JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s prime minister on Monday unveiled what he said was a "half ton" of Iranian nuclear documents collected by Israeli intelligence, claiming the trove of information proved that Iranian leaders covered up a nuclear weapons program before signing a deal with the international community in 2015.
In a speech delivered in English and relying on his trademark use of visual aids, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that the material showed that Iran cannot be trusted, and encouraged President Donald Trump to withdraw from the deal next month.
"Iran lied big time," Netanyahu declared.
Netanyahu’s presentation, delivered on live TV from Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv, was his latest attempt to sway international opinion on the nuclear deal. The agreement offered Iran relief from crippling sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.
Netanyahu furiously fought the deal while President Barack Obama was negotiating it, and he has been a leading critic since it was signed. He says it does not provide sufficient safeguards to prevent Iran from reaching a nuclear weapons capability.
Netanyahu has found a welcome partner in Trump, who has called the agreement "the worst deal ever."
Trump has signaled 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. Netanyahu said he would share the newly uncovered information with Western allies and the international nuclear agency.
There was no immediate response from Iran, which has adamantly denied ever seeking nuclear weapons. Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency, believed to be close to the hard-line Revolutionary Guard, dismissed Netanyahu’s speech as a "propaganda show."
Netanyahu said Israel had obtained some 55,000 pages of documents and 183 CDs of secret information from an Iranian nuclear weapons program called "Project Amad." He said the material was gathered from a vaulted Iranian facility a few weeks ago "in a great intelligence achievement."
He began his presentation with a series of video clips of Iranian leaders saying their country never pursued nuclear weapons.
Netanyahu provided no direct evidence that Iran has violated the 2015 deal. Also, the deal is not believed to have banned Iran from keeping its old records.
But Netanyahu said the existence of the documents proves that Iran is waiting to resume its race to build a bomb.
"We can now prove that project Amad was a comprehensive program to design, build and test nuclear weapons," he said. "We can also prove that Iran is secretly storing project Amad material to use at a time of its choice to develop nuclear weapons."
Trump has set a May 12 deadline to decide whether to pull out of the Iran deal – something he appears likely to do despite heavy pressure to stay in from European allies and other parties.
Both Trump and Netanyahu say the deal should address Iranian support for militants across the region and Iran’s development of long-range ballistic missiles, as well as eliminate provisions that expire over the next decade.
Ahead of Netanyahu’s presentation, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, mocked the Israeli leader by tweeting out a photo of Netanyahu’s famous 2012 U.N. speech in which he used a cartoon-like drawing of a bomb to rail against Iran’s nuclear program.
"The boy who can’t stop crying wolf is at it again," Zarif said. "Undeterred by cartoon fiasco at UNGA. You can only fool some of the people so many times."