Netanyahu as “the boy who cried wolf,” and called his presentation propaganda.
International and Israeli experts said Mr Netanyahu had presented no evidence Iran was in breach of the deal. Rather, it appeared the presentation, delivered almost entirely in English, was composed as an Israeli prelude to Mr Trump quitting the accord.
Tzachi Hanegbi, Israeli minister for regional development and a Mr Netanyahu confidant, said the presentation was meant to provide Mr Trump with the grounds to bolt the deal.
“In 12 days a huge drama will unfold. The American president will likely pull out of the deal,” Mr Hanegbi said in an interview to Israeli Army Radio.
“What the prime minister did last night, was to give Trump ammunition against the European naiveté and unwillingness regarding Iran.