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EU: Israel info bolsters importance of Iran deal

May 1, 2018

The presentation by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shows the importance of keeping the Iran nuclear deal, EU governments have said. None of the information appeared to show Iran has violated the accord.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a press conference in Tel Aviv, Israel
Image: picture-alliance/Photoshot

EU governments have said the alleged revelations on Iran's nuclear program shared by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bolstered the argument to maintain the accord ahead of a possible US exit from the deal on May 12. 

In a televised English-language presentation on Monday, Netanyahu claimed the 2015 accord was based on "lies" and accused Tehran of preserving and expanding "its nuclear weapons know-how for future use."

Many observers saw Netanyahu's performance as an appeal to President Donald Trump to pull the US out of the laboriously negotiated deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also signed by Iran, China, Russia, Germany and France.

None of the information provided by Netanyahu appeared to show Iran has violated the nuclear accord, and much of the alleged intelligence trove was not new, dating from at least a decade ago. 

Israel says Iran lied on nukes

Instead, Netanyahu's presentation appeared to be directed at trying to show Iran had the intent to build nuclear weapons before the 2015 accord. Iran has denied that it planned to build nuclear weapons, and recognition of intent was not part of the JCPOA. 

Still, the White House argued on Tuesday that Israel's allegations appeared to show that Iran's nuclear program was further along than previously thought.

"The problem is the deal was made on a completely false pretense. Iran lied on the front end," said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. 

EU: Presentation highlights need of nuclear deal

In response to Netanyahu's presentation, the EU's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said the allegations did not appear to show that Iran was currently violating the terms of the deal.

"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 Monday. "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."

French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said Israeli information proved the need to maintain the checks and UN inspections established by the deal. The review mechanisms are among the "most comprehensive and robust in the history of nuclear non-proliferation," she said.

At the same time, von der Muhll said the information should be "studied and evaluated in detail" by a commission of representatives from the signatory states. 

Netanyahu presents 'evidence' against Iran: Middle East analyst Daniel Gerlach speaks to DW

The spokeswoman also linked the Monday address with ideas to expand and prolong the nuclear deal beyond 2025 and 2030, an idea spearheaded by French President Emmanuel Macron. Macron has suggested to leaders in Washington, Beijing, Berlin and Tehran to negotiate new deals in other areas, such as Iran's missile program.

"The new information presented by Israel could also confirm the need for longer-term assurances on the Iranian program, as the president has proposed," von der Muhll said.

The British Foreign Office similarly said "the fact that Iran conducted sensitive research in secret until 2003 shows why we need the intrusive inspections allowed by the Iran nuclear deal today."

"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," said Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

Nuclear watchdog: No weapons development in recent years

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reiterated Tuesday that it had "no credible indications of activities in Iran relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device after 2009."

"Before the end of 2003, an organizational structure was in place in Iran suitable for the coordination of a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device," the UN's nuclear watchdog responsible for monitoring the deal said in a statement. 

"Although some activities took place after 2003, they were not part of a coordinated effort," it said, adding that "these activities did not advance beyond feasibility and scientific studies, and the acquisition of certain relevant technical competences and capabilities."

Analysts suggested Netanyahu's performance, coming at a time he has multiple corruption scandals swirling around him, appeared to have backfired, at least in Europe. 

Ellie Geranmayeh, an Iran expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said on Twitter that Netanyahu's "theatrics" appear to have "backfired," at least in Europe.

"But Netanyahu's message was never intended for Europe —- Trump and Fox News were the targets." 

cw, dj/cmk (Reuters, AFP)