Posts Tagged ‘IAEA’

Iran pullout a blow to N. Korea hopes: analysts

May 9, 2018

President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal is a major setback to US negotiating credibility and will complicate efforts to reach an agreement with Pyongyang over its own more advanced weapons programme, analysts say.

© KCNA via KNS/AFP/File | Donald Trump is set to hold a much-anticipated and unprecedented summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the coming weeks


Trump is set to hold a much-anticipated and unprecedented summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the coming weeks to negotiate over Pyongyang’s arsenal, after it last year carried out by far its most powerful nuclear test to date and launched missiles capable of reaching the US mainland.

But the US president Tuesday pulled Washington out of the 2015 accord with Teheran, pouring scorn on the “disastrous” agreement and describing it an “embarrassment” to the United States — although European signatories and the IAEA say Iran has complied with its obligations.

Antony Blinken, who was deputy secretary of state under Barack Obama, said the White House move “makes getting to yes with North Korea that much more challenging”.

“Why would Kim … believe any commitments President Trump makes when he arbitrarily tears up an agreement with which the other party is complying?” he asked on Twitter.

MIT political science professor Vipin Narang added: “Today is a stark reminder across the world: Deals are reversible and can have expiration dates, while nuclear weapons can offer lifetime insurance.”

North Korea remains technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended with a ceasefire rather than an armistice, and Pyongyang has long insisted that it needs nuclear weapons to defend itself from a possible US invasion.

Two weeks ago Trump’s new national security advisor John Bolton said “We have very much in mind the Libya model,” for the denuclearisation of North Korea.

Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi agreed to abandon his pursuit of nuclear weapons in the early 2000s, but his government was later overthrown by rebel forces supported by Western air strikes, and he was killed.

Pyongyang regularly cites the fates of Kadhafi and Saddam Hussein in Iraq — whose government was overthrown in a US-led invasion — as evidence of the need for nuclear arms.

Former CIA director John Brennan said Trump’s “madness” had “undermined global confidence in US commitments, alienated our closest allies, strengthened Iranian hawks, & gave North Korea more reason to keep its nukes”.

Some were more sanguine.

Pyongyang was concerned about the sustainability of a deal and sees democratic changes of government as a “structural weakness that imperils agreements by any one White House”, said Yonsei University professor John Delury.

But he added: “They’d be worried less about Trump pulling out of a deal than his successor.”

– Security guarantee –

The unilateral nature of Trump’s move is also likely to worry officials at the Blue House in Seoul.

The decision was made despite repeated personal pleas by European leaders and cast aside more than a decade and a half of careful diplomacy by Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia and past US administrations.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has been widely praised for seizing the opportunity presented by the Winter Olympics to broker talks between Trump and Kim – two leaders who were at loggerheads just months before, and threatening to wage a war which would inevitably devastate the South.

But the fate of the Iran deal suggests Trump could also dismiss pleas from Seoul — a treaty ally — in future.

Analysts pointed to Kim’s repeated trips to China as evidence Pyongyang was looking for support from its longstanding diplomatic protector and provider of trade and aid.

Kim met President Xi Jinping this week for the second time in little more than a month, after not paying his respects to him for six years after taking power as their relationship frayed.

“North Korea has been fully aware of the risks of the US walking away from any deal whenever its government changes hands,” said Koh Yu-hwan of Dongguk University told AFP.

“In order to hedge against this eventuality, Kim Jong Un met Xi Jinping twice to obtain a firmer security guarantee from China before he enters a deal with the US.”

And Pyongyang wanted wider assurances, he added.

According to China’s official Xinhua news agency, Kim told Xi that “relevant parties” should “abolish their hostile policies and remove security threats against the DPRK”.

“This means the North is seeking a global commitment to a deal with the US to prevent the US from unilaterally rolling it back,” Koh told AFP.


Peter Thiel and Palantir Are at the Heart of the Iran Nuclear Deal

May 8, 2018

Silicon Valley billionaire — and Donald Trump supporter — Peter Thiel has emerged as an unlikely player in the international debate over Iran’s nuclear deal with six world powers.

 Image result for Peter Thiel, photos

Thiel’s big-data engine, Palantir Technologies Inc., is at the heart of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s system for verifying Iran’s compliance with the landmark 2015 agreement, according to officials familiar with the program. The accord lifted years of punishing sanctions on the Islamic Republic in exchange for curbs on its ability to develop nuclear weapons.

By Bloomberg

Scrapping the accord, as Trump is threatening to do as early as Tuesday, would not only anger the other signatories — China, Russia, Germany, France and Britain — it would also hamstring the IAEA’s increasingly sophisticated ability to track the use of uranium in Iran and around the world, according to Ernest Moniz, who helped negotiate the deal as U.S. secretary of energy.

“We have a completely unique and unparalleled intrusive verification regime that was not there before the agreement,” Moniz said on PBS. If Trump kills the deal, “the No. 1 downside is that we lose this regime.”

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Trump not to scupper the accord during recent visits to Washington. Macron warned over the weekend that abrogation by the U.S. could lead to war.

Read a Quicktake on understanding the Iranian nuclear deal

Israeli Heist

Palantir has spent years modifying its predictive-policing software for inspectors at the Vienna-based IAEA, which was founded in 1957 to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The tool is at the analytical core of the agency’s new $50 million Mosaic platform, turning databases of classified information into maps that help inspectors visualize ties between the people, places and material involved in nuclear activities, IAEA documents show.

That sets up Palantir, which Thiel and his partners built with CIA funding, as the platform of choice for assessing the documents Israel claims to have detailing Iran’s secret efforts to build a bomb. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, Iran’s arch foe, announced the trove just days before Trump’s May 12 deadline to either make good on pledges to scrap the deal or extend sanctions relief.

While experts say Netanyahu revealed little new, parties involved want the 55,000 files and 183 CDs he says Mossad agents stole in Tehran vetted through the IAEA. That could offer Trump a third option — reinstating penalties without officially abandoning the deal while the agency investigates, a process that could take years, according to Ali Vaez, a former Federation of American Scientists official who runs the International Crisis Group’s Iran Project.

Whatever Trump decides, the “dirty” or unstructured data obtained by Mossad, which prides itself on deception, could serve as a stress test for Palantir’s nuclear analytics. Even a small amount of false information could trigger a flurry of unnecessary snap inspections and derail an agreement that took years to reach, Vaez said.

“Turning the access issue into a gotcha exercise might very well be the ulterior motive,” Vaez said. “The more the issue appears as a fishing expedition, the harder it will be for Iran to open its doors to inspectors.”

Iran refuted Netanyahu’s allegations, calling his presentation, which was carried live by U.S. cable news networks, “cartoonish.” Trump’s issue with the deal isn’t compliance — the IAEA has certified Iran’s work 10 times — it’s that it doesn’t address the country’s missile program or regional actions.

Trump Dinner

Palantir’s role at the IAEA, which has access to information that governments don’t, has come under increasing scrutiny since the company revealed a worker’s misuse of Facebook Inc. data in March, according to diplomats and international officials. Also of concern for an international agency known for its independence are Thiel’s close personal ties to Trump, these people said.

Thiel, a PayPal co-founder and early Facebook investor, dined at the White House with Trump and the Israeli-born co-chief executive officer of Oracle Corp., Safra Catz, just hours after the president spoke with Netanyahu about Iran on April 4.

A deputy White House press secretary, Lindsay Walters, declined to comment on what was discussed at the dinner. Palantir declined to comment. An IAEA spokesman said the agency’s data-mining program operates in “a secure environment” and within its “existing legal framework.”

Palantir’s software helps the IAEA plan and justify unscheduled probes,which have totaled 60 in Iran since the agreement came into force in 2016. The amount of information available to inspectors that Palantir can process has jumped 30-fold in three years to some 400 million “digital objects” around the world, including social media feeds and satellite photographs inside Iran.

These enhanced investigative abilities, which are inextricably linked with the Iran deal, have raised concern that the IAEA may overstep the boundary between nuclear monitoring and intelligence-gathering.

Chasing Shadows

Historically, IAEA inspectors have worked more like atomic accountants, tracking stockpiles of fissile material to ensure it isn’t diverted for weapons. But new methods of inspection — from Palantir’s analytics to mass spectrometry — have turned them into potential cyber sleuths.

Russia’s envoy for nonproliferation issues, Vladimir Yermakov, said last month that the growing powers of the IAEA are only justified “if the safeguards system remains objective, depoliticized, technically credible, clear to the member states and based on rights and obligations.”

Other countries are also starting to worry about the the agency’s expanding arsenal of surveillance tools. The Non-Aligned Group, which includes Brazil and India, said the agency’s “integrity and credibility” are at stake.

Of equal concern is the false data that “predictive-analysis” systems like Palantir’s can generate — either by accident or design, according to Andreas Persbo, who runs Vertic, a London-based company that advises governments on verification issues.

“You will generate a false return if you add a false assumption into the system without making the appropriate qualifier,” Persbo said. “You’ll end up convincing yourself that shadows are real.”

Includes video:

Iran nuclear deal: Boris Johnson visits US for talks

May 6, 2018

Boris Johnson is flying to Washington to urge the US not to scrap the international deal designed to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

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British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will have two days of talks with White House officials

BBC News

The UK and its European allies have until 12 May to persuade President Donald Trump to stick with the deal.

Mr Trump has strongly criticised the agreement, which he calls “insane”.

In a call with Theresa May on Saturday, the president “underscored his commitment to ensure that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon”.

In the landmark deal – signed by the US, China, Russia, Germany, France, the UK and Iran – the latter agrees to limit its nuclear activities in return for the easing of sanctions on its economy.

European allies France, the UK and Germany all agree the current deal is the best way to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons and the UN also warned Mr Trump not to walk away from the deal.

But Mr Trump has threatened to withdraw unless the signatories agree to “fix the deal’s disastrous flaws”.

A timeline of what Trump’s said about the Iran deal

Exit player

Media captionA timeline of what Trump’s said about the Iran deal

Mr Johnson will meet US Vice-President Mike Pence, National Security Adviser John Bolton and foreign policy leaders in Congress.

Ahead of the trip, Mr Johnson said the UK and US are “in lockstep” on many global foreign policy issues, citing the response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria and the Salisbury poisonings.

He added: “The UK, US and European partners are also united in our effort to tackle the kind of Iranian behaviour that makes the Middle East region less secure – its cyber activities, its support for groups like Hezbollah, and its dangerous missile programme, which is arming Houthi militias in Yemen.”

The UK-US talks come after Israel revealed “secret nuclear files” accusing Iran of having run a secret nuclear weapons programme, which was reportedly mothballed 15 years ago.

Media captionIsraeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled on Monday what he claims to be Iran’s secret atomic archive

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the documents were authentic and show the 2015 Iran nuclear deal was “built on lies”.

Iran, in turn, accused Mr Netanyahu of lying. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said the documents produced by Israel were a rehash of old allegations already dealt with by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear watchdog.

Mr Trump has until the deadline of 12 May to make a decision on the deal – the next deadline for waiving sanctions.

Earlier this month, Mr Johnson said it was important to keep the deal “while building on it in order to take account of the legitimate concerns of the US”.

Mr Johnson’s discussions are also expected to cover the crisis in Syria and also North Korea, ahead of Mr Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong-un, which now has a date and location arranged.

Israeli satellite firm reports ‘unusual’ activity at Iran nuclear site

May 4, 2018

Images of Fordo show full parking lot, open gates to ‘uranium enrichment tunnels,’ but no indication of illicit activity

Times of Israel
A satellite image from April 29, 2018, showing recent activity at the Fordo nuclear facility in Iran. (ImageSat International ISI)

A satellite image from April 29, 2018, showing recent activity at the Fordo nuclear facility in Iran. (ImageSat International ISI)

An Israeli satellite imaging company on Thursday released images showing what it described as “unusual” movement around the Iranian Fordo nuclear facility, a one-time uranium enrichment plant buried deep underground that was converted to a research center as part of the 2015 nuclear deal.

The photographs, which show large numbers of vehicles at the entrance to the facility and other signs of increased activity there, do not in themselves indicate any violation of the nuclear accord, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

The fate of the highly contentious nuclear agreement lies in the balance, with US President Donald Trump set to decide whether or not America will remain party to it ahead of a May 12 deadline.

The underground site, which has been protected by the powerful S-300 air defense system since 2016, was not shuttered as part of the accord, but the types of activities allowed there were heavily curtailed.

Barring a massive, heretofore undetected effort by Iran to bring Fordo back online in violation of the JCPOA, the increased activity could likely be attributed to an attempt by the Islamic Republic to imply that it is prepared to begin enriching uranium at the site if the US pulls out of the agreement.

A satellite image from April 29, 2018, showing recent activity at the Fordo nuclear facility in Iran. (ImageSat International ISI)

As part of the JCPOA, Iran was forced to limit the number of centrifuges allowed inside Fordo to 1,044, which would be kept in only one wing of the facility, and agreed that it “will not conduct any uranium enrichment or any uranium enrichment related [research and development] and will have no nuclear material at the Fordo Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP) for 15 years.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency, which is tasked with monitoring Fordo and Iran’s other nuclear facility under the JCPOA, last released a report on the site in late February. Under the agreement, IAEA monitors are entitled to inspect the facility regularly, “including daily” if they so choose.

“Throughout the reporting period, Iran has not conducted any uranium enrichment or related research and development (R&D) activities, and there has not been any nuclear material at the plant,” the IAEA reported on February 22.

The agency did not immediately respond to a Times of Israel request for comment on the date of its latest inspection of the site.

Russian-made, S-300 long-range missiles at the Fordo nuclear site in central Iran, August 28, 2016.(Screenshot/Press TV)

The pictures of the Fordo plant, which were taken on April 29, were released by ImageSat International, a satellite imagery analysis firm based out of Or Yehuda in central Israel. The company is largely run by former members of the Israeli Air Force.

One satellite photograph showed cars and buses filling the Fordo facility’s parking lot. ImageSat said it “has not detected any large presence of private vehicles nor buses” in recent months.

The firm provided a second image from July 8, 2016, in which no vehicles are visible. However, an aerial photograph from April 2, 2016, shows at least 10 cars and two buses in the facility’s parking lot.

Another image shows that a gate leading to what ImageSat refers to as “uranium enrichment tunnels” was open on April 29. Before that, the gate was last seen open on November 23, 2015. However, publicly available satellite images of the site are few and far between.

A satellite image from April 29, 2018, showing recent activity at the Fordo nuclear facility in Iran. (ImageSat International ISI)

ImageSat also noted the construction of new buildings at the site, which the firm said appeared to be for research and development.

There was no indication the buildings were used for research into uranium enrichment, which is expressly forbidden under the accord. Other types of scientific research are permitted at Fordo, so long as they are approved by the IAEA.

A satellite image from April 29, 2018, showing recent activity at the Fordo nuclear facility in Iran. (ImageSat International ISI)

Construction of the buildings began prior to implementation of the JCPOA in January 2016 and was completed sometime in the past year, as the structures can be seen in a Google Earth image of the site from September 2017.

A satellite image from September 15, 2017, of the Fordo nuclear facility in Iran. (Google Earth)

The facility is buried deep underneath a mountain, apparently to offer it protection against potential Israeli or American airstrikes. It is also located just outside the city of Qom, which is considered holy to Shiite Muslims, making any attempted bombing of the site more complicated.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the Fordo facility this week, as he unveiled a stunning operation by the Mossad intelligence service, in which over 100,000 documents pertaining to Iran’s nuclear weapons program were spirited from Tehran to Israel.

“You all remember the Fordo facility? The Fordo Uranium Enrichment Facility. This was a secret underground enrichment facility that the Iranians built under a mountain. You don’t put thousands of centrifuges under a mountain to produce medical isotopes. You put them there for one reason: nuclear weapons, enrichment for nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said.

The prime minister noted that construction of the facility took place after Iran was meant to have ended its atomic weapons program — known as Project AMAD — in 2003.

“You also will not be surprised that Iran insisted on keeping Fordo. And amazingly, the nuclear deal enabled it to do it,” he said.

Map data ©2018 Google Imagery ©2018 TerraMetrics

While no official announcement has been made by the US regarding the future of the JCPOA, multiple sources told Reuters on Thursday that Trump had “all but decided” to abandon the deal and impose new sanctions against Iran.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Thursday responded to Trump’s threats to pull out of the deal with a threat of his own. “If the US continues to violate the agreement or if it withdraws altogether, we will exercise our right to respond, in a manner of our choosing,” he said in an English-language video.


Iran’s Possession of the Nuclear Files Taken By Israel Violated the Iran Nuclear Deal

May 2, 2018

Though files recovered by Israel do not indicate current weapons program, one clause forbidding computer models for weapons could cause problems for Tehran

Times of Israel
May 2, 2018

A photo of a nuclear implosion system, as obtained by Israel from a trove of secret Iranian files (Prime Minister's Office)

A photo of a nuclear implosion system, as obtained by Israel from a trove of secret Iranian files (Prime Minister’s Office)

Though Israel’s captured trove of 100,000 Iranian documents on the Islamic republic’s past clandestine nuclear weapons program contained no smoking gun on Tehran’s current actions — no proof that it is actively violating the terms of the 2015 nuclear accord by developing weapons — one particular clause in the deal may have in fact been breached, Hadashot news reported Tuesday.

Under clause T82.1 in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran vows that it will not engage in “activities which could contribute to the development of a nuclear explosive device.” These include “designing, developing, acquiring, or using computer models to simulate nuclear explosive devices.”

Unlike some of the clauses in the JCPOA, clause 82 is not a “sunset” clause, meaning it has no time limit and no expiration date.

US government officials told Hadashot that Tehran’s retention of such models after the deal was signed, as shown by the files obtained by Israel — and particularly its reported transfer of the files between different locations as it sought to keep them hidden — could very well be seen as a breach of the terms of the deal.

According to the report, such a breach could lead the International Atomic Energy Agency to refrain in the future from ratifying Iran’s compliance with the accord.

Israel’s reveal of the intelligence trove on Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions was met with skepticism by world leaders who support the accord, many of which noted that there was no actual evidence that the 2015 accord had been violated.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s elaborate presentation live on television Monday night came ahead of a crucial decision by US President Donald Trump by May 12 on whether to withdraw from the nuclear agreement between world powers and Iran.

“I have not seen from Prime Minister Netanyahu arguments for the moment on non-compliance, meaning violation by Iran of its nuclear commitments under the deal,” European Union diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said.

“And again, 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.”

The IAEA said Tuesday it had “no credible indications of activities in Iran relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device after 2009,” citing its assessments from 2015.

France’s foreign ministry said Netanyahu’s claims reinforced the importance of the nuclear deal.

So did Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. “The Israeli prime minister’s presentation on Iran’s past research into nuclear weapons technology underlines the importance of keeping the Iran nuclear deal’s constraints on Tehran’s nuclear ambitions,” Johnson said in a Foreign Office statement.

The statement went on, “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.”

“The verification provisions in the Iran nuclear deal would make it harder for Iran to restart any such research. That is another good reason for keeping the deal while building on it in order to take account of the legitimate concerns of the US and our other allies,” Johnson added.

Trump, however, welcomed Netanyahu’s presentation, as did his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who met with the Israeli leader on Sunday in Tel Aviv.

The White House caused some confusion with its statement on the Israeli trove, at first saying it showed Iran “has” a secret nuclear weapons program before later changing it to “had.”

“These facts are consistent with what the United States has long known: Iran had a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world and from its own people,” the statement said.

“The Iranian regime has shown it will use destructive weapons against its neighbors and others. Iran must never have nuclear weapons.”

Trump and his Middle East allies, particularly Israel, argue that the agreement approved by Barack Obama was too weak and needs to be replaced with a more permanent arrangement and supplemented by controls on Iran’s missile program.

The Israeli premier has repeatedly called for the accord — which Iran signed with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — to either be altered or scrapped.

Iran has always denied it sought a nuclear weapon, insisting its atomic program was for civilian purposes.

Netanyahu has said Israel will share the information it has gathered with world powers.


Iran Blasts “Child Killer” Netanyahu After Nuclear Program Accusations

May 1, 2018

In a predictably furious response to a presentation delivered Monday by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran’s Foreign Ministry denounced allegations that the Islamic Republic had been carrying on its nuclear program in secret, calling Netanyahu “an infamous liar” and accusing him of being the head of a “child-killing Zionist regime,” according to a statement published in English on Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

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The statement was attributed to Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi has lashed out at Israeli Prime Minister’s Monday speech against Iran, calling Netanyahu’s move a propagandistic one and one of his most recent theatrical presentations on Iran’s “secret” nuclear program.

In a Tuesday statement, Qassemi described Netanyahu’s claims as worn-out, useless and shameful. He added that such remarks are futile efforts by a “broke and infamous liar who has had nothing to offer except lies and deceits.”

He further noted that Zionist leaders see the survival of their “illegal regime”, which is established based on lies, in viewing others as a threat using battered charlatanism of the ignorance age and unawareness of the world’s public opinion.

Qassemi also stressed that the futility and uselessness of such claims is now obvious more than ever.

“Netanyahu and the notorious, child-killing Zionist regime must have reached the basic understanding that the people of the world have enough awareness and cognisance,” he added.

In a series of tweets, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif ridiculed Netanyahu’s accusations, noting that the Israeli prime minister appeared to have “coodinated the timing of alleged intelligence revelations by the boy who cries wolf just days before May 12.” President Trump has set a self-imposed deadline of May 12 for the renegotiating of the Iran deal.

Javad Zarif


Pres. Trump is jumping on a rehash of old allegations already dealt with by the IAEA to “nix” the deal. How convenient. 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. 

Zarif also slammed “the boy who can’t stop crying wolf” as at it again, referring to the “cartoon fiasco” at the United Nations, stating “you can only fool some of the people so many times.”

Javad Zarif


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.

Credibility aside, Netanyahu triggered a rally in oil prices when he accused Iran of secretly developing and building nuclear weapons in violation of the JCPOA. During his presentation, Netanyahu claimed he had 55,000 pages of documents and 183 CDs, which he said comprised an “atomic archive” of documents on Iran’s nuclear program that had been taken from inside the country.

Iran wasn’t the only country to doubt the allegations. Berlin also responded skeptically to Iran’s allegations.

Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for the German government, said that while “the international community had doubts” about Iran’s compliance, it was paramount that they adopt “an unprecedented, thorough and robust surveillance system.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency, whose responsibility it is to monitor Iran’s compliance, refused to comment on the allegations.

While experts confirmed that most of Bibi’s big reveal had been previously known, many admitted that the presentation would be “hugely helpful for Trump” as it “builds the public case for Trump to blow up the Iran deal on May 12 by reimposing sanctions on Iran’s oil exports and central bank.” Though, of course, Netanyahu insisted that “no one” is seeking a war with Iran.

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In other words, Netanyahu provided the media with cover to cheer the next regional conflict: that between the US, its allies, Saudi Arabia and of course Israel on one side and Iran, Syria, Russia, and potentially China on the other. A conflict with the potential to metastasize into an all-out world war. While the White House released a statement validating Netanyahu’s findings, it refused to say whether it had made up its mind on whether to cancel the Iran deal.
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EU says Iran ‘complying’ with nuclear deal despite Israeli claims

May 1, 2018

EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s allegations of a secret Iranian atomic weapons programme do “not put into question” Tehran’s compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

© AFP/File | EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini emphasised that Iran had “fully complied with its commitments,” according to 10 IAEA reports


“We need to assess the details of the statement Prime Minister Netanyahu has made,” Mogherini said in a statement on Monday night after Netanyahu said he had new “proof” of an Iranian plan that could be activated at any time to get an atomic bomb.

Netanyahu, who has repeatedly called for the accord between world powers and his country’s main enemy Iran to be altered or scrapped, gave a presentation on television allegedly exposing Iran’s nuclear dossier.

Emphasising she was giving a preliminary reaction, Mogherini also stressed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) needed to assess the Israeli claims.

“The IAEA is the only impartial, international organisation that is in charge of monitoring Iran’s nuclear commitments.”

“What I have seen from the first reports is that Prime Minister Netanyahu has not put into question Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) commitments, meaning post-2015 nuclear commitments,” she added.

Under the JCPOA deal — signed by Iran, the US, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — Tehran agreed to curbs on its nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.

“I have not seen from Prime Minister Netanyahu arguments for the moment on non-compliance, meaning violation by Iran of its nuclear commitments under the deal,” Mogherini said.

“Iran has fully complied with its commitments,” according to 10 IAEA reports, she said.

The international community is waiting for a decision by US President Donald Trump on whether to pull out of the nuclear deal with Tehran, which he has called the “worst ever”.

The US could withdraw completely on May 12 — the next deadline for waiving Iranian sanctions.

Iran has always denied it sought nuclear weapon, insisting its atomic programme was for civilian purposes.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi on Tuesday branded Netanyahu an “infamous liar” and called the accusations that Tehran lied about its nuclear ambitions “worn-out, useless and shameful”.

International Recation To Netanyahu’s “Iran Lied” on Nuclear Program

May 1, 2018

It is clear that the international community had doubts that Iran was carrying out an exclusively peaceful nuclear program,” Steffen Seibert, the spokesman of the German government, told journalists, commenting on the Israeli prime minister’s speech. “It was for this reason the nuclear accord was signed in 2015, including the implementation of an unprecedented, thorough and robust surveillance system by the International Atomic Energy Agency.”

Germany’s position was partly echoed by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, who also said in a statement that “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.” She further noted that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is responsible for verifying Iran’s compliance with the deal.

Mogherini also said that the IAEA, which is “the only impartial, international organization that is in charge of monitoring Iran’s nuclear commitments,” has previously published 10 reports certifying that Iran has fully complied with its commitments. She then added that one has to wait for the IAEA assessment of Tel Aviv’s claims before making any conclusions on the matter.

European External Action Service – EEAS 🇪🇺


“IAEA is the only impartial international organisation in charge of monitoring Iran’s nuclear commitments. If any country has information of non-compliance of any kind should address this information to the proper legitimate and recognised mechanism” @FedericaMog

At the same time, the EU foreign policy chief noted that she found no evidence of Iran’s non-compliance with the deal in Netanyahu’s arguments so far. A similar assessment of the Israeli prime minister’s presentation was given by Eran Etzion, the former Israeli deputy national security adviser, who now heads the Israeli-European think tank called the Forum of Strategic Dialogue. “No ‘smoking gun’ was revealed this evening, nor was it proven that Iran is today developing nuclear weaponry or violating the [nuclear deal] in any other way,” he said in a Twitter post.

The UK, in its turn, stated that it had “never been naive about Iran and its nuclear intentions,” but emphasized that the existing framework “remains a vitally important way of independently verifying that Iran is adhering to the deal and that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful.”

“That is why the IAEA inspection regime agreed as part of the Iran nuclear deal is one of the most extensive and robust in the history of international nuclear accords,” a British government spokesman said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the French ambassador to the US, Gerard Araud, went as far as to say that the claims made by Netanyahu were actually a “very convincing argument” in favor of keeping the deal and not scrapping it. “In an arms control agreement, you always foresee that the other side will try to cheat. The monitoring mechanism is to make it difficult or ideally impossible,” he said in a series of tweets on the issue, adding that “the quite extensive monitoring system of the Iran deal is precisely to check facts.”

Gérard Araud


All the agreement is based on the assumption that they may lie! That’s the reason of the monitoring mechanism. Cheaters are a risk you take into account in any negotiation. 

Earlier, the Israeli prime minister’s office said in a statement that Netanyahu discussed the issue with the Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin later confirmed this fact, adding that the Russian leader still maintained that the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JPCOA), is still of “paramount importance for the international peace and security” and should be “strictly observed” by all parties.

US President Donald Trump, who was apparently a major addressee of Netanyahu’s speech, gave a much more vague response to the Israeli prime minister’s claims. “That is just not an acceptable situation,” he said, referring to the Netanyahu’s claims about Iran’s alleged aspirations to create a nuclear weapon. He also accused Tehran of “not sitting back idly” and said that “what we’ve learned has really shown that I have been 100 percent right.”

At the same time, he stopped short of saying whether he intends to abandon the deal. “So we’ll see what happens,” he said, referring to his plans. “I’m not telling you what I’m doing. [A lot] of people think they know. And on or before the 12th, we’ll make a decision,” the US president added.

In his Monday speech accompanied by a presentation involving a video and big-screen slides, Netanyahu claimed that Iran lied about its nuclear program and was actually trying to create a nuclear bomb. After the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran “continued to preserve and expand its nuclear weapons knowledge” for future use, he added, citing intelligence allegedly obtained by the Israeli security services.

The Israeli prime minister’s statements come as Trump is expected to take a decision on whether to renew a waiver on sanctions against Iran. If he does not do it, that would effectively mean the US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement. The deadline for this decision expires on May 12.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif already slammed Netanyahu’s presentation, as he called it a “coordinated timing of alleged intelligence revelations by the boy who cries wolf” just before the deadline date.

The Iran-Israel Shadow War

May 1, 2018

The 2015 nuclear deal has financed Iran’s Syria military buildup

Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 30.
Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 30. PHOTO:AMIR COHEN/REUTERS

The shadow war between Israel and Iran in Syria is heating up, and on Monday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raised the stakes by revealing that Tehran is secretly maintaining its nuclear-weapons program.

In a presentation on national TV, Mr. Netanyahu revealed the country’s spooks had obtained “half a ton” of documents and CDs from a secret facility in the Shorabad District in southern Tehran. The Israeli leader claims the files “conclusively prove” that Iran lied about its nuclear-weapons program before signing Barack Obama’s 2015 nuclear pact, and that it has since worked to preserve its nuclear-weapons related capabilities.

Mr. Netanyahu offered photographs, videos, charts and blueprints from the intelligence haul relating to Tehran’s Project Amad, which the Israeli leader called “a comprehensive program to design, build and test nuclear weapons.” The Iranians have always denied the existence of such a program, and the United Nations downplayed Tehran’s nuclear ambitions in 2015.

It’s no coincidence that Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif mentioned that 2015 U.N. assessment in a tweet Monday as evidence that Tehran should be trusted. Perhaps the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors would like to revisit those findings in light of this new evidence?

Mr. Netanyahu also claimed that the underground Fordow uranium enrichment facility was designed “from the get-go for nuclear weapons as part of Project Amad,” and misled the U.N. about its activities. The Iranians preserved Project Amad’s documentation and have kept its research team, headed by Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, largely in place in a new organization housed within the Defense Ministry.

The Israelis have shared this information with the U.S., and Trump Administration officials said Monday it seems authentic. Mr. Trump has said he’ll decide by May 12 whether to withdraw from Mr. Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, and the Israeli intelligence findings are surely relevant. If Tehran is waiting until the deal sunsets starting in 2025 to rev up its reactors, then the evidence tilts toward withdrawal unless the deal can be reworked to make it permanent.

Meantime, Israel is taking action against Iran’s increasing military buildup in Syria near the Golan Heights. On Sunday Syria’s state news agency reported missile strikes hit military bases in Aleppo and Hama, destroying an arms depot and killing more than 20 fighters. Some of the dead were reported to be Iranians, though Iran denied it. Israel has a policy of not commenting on such strikes, but the force and accuracy of the strike could only have come from a state power like Israel. As long as both sides pretend not to be doing what they’re doing, they have an easier time avoiding escalation.

The intrigue was magnified by Mike Pompeo’s swing through Israel and other U.S. Middle East allies on his first trip as Secretary of State. One of his goals is to build a new alliance against Iranian aggression in the region. On Sunday he said that Iran is “the greatest sponsor of terrorism in the world, and we are determined to make sure it never possesses a nuclear weapon,” adding that “the Iran deal in its current form does not provide that assurance.”

The issues are linked because Iran has used the windfall from the nuclear deal to fund its regional aggression. The sooner the world pushes back against Iranian imperialism, the better the chance of avoiding a much larger war.

Appeared in the May 1, 2018, print edition.

Netanyahu Says Secret Files Prove Iran Lied About Nuclear Program

April 30, 2018

Israeli leader makes case against 2015 deal as Trump faces May 12 deadline

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented what he said was an archive of documents showing that Iran had a plan to develop nuclear weapons, in Tel Aviv on Monday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented what he said was an archive of documents showing that Iran had a plan to develop nuclear weapons, in Tel Aviv on Monday. PHOTO: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS

TEL AVIV—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented what he called new evidence that Iran maintained a secret and comprehensive plan to build nuclear weapons but lied repeatedly about it, building a case against the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

The broadside by Mr. Netanyahu on Monday, broadcast in Israel and the U.S., came as President Donald Trump nears a May 12 deadline to decide whether to withdraw from the deal, which halted Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for economic benefits. Mr. Netanyahu said the agreement was a mistake and urged Mr. Trump to do “the right thing.”

Mr. Netanyahu said the documents obtained by Israel, which he said included 100,000 files on paper and discs, show that “Iran is brazenly lying when it says it never had a nuclear weapons program.”

Mr. Trump said later that he agreed the 2015 nuclear agreement was a mistake, adding it would allow Iran to resume nuclear activities in seven years.

Mr. Netanyahu, in Tel Aviv on Monday, said the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran was a mistake and urged President Donald Trump to do “the right thing.”
Mr. Netanyahu, in Tel Aviv on Monday, said the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran was a mistake and urged President Donald Trump to do “the right thing.” PHOTO: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS

“That is just not an acceptable situation,” Mr. Trump said at a news conference with Nigeria’s president, after he was asked about Mr. Netanyahu’s presentation.

“I’m not telling you what I’m doing” with regard to the May 12 deadline, he said.

Iran’s lead negotiator in the talks leading to the 2015 nuclear deal told Iranian state television that Mr. Netanyahu’s presentation was “a childish, ridiculous show.”

The documents he presented were counterfeits, said the official, Abbas Araghchi, describing claims about a hidden stash of documents as laughable.

“How would Iran keep such important documents in a deserted industrial warehouse?” he said. “The fact that Netanyahu performs this show 10 days before Trump’s decision on the JCPOA makes it clear that it is an orchestrated play to influence Trump’s decision,” he said.

Iran has denied it was seeking to build nuclear weapons, although many U.S. and international officials have long believed the country’s Islamic government was attempting to do so at one time.

As part of the 2015 nuclear deal, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog conducted a probe of Iran’s previous nuclear work. That investigation was finished in December 2015 and found no credible evidence that Tehran had engaged in recent atomic-weapons activity. But the agency reported that the country had pursued a program in secret until 2009.

Mr. Netanyahu in his comments claimed to have new evidence of Iran’s prior weapons program, displaying replicas of binders and CDs that he said were part of secret files from a bunker in Tehran. He said that Iran’s false denials represented a violation of the 2015 agreement.

The Israeli leader’s comments came a day after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Tel Aviv.

Messrs. Netanyahu and Trump spoke by telephone on Saturday, the White House said.

Mr. Netanyahu said the U.S. has vouched for the authenticity of the materials uncovered by Israel and has shared the documents with the U.S.

“We have not seen everything, but they have been very eager to share it with us,” a White House official said. “We have no reason to think that anything is inauthentic.”

Israeli officials have been discussing the files with American officials in recent days, the official said, suggesting the release was a coordinated effort. “We were not unhappy about it,” the White House official said of the presentation.

The Trump administration was impressed by the “volume and completeness of the picture” of Iran’s work that the materials presented, the official said.

However, U.S. intelligence officials and Mr. Pompeo have said that Iran is in compliance with the 2015 agreement, concurring with a view advanced by European officials and nuclear inspectors.

Write to Felicia Schwartz at