An Israeli Cabinet minister has said his country’s dramatic seizure of what it purports to be Iran’s nuclear programme archive could help deter the Islamic Republic from trying to strike Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled on Monday what he claimed was a “half ton” of Iranian nuclear documents collected by Israeli intelligence, claiming it proved Iranian leaders covered up a nuclear weapons programme before signing a deal with world powers in 2015.
Mr Netanyahu’s speech was delivered in English and relied on his trademark use of visual aids.
He claimed the material – some 55,000 pages of documents and 183 CDs of secret information Israeli Mossad operative obtained from a Tehran facility – shows Iran cannot be trusted and encouraged President Donald Trump to withdraw from the deal.
President Trump says the discovery vindicated his criticism of the deal.
Tehran, which has denied ever seeking nuclear weapons, dismissed Mr Netanyahu’s move as a “ridiculous” show but did not address the documents produced by the Israeli PM.
Israeli minister Yoav Galant told Israel’s Army Radio he suspected President Trump was leaning toward rejecting the deal, which would likely lead to a growing confrontation between Israel and Iran.
But he said Israel was prepared and doubted Iran would challenge Israel, given the humbling blow it was delivered.
“Anyone who saw the intelligence achievement can also understand what our military capabilities are,” he said.
“I assume that everyone around us will think long and hard before they try to harmIsrael.”
President Trump has signalled he will pull out of the agreement by May 12 unless it is revised, but he faces intense pressure from European allies not to do so.
Israeli officials said the information it gathered had been shared in advance with the Americans, in an apparent hope of influencing President Trump’s decision.
However, Mr Netanyahu’s presentation, delivered on live TV from Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv, did not appear to provide evidence that Iran has violated the 2015 deal, raising questions about whether it would sway international opinion ahead of President Trump’s decision.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman called Mr Netanyahu’s performance a “threadbare charlatanism” show.
The state-run IRNA news agency on Tuesday quoted the spokesman, Bahram Ghasemi, as saying Mr Netanyahu’s speech was part of “fruitless efforts of a bankrupt and scandalous liar”.