Edited by: Fern Sidman
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled on Monday evidence of a previously undisclosed Iranian nuclear weapons site, according to a World Israel News report.
In a televised presentation at Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Netanyahu showed definitive satellite images and map coordinates of the nuclear site in the central Iranian region of Abadeh. Netanyahu said the information came from nuclear archives that Israeli agents obtained from Iran’s capital, Tehran, in early 2018. He had previously revealed the existence of those archives, according to a VOA report.
“Today, we reveal that yet another secret nuclear site was exposed in the archives that we brought from Tehran. In this site, Iran conducted experiments to develop nuclear weapons. This is the site near Abadeh, south of Isfahan,” Netanyahu explained during the press conference.
VOA reported in an aerial image of the Abadeh site dated in late June of this year, several small buildings were seen clustered in a mountainous region. Netanyahu then showed another image of the site with a late July date, with all of the buildings demolished. He said Iran cleared the site after realizing that Israel had learned of its existence.
Netanyahu said Iran used the site to conduct “experiments to develop nuclear weapons,” without elaborating. Iran long has insisted its nuclear ambitions are peaceful.
“When Iran realized that we uncovered the site, here’s what they did: They destroyed the site. They just wiped it out. They wiped out the site. … They destroyed the evidence or at least tried to destroy the evidence. … It’s incredible. Every time we reveal, they try to cover up their tracks,” Netanyahu declared. He explained that the facility was discovered based on records that Israel seized from an Iranian nuclear warehouse early last year in a raid during which Mossad agents spirited out of Iran a “half-ton” of nuclear documents.
The prime minister added: “Even before that, Iran knew that we were on to them, so they cleared the site. They cleared it of these capacities, they cleared them, and then they actually covered up the site. This is a literal cover-up. They put gravel on it to try and hide their traces. But they didn’t. The IAEA found traces of uranium that Iran hid in these sites. That’s a direct violation of the NPT, the nonproliferation treaty.”
Speaking directly to the rogue Iranian terror regime, Netanyahu stated, “This is what I have to say to the tyrants of Iran: Israel knows what you’re doing, Israel knows when you’re doing it, and Israel knows where you’re doing it,” he stated, warning that “we’ll continue to expose your lies.”
The Israeli prime minister then addressed his remarks to the rest of the world.
“I call on the international community to wake up, to realize that Iran is systematically violating the deal,” he said. “The only way to stop Iran’s march to the bomb and its aggression in the region is pressure, pressure and more pressure.”
Netanyahu also confirmed that uranium traces were found at a Turquzabad facility he identified last year, referring to a report the previous evening that the IAEA inspected the site in April and found radioactive material, including uranium, which is a key ingredient for developing nuclear bombs, according to the World Israel News report.
The WIN report indicated that this information was communicated by Reuters, which based its report on the word of two diplomats familiar with the IAEA’s work.
“A year and a half ago, we exposed Iran’s secret nuclear archive which revealed that Iran was developing five nuclear warheads as early as 2003. Last year, we exposed Iran’s secret nuclear warehouse in Turquzabad which Iran used for storing materials and equipment for its secret nuclear program,” Netanyahu noted, as was reported by WIN.
VOA reported that in a tweeted response to Netanyahu’s presentation, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif referred to the newly-identified location as an “ALLEGED demolished site.”
Zarif also tried to undermine the Israeli leader’s credibility, posting a video clip in which Netanyahu, in a previous role as an opposition leader, told a U.S. congressional hearing in the early 2000s that removing then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from power would have “positive reverberations” in the region, as was reported by VOA. A U.S.-led coalition ousted Saddam in a 2003 invasion of Iraq, triggering a years-long conflict in that nation.
Having been sanctioned in July by the US, Zarif has used Twitter frequently to mock and criticize the U.S. and Israel for their perceived punitive actions and statements toward Iran, according to the VOA report.
Andrea Stricker, a nonproliferation policy analyst at Washington’s Institute for Science and International Security, told the VOA Persian News Service that her organization was examining the material presented by Netanyahu. “There’s nothing so far to indicate that it’s not credible, based on other information that Israel has released,” she said.
Netanyahu gave his latest presentation eight days before his ruling Likud party faces voters in a parliamentary election in which he is seeking to extend his historic tenure as Israel’s intrepid leader. VOA reported that Israel called the election after a previous vote in April ended inconclusively, with Netanyahu unable to secure a Knesset majority for a coalition government with smaller right wing and religious allies.
On the political front, Israeli opposition leader Benny Gantz, who heads the center-left Blue and White party leveled criticism at the timing of Netanyahu’s presentation.
According to the VOA report, Gantz, writing in Hebrew, concurred with Netanyahu that a nuclear-armed Iran is a danger to regional stability and said there is no coalition and opposition when it comes to Israel battling that threat.
Gantz, who served as the 20th Chief of General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) from 2011 to 2015, claimed that Netanyahu was furthering a political agenda by making this presentation at this juncture in time. “Netanyahu’s use of sensitive security information for propaganda purposes indicates poor judgment. In his last days as prime minister, Netanyahu only cares about himself,” said Gantz.
The Times of Israel quoted a diplomatic source who refuted the criticism that Netanyahu was making a revelation about Iran to seek a political boost one week before the election, according to the VOA report.
TOI quoted the diplomatic source as saying Israeli officials recommended that Netanyahu reveal the information immediately in response to a news conference by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s acting director general, Cornel Feruta, earlier Monday, as was reported by VOA.
Speaking to reporters in Vienna after returning from a visit to Iran a day earlier, Feruta said, “Time is of the essence” for Iran to answer IAEA questions about the “completeness of … declarations” regarding its nuclear-related commitments under a 2015 deal with world powers, as was reported by VOA.
Trump pulled the United States out of the deal, which offered Tehran international sanctions relief in return for constraints on its nuclear activities, last year, and unilaterally reimposed U.S. sanctions. He said the deal was not tough enough on Iran.
The VOA report indicated that Feruta did not provide details of the IAEA’s unanswered questions to Iran. But in a Sunday report, the Reuters news agency cited two unnamed diplomats as saying IAEA samples taken at another alleged Iranian nuclear site revealed by Netanyahu last year showed traces of uranium that Iran has yet to explain.
Speaking to the U.N. General Assembly in September 2018, Netanyahu called the Tehran site a secret atomic warehouse, alleging Iran had used it to house radioactive material that it later spread throughout the city, as was reported by the VOA.
Iranian officials have dismissed that revelation as false.
Stricker said Israel’s latest revelation of an alleged secret Iranian nuclear site represents a failure of the IAEA’s effort to determine the extent to which Iran progressed in developing its nuclear weapons program in the past. “After closing its investigation into possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program in 2015, new developments keep coming out, and the IAEA is forced to address them, or else it will have no credibility,” she said.
In another development Monday, the IAEA said its inspectors confirmed that Iran is preparing to use more advanced centrifuges capable of refining uranium, a key component of nuclear weapons. In a statement, the IAEA said the equipment that Iran has “prepared for testing” includes several types of centrifuges prohibited under the 2015 nuclear deal. It said none of them had been tested by the end of its latest inspection on Sunday.
VOA reported that Iranian officials had previewed the move related to advanced centrifuges last week as their latest scaling back of compliance with the 2015 accord. They have said the scaling back is meant to pressure the deal’s remaining signatories, particularly European Union powers, to compensate Tehran for the economic damage inflicted by intensifying U.S. sanctions.
Despite openly taking steps to violate limitations specified in the agreement, Iran has said it will continue to work with the IAEA to allow inspections of its nuclear facilities.