'Only international pressure will stop Iran's march to bomb'

Netanyahu reveals site where Iran ‘experimented on nuclear weapons development’

In new disclosure, PM shows facility south of Isfahan, which he says was demolished and covered up, once Tehran realized it had been compromised

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

PM Netanyahu, speaking to reporters at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, reveals what he said is a secret facility in which Iran conducted experiments in its pursuit of nuclear weapons, September 9, 2019 (GPO)
PM Netanyahu, speaking to reporters at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, reveals what he said is a secret facility in which Iran conducted experiments in its pursuit of nuclear weapons, September 9, 2019 (GPO)

In his latest dramatic revelation on Iran’s nuclear program, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday exposed the existence of a secret nuclear facility in central Iran in which he said the regime had conducted experiments in the pursuit of nuclear weapons.

The reveal, he said, was made possible by Israel’s raid on a warehouse in Tehran last year housing Iran’s secret nuclear weapons archives.

“Today, we’re revealing that yet another secret nuclear site was exposed in the archives that we brought from Tehran. In this site, Iran conducted experiments to develop nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said in a brief statement delivered to journalists at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.

Once Iran detected that Israel had learned about the secret nuclear site, located in Abadeh, south of Isfahan, the regime quickly destroyed it, Netanyahu said. The prime minister, who showed before and after photos of the site captioned June and July of this year, did not specify the nature of the experiments conducted there.

Analyst Ehud Ya’ari, of Israel’s Channel 12 news, said later Monday that the site was near one of the largest air defense facilities Iran has built in the past seven years, and not far from Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment facility and a yellowcake production facility at Isfahan.

“When Iran realized that we uncovered the site, here’s what they did: they destroyed the site,” Netanyahu said. “They just wiped it out. They wiped out the site… They destroyed the evidence or at least tried to destroy the evidence.”

In response, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif accused Netanyahu of seeking a war with his country, tweeting that “the possessor of REAL nukes cries wolf—on an ALLEGED ‘demolished’ site in Iran.”

He & #B_Team just want a war, no matter innocent blood & another $7 TRILLION.”

A slide presented by PM Netanyahu showing s secret Iranian nuclear facility, before it detected and after Iran destroyed it (GPO)

At last year’s United Nations General Assembly, Netanyahu revealed the existence of a warehouse tied to Iran’s nuclear program. The International Atomic Energy Agency earlier this month confirmed it had found residue of enriched uranium at the site and urged Iran to explain them. But the regime in Tehran has so far failed to do so.

“Last year, we exposed Iran’s secret nuclear warehouse in Turquzabad, which Iran used for storing materials and equipment for its secret nuclear program,” Netanyahu noted.

“Even before that, Iran knew that we were on to them, so they cleared the site. They cleared it of these capacities, they cleared them, and then they actually covered up the site. This is a [literal] cover-up. They put gravel on it to try and hide their traces. But they didn’t. The IAEA found traces of uranium that Iran hid in these sites.”

Iran’s behavior thus constituted a clear breach of the Islamic Republic’s commitments under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, of which it is a signatory. “That’s a direct violation of the NPT, the non-proliferation treaty,” he said.

A map distributed by the PMO showing the site of a nuclear facility in Tehran’s Turqzabad district in December 2018

“This is what I have to say to the tyrants of Iran: Israel knows what you’re doing, Israel knows when you’re doing it, and Israel knows where you’re doing it,” Netanyahu added, speaking first in Hebrew and then repeating his statement in English. “We’ll continue to expose your lies.”

Netanyahu, who delivered his brief remarks in Hebrew and then in English, went on to urge world powers to join sanctions the US has imposed on Iran since Washington unilaterally quit the 2015 pact. The other signatories — China, Russia, France, Germany, and the UK — are all steadfastly trying to salvage the deal.

“I call on the international community to wake up, to realize that Iran is systematically [violating the deal],” the premier said. “The only way to stop Iran’s march to the bomb, and its aggression in the region, is pressure, pressure, and more pressure.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the press regarding the Iranian nuclear program, at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on September 9, 2019 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

As Netanyahu left the room in Jerusalem’s Foreign Ministry, refusing to take reporters’ questions, he pointed to the photographs of the Iranian weapons site that appeared next to him, and quipped that “it’s important that there be cameras everywhere,” likely a reference to his efforts to fast-track legislation allowing surveillance cameras inside polling stations at next week’s elections.

That legislative initiative was derailed by opposition from Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party in a committee vote earlier in the day.

Responding to criticism that Netanyahu had revealed the existence of the third nuclear facility in Iran one week before the elections for political reasons, a diplomatic source said officials at professional levels recommended that he reveal the information immediately, following Monday’s press conference by the head of the IAEA.

He was also speaking days after US President Donald Trump said it was “possible” that he would meet with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani.

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