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  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv. | Photo: Reuters

Published 1 May 2018

After Netanyahu’s speech the International Atomic Energy Agency said it has "no credible" evidence Iran was developing a nuclear arms since 2009.

Mohammed Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, rejected claims by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Tehran is secretly building nuclear weapons, an argument also rejected by many international observers and world leaders.

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“BREAKING: The boy who can't stop crying wolf is at it again. Undeterred by cartoon fiasco at UNGA. You can only fool some of the people so many times,” wrote Zarif on his official Twitter account, showing a photograph of the infamous bomb cartoon that Netanyahu presented at the United Nations in 2012 in a speech making his case against the Iran nuclear deal.

In a televised press conference Monday, Israel's Prime Minister presented 55,000 pages of documents and pictures obtained by his intelligence agency allegedly revealing that Iran “lied about their commitment with the nuclear agreement signed in 2015.”

Netanyahu said he shared the information with the U.S., France, the United Kingdom and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), just days ahead of May 12, the day President Donald Trump will announce if the U.S. will backtrack on the nuclear deal reached with Iran during Obama's administration.

“How convenient,” said Zarif, “Coordinated timing of alleged intelligence revelations by the boy who cries wolf just days before May 12. But Trump’s impetuousness to celebrate blew the cover.”

The Iranian foreign minister claims that both Netanyahu and Trump are trying to revive old accusations the IAEA had already dismissed, while other parties to the historic deal seem to agree with that, except for the U.S. president.

Zarif also recalled that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said, at the time of the signing of the agreement when he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, that Iran wasn't “racing to a weapon before the deal” nor would do after. However Pompeo now changed his mind after taking the new post at The Trump administration, saying “"time to revisit question of whether Iran can be trusted to enrich…any nuclear material".

“So, which one is it?” asked Zarif.

According to Netanyahu, the documents represent “new and conclusive evidence about the nuclear program Iran is hiding from the international community since years ago.” But the message was not really aimed at convincing the general public about Iran's secret nuclear program.

International and Israeli experts said 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 Trump quitting the accord.

Tzachi Hanegbi, Israeli minister for regional development and a Netanyahu confidant, said the presentation was meant to provide Trump with the grounds to bolt the deal.

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"In 12 days a huge drama will unfold. The American president will likely pull out of the deal," Hanegbi said in an interview to Israeli Army Radio.

Indirectly responding to the Israeli accusations, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Tuesday it has "no credible" evidence Iran was working on developing a nuclear "explosive device" after 2009 and that the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog considered the issue "closed" after it was presented in a report in December 2015.

A 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate judged with "high confidence" that Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003. The IAEA later reached a similar assessment.

One Vienna-based diplomat who has dealt with the IAEA for years, when asked what he made of Netanyahu’s speech, said: "Nothing new. Theatrics."

"Israel's amazing intelligence has not provided a smoking gun," said Ehud Barak, a former Israeli prime minister and a frequent Netanyahu critic, told Army Radio. "All in all it is a big help for Trump ahead of the May 12 decision."

After Netanyahu spoke, Trump repeated his criticism of the deal, suggesting he backed the Israeli leader's remarks.

An Israeli official familiar with Netanyahu's telegenic style - one the Israeli leader has refined over decades in the international arena - said that the two-word headline "Iran Lied" that appeared beside him during the presentation was tailor-made for Trump's own short, pithy, rhetorical style.

On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke on the phone for more than an hour and agreed to work together to preserve the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.

Macron stressed his willingness to continue with the deal, but agreed that some of the points criticized by Trump had to be revised, including the control of Iranian nuclear activity after 2025.

And just after Netanyahu's press conference, news broke out that the Israeli prime minister now has the power to start war activities just with the approval of the defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, without the need of consulting the cabinet.


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