Iranian state-run media claimed Monday that the Tehran warehouse described by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his speech to the UN last week as a “secret atomic warehouse” is actually a recycling facility for scrap metal.
A Tasnim News reporter sent to investigate Netanyahu’s allegation was told by a worker from inside the facility that it was not a military site, and the Israeli leader was “a stupid person” for believing it was a nuclear warehouse.
The reporter did not enter the facility, only speaking to the worker via intercom from outside the locked gate.
The owner of a nearby carpet cleaning business told Tasnim “there was nothing out of the ordinary” about the warehouse, and asserted that Netanyahu was fed disinformation to “make him a fool.”
In his address to the UN General Assembly on Thursday, Netanyahu accused Iran of keeping a “secret atomic warehouse” just outside its capital, despite the 2015 deal with world powers that was meant to keep it from developing nuclear weapons.
Holding up a poster-board map of Tehran, Netanyahu told world leaders that Iranian officials have been keeping up to 300 tons of nuclear equipment and material in a walled, unremarkable-looking property near a rug-cleaning operation in the Turquzabad neighborhood.
He claimed some 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of radioactive material had been recently removed from the “secret atomic warehouse” and squirreled away around Tehran, endangering the capital’s residents.
Netanyahu specified that there was a rug-cleaning business nearby: “Like the atomic archive [revealed by the prime minister in April], it’s another innocent looking compound. Now for those of you at home using Google Earth, this no-longer-secret atomic warehouse is on Maher Alley, Maher Street. You have the coordinates, you can try to get there. And for those of you who try to get there, it’s 100 meters from the Kalishoi, the rug cleaning operation. By the way, I hear they do a fantastic job cleaning rugs there. But by now they may be radioactive rugs.”
He added: “Now, countries with satellite capabilities may notice some increased activity on Maher Alley in the days and weeks ahead. The people they’ll see scurrying back and forth are Iranian officials desperately trying to finish the job of cleaning up that site. Because, you see, since we raided the atomic archive, they’ve been busy cleaning out the atomic warehouse. Just last month, they removed 15 kilograms of radioactive material. ”
The International Atomic Energy Agency, which has been monitoring Iran’s compliance with the agreement, had no immediate comment on Netanyahu’s revelations.
Netanyahu’s disclosure came four months after Israel announced the existence of what it said was a “half-ton” of Iranian nuclear documents obtained by Israeli intelligence in the Shourabad neighborhood near Tehran, a few miles from the Turquzabad warehouse.
Netanyahu said that the archive and the secret warehouse were proof that Iranian leaders covered up their nuclear weapons program before signing the 2015 agreement, and had not given it up.
He said the IAEA ignored Israeli intelligence on the nuclear sites and more than 100,000 documents on Iran’s nuclear program obtained by Israel from the Shourabad facility that he revealed earlier this year.
Netanyahu later urged UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to request the IAEA to investigate the facility.
Iranian officials dismissed Netanyahu’s claims about the atomic warehouse as unfounded and “obscene.”
The spokesman of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Bahram Ghasemi, said Netanyahu’s accusation was “not worth talking about.”
“These farcical claims and the show by the prime minister of the occupying regime [Israel] were not unexpected,” he said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called Netanyahu a “liar who would not stop lying,” according to state media.
Iranians also mocked Netanyahu’s claims about the site, with many posting selfies of themselves outside the warehouse over the weekend and reporting that “nothing was going on.”
However, a senior Israeli aide said Saturday that Netanyahu’s speech was causing “growing pressure inside Iran,” as officials were scrambling to cover up evidence of nuclear activities at the site.
“There is no doubt it is a very important site for them; they’re seeking to conceal it and stall in any way possible,” the official told Channel 10 over the weekend.
He said Israel “had no choice” but to reveal the information during Netanyahu’s UN speech in an effort to goad the IAEA to investigate the sites.