Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu likely just gave Donald Trump the excuse he was looking for to officially kill the Iran nuclear deal.
Armed with a rudimentary Powerpoint presentation and a microphone, the Israeli leader unveiled Monday what he said were “secret nuclear files” that showed Iran had kept and expanded its nuclear weapons knowledge after signing the 2015 agreement.
At a televised presentation from Israel's Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu showed what he said were copies of a trove of 55,000 pages of secret documents cataloguing Iran’s nuclear knowledge, that had been stored in a compound in Tehran’s Shorabad district in 2017.
Netanyahu said the documents showed Iran had lied about never having a nuclear weapons program, and that it had preserved and continued to expand its nuclear knowledge after signing the landmark deal with six world powers - the U.S., the U.K., Russia, France, China, and Germany. Based on the documents, he said he expected Trump to pull out of the deal, as he mulls its future in coming days.
“I’m sure he’ll do the right thing,” said Netanyahu. “The right thing for the United States, the right thing for Israel, and the right thing for the peace of the world.”
Trump appeared to be all ears Monday afternoon, calling the deal a "horrible agreement" and telling reporters that Netanyahu’s speech showed he’s “100 percent right" about the deal.”
Trump has repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which eased economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. He is due to decide on May 12 whether to continue with the deal or drop out.
French President Emmanuel Macron said last week he expected Trump to exit the deal.
"My view is… that he will get rid of this deal on his own, for domestic reasons," Macron said at the end of his three-day trip in the U.S.
Netanyahu’s presentation came one day after a high-profile visit to Israel by new U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. During his meeting in Tel Aviv on Sunday, Pompeo, a well-known Iran warhawk, said the U.S. was prepared to pull out of the deal “if we can't fix it.”
Israel has long argued that the accord is ineffective in preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and that the easing of sanctions has helped a strengthened Iran foment instability through its proxies throughout the Middle East.
Ahead of Netanyahu’s presentation, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif slammed Netanyahu on Twitter as “the boy who can't stop crying wolf.”
Emotions are running high between the Iran and Israel as it is. Tensions flared with strikes on the T4 military base in central Syria on April 9, in which a number of Iranian Revolutionary Guards were killed. Iran, Syria, and Russia accused Israel of carrying out the strike, Iran’s military vowed revenge, and Israel, which did not confirm or deny it, has since been bracing for a response.
On Sunday, another Syrian base was hit, this time the 47th Brigade base south of the city of Hama. The New York Times, citing an official from the Iranian and Syrian alliance, reported Monday that 16 people were killed, including 11 Iranians. The official said Iran was expected to retaliate against Israel for the strikes.
The strikes reflect growing Israeli anxiety about Iran’s deepening military presence in Syria in support of its ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad. Netanyahu has pledged to forcefully prevent its arch-nemesis from establishing a permanent military presence in the country. On Thursday, Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said his military would strike Tehran if Iran attacked.
Cover image: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presents material on Iranian nuclear weapons development during a press conference in Tel Aviv, Monday, April 30 2018. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)