Israel told the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency about the existence and contents of the previously unknown Iranian nuclear site whose presence was publicly revealed at the UN Thursday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but the atomic watchdog failed to act on the information, a senior Israeli official said.
According to the unnamed official, quoted Friday by Israel’s Channel 10 news, the “secret atomic warehouse” revealed by Netanyahu contained nuclear materials that Iran is not allowed to hold without declaring them to the IAEA. Yet the IAEA knew nothing about the site, the official said, and still failed to act when Israel informed both the IAEA and the US administration about it.
The official added that Israel knows exactly what was being stored at the facility after it was uncovered by the Mossad spy agency a few months ago, from which time the Israeli secret service kept the location under surveillance.
When the IAEA failed to act, the Israeli government apparently agonized over what to do with the information, and decided after discussions in the Prime Minister’s Office that Netanyahu would reveal it in his annual speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday in an attempt to goad the IAEA into taking action.
“There was no choice but to reveal this information, because the goal is to prompt the IAEA to take action,” the senior official said. “We wanted to wake up the world and pressure the IAEA to act against the suspected facilities in Iran.”
Channel 10 reported that the senior official revealed that the nuclear facility is under the supervision of a secret Iranian defense ministry department headed by Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, named by Netanyahu in his April presentation of the seized nuclear archive as the Iranian physicist who heads the country’s nuclear program.
“Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh,” urged Netanyahu in April, showcasing the material that he said proved conclusively that Iran has lied when it says it has not sought nuclear weapons and that the 2015 nuclear deal was built upon “Iranian deception.”
The US on Friday asked the IAEA to investigate Netanyahu’s new allegations, although Reuters also quoted US officials saying the prime minister’s information was misleading, and that the site contained documentation and not nuclear materials.
The Israeli official was adamant, by contrast, that what the Iranians were keeping in the newly revealed warehouse was considerably more grave than the contents of the archive. The official did not elaborate beyond saying it was “forbidden nuclear material,” the TV report said.
In May an Israeli TV report suggested Jerusalem may have decided not to assassinate Fakhrizadeh because it prefers to keep him alive and watch what he is up to, even as other Iranian nuclear experts have been assassinated in recent years in hits attributed to the Mossad.
Netanyahu revealed the existence of the site Thursday, saying it could contain up to 300 tons of nuclear material, and accused the IAEA of failing to investigate findings that he presented earlier this year about Iran’s nuclear program.
Iranians on Friday published selfies taken outside the facility, whose address Netanyahu specified in his speech Thursday.
A few Iranians decided to go in front of what Netanyahu claimed to be #Iran’s secret nuclear warehouse. They are warning others not to waste their time with the long commute since “nothing is going on.” https://t.co/4GJ4WxWK6p #Turquzabad
— Reza H. Akbari (@rezahakbari) September 28, 2018
Said Netanyahu: “Like the atomic archive, 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.”
— Seyed Yasser Jebraily (@YJebraily) September 28, 2018
Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly (full text here), the prime minister said the IAEA had failed to take any action after he revealed in April a nuclear archive that Israeli spies managed to spirit out of Iran, and so he was now revealing what he said was a “secret atomic warehouse” in the Turquzabad district of Tehran, a few miles from the archive.
On Thursday, Netanyahu also met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and urged him to ask the IAEA to investigate the facility.
Netanyahu claimed the warehouse was used for “storing massive amounts of equipment and material from Iran’s secret weapons program,” which was quickly being moved to other parts of the city.
He claimed some 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of radioactive material had been recently removed from this atomic warehouse and squirreled away around Tehran, endangering the capital’s residents.
The site may contain as much as 300 tons of nuclear-related equipment and material in 15 shipping containers, he added.
He did not specify what nuclear material was contained at the site.
The 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.
Israel said the cache proved that Iranian leaders covered up their nuclear weapons program before signing the nuclear agreement. Iran hasn’t acknowledged the alleged seizure.
Both the archive and warehouse, he said, were proof that Iran had not given up its nuclear program.
“Iran has not abandoned its goal to develop nuclear weapons…. Rest assured that will not happen. What Iran hides, Israel will find,” Netanyahu added.
He urged IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano, who he called “a good man,” to “do the right thing” and “go and inspect this atomic warehouse immediately — before the Iranians finish cleaning it out. Inspect “right here, right now,” he urged, “and inspect the other sites we told you about… Tell the world the truth about Iran.”
Iran’s state-run, English-language Press TV channel carried Netanyahu’s remarks live but cut away after he made the allegation about the nuclear warehouse.
Iranian officials have dismissed Netanyahu’s claims about the atomic warehouse as unfounded and “obscene.”
Referring to Netanyahu’s statements as “ridiculous,” an Iranian state TV report said the country is committed to nonproliferation and Iran’s nuclear program is under surveillance of the IAEA. The website of state TV briefly reported the Netanyahu accusation and called it an “illusion.”
There was no immediate reaction from the IAEA, which Netanyahu said had ignored Israeli information on the nuclear sites and more than 100,000 documents on Iran’s nuclear program he revealed earlier this year.
Pulling out more placards, Netanyahu showed the plenum what he said were sites hidden near Beirut’s international airport housing precision missiles for the Hezbollah terror group, an Iranian proxy.
“In Lebanon, Iran is directing Hezbollah to build secret sites to convert inaccurate projectiles into precision guided missiles, missiles that can target deep inside Israel within an accuracy of ten meters,” he said.
He added: “Hezbollah is deliberately using the innocent people of Beirut as human shields. They have placed three of these missile conversion sites alongside Beirut’s international airport.”
“Israel knows what you are doing, Israel knows where you are doing it, and Israel will not let you get away with it,” he said.
Sending a message to “the tyrants of Iran,” he said: “Israel knows what you’re doing, and Israel knows where you’re doing it.” Israel, he vowed, would “never let a regime that calls for our destruction develop nuclear weapons.”
Reasserting longstanding Israeli policy, he promised: “Israel will do whatever it must do to defend itself against Iran’s aggression.”
To that end, he said, “We will continue to act against you in Syria, we will act against you in Lebanon, we will act against you in Iraq, we will act against you whenever and wherever we must act to defend our state and to defend our people.”
With the EU continuing to back the Iranian nuclear deal he vociferously opposed, Netanyahu charged that European countries had been “coddling” Iran’s leaders by fulfilling obligations they made under the nuclear accord, and called on them to join in on the reimposed US sanctions after Trump pulled out — a move Netanyahu praised.
“The same week Iran was caught red-handed for trying to murder European citizens, European leaders were laying out the red carpet for President Rouhani, pledging to give them more money,” Netanyahu mocked. “Have these European leaders learned nothing from history? Will they ever wake up?”
Agencies contributed to this report.