EU: Netanyahu exposé erodes Iran’s credibility, but that’s why we needed deal

Prime minister has ‘not put into question Iran’s compliance’ with 2015 landmark agreement, claims union’s foreign policy czar Federica Mogherini

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini speaks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he arrives for their meeting at the European Council in Brussels on December 11, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Eric Vidal)
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini speaks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he arrives for their meeting at the European Council in Brussels on December 11, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Eric Vidal)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s revelations about Iran’s past illicit nuclear weapons program do somewhat diminish the Islamic Republic’s credibility, but Iran’s dishonesty is one of the reasons why the 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran was necessary in the first place, according to a European diplomat.

“All of this obviously raises some questions regarding Iran’s credibility,” the official told The Times of Israel on Monday evening, immediately after Netanyahu had concluded his presentation, in which he detailed Iran’s nuclear weapons as documented through to 2015 in Iran’s own archive, obtained by Israeli intelligence. “But we made the nuclear deal precisely because we don’t trust the Iranians, not because we considered them very trustworthy.”

Commenting later Monday, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini similarly argued that six world powers struck the nuclear deal with Iran precisely because of Tehran’s history of lying about its secret nuclear weapons programs.

The pact “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,” she said.

Netanyahu failed to present any evidence showing that Iran was violating the terms of the agreement, known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, she stated.

“What I have seen from the first reports is that Prime Minister Netanyahu has not put into question Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA commitments, meaning post-2015 nuclear commitments,” she said in response to Netanyahu’s presentation, delivered at the Tel Aviv headquarters of Israel’s defense establishment.

She acknowledged that she would first “need to assess the details” of Netanyahu’s remarks and get the International Atomic Energy Agency’s assessment.

“The JCPOA, the nuclear agreement, is not based on assumptions of good faith or trust — it is based on concrete commitments, verification mechanisms and a very strict monitoring of facts, done by the IAEA,” she went on. The IAEA has certified at least 10 times that “Iran has fully complied with its commitments” under the current deal, she added.

“And in any case, if any party and if any country has information of non-compliance, of any kind, it can and should address and channel this information to the proper, legitimate, recognized mechanisms.”

Mogherini chairs the a “Joint Commission” instituted under the Iran deal that is charged with monitoring the deal’s implementation and which convened on March 16 in Vienna. “We have mechanisms in place to address eventual concerns,” she said.

In a bid to get the international community to abandon its support for the nuclear deal in its current format, Netanyahu on Monday evening said he was revealing “new and conclusive proof of the secret nuclear weapons program that Iran has been hiding for years from the international community in its secret atomic archive.”

He also said Iran had breached the deal by failing to “come clean” about the illicit nuclear weapons program it had secretly been developing.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a speech on files obtained by Israel he says proves Iran lied about its nuclear program, at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, on April 30, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Citing some of more than 100,000 documents the Mossad spy agency obtained, Netanyahu showed that Iran had indeed been working on obtaining a nuclear bomb.

“We’ve known for years that Iran had a secret nuclear weapons program called Project Amad. We can now prove that Project Amad was a comprehensive program to design, build and test nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu 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.”

The current deal is “terrible deal” and “should never have been concluded,” he said, indicating that hoped that US President Donald Trump would soon announce his withdrawal from the agreement if it cannot be fixed. “I’m sure he’ll do the right thing. The right thing for the United States, the right thing for Israel and the right thing for the peace of the world,” he said.

After his presentation of the Iranian archive materials, which he said he had already shared with the US, Netanyahu phoned French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to update them on the Mossad’s intelligence haul.

He send he would send “professional teams” to Berlin and Paris to share the information he partially revealed on Monday. What he presented, he said, was a “fragment” of the material.

Netanyahu also spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to a readout provided by the Kremlin, Moscow was thoroughly unimpressed. “The deal, which is of paramount importance to ensuring international stability and security, must be strictly observed by all parties,” Putin told Netanyahu.

Earlier on Monday, Putin spoke to Macron about the merits of the Iran deal. “The Russian and French presidents called for preserving and strictly implementing the plan,” the Kremlin stated.

Netanyahu also plans to speak to the leaders of Britain and China, the other signatories of the Iran deal, in the coming days, according to his office.

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