Iran has denied that Israel stole thousands of secret documents from a Tehran warehouse relating to the Islamic Republic’s clandestine nuclear weapons program as “laughably absurd.”
Israel said the trove of documents seized by the Mossad in a daring January raid shows Iran had for years worked on developing nuclear weapons while lying to the international community, and that it has put plans in place to pursue such weapons in the future.
“Iran has always been clear that creating indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction is against what we stand for as a country, and the notion that Iran would abandon any kind of sensitive information in some random warehouse in Tehran is laughably absurd,” a spokesman for Tehran’s UN mission said.
“It’s almost as if they are trying to see what outlandish claims they can get a Western audience to believe.”
On Sunday the New York Times reported that the archive shows Iran’s weapons program “was almost certainly larger, more sophisticated and better organized” than was suspected, after US reporters were shown selected documents from the haul.
Three US reporters were given limited access to the trove last week, and were briefed by Israeli officials. Israel, which unveiled the documents in April, has been mining the trove of 100,000 documents for new information, and has also shared the material with the IAEA and with US and European intelligence agencies.
The thrust of last week’s briefing for the US press was to highlight how far the nuclear program had progressed — Iran “was on the cusp of mastering key bombmaking technologies when the research was ordered halted” in 2003, the Washington Post said — and to underline Israel’s insistence that the archive demonstrates that the Iranian regime has not abandoned its effort to obtain a nuclear weapons arsenal, but has merely mothballed parts of it.
“These documents are old, but they have a bearing on the future,” a senior Israeli official was quoted by the Post as saying. “It’s not a history lesson. They have capabilities they can use in the future.”
Iran halted much of the nuclear weapons program in 2003, but internal memos in the archive “show senior scientists making extensive plans to continue several projects in secret, hidden within existing military research programs,” said the Washington Post.
“In a few years, when some of the [deal’s] restrictions expire, Iran will be in a position to resume work on a nuclear device that Israel sees as a threat to its existence,” the Israeli official told the Post.
The Tehran warehouse from which the documents were purloined “was put into use only after the 2015 accord was reached with the United States, European powers, Russia, and China,” the Times reported. Israeli officials contend that the fact that the Iranians “systematically went about collecting thousands of pages spread around the country documenting how to build a weapon, how to fit it on a missile and how to detonate it” demonstrates that they fully intend to return to the effort of nuclear weapons building when the opportunity arises.
The Times noted that one of the reasons Mossad decided to steal the documents rather than photograph or copy them and leave undetected was “to counter Iranian claims that the material was forged and offer it up for examination by international groups.”
Iran indeed maintains the entire document trove is fraudulent.