On one of his final days in office, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Monday acknowledged an Israeli operation carried out by Mossad agents who broke into a secret Tehran warehouse and retrieved a huge trove of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear files.
“The secrets that the Zionists came and took from inside [the country], published and showed to [former US president Donald] Trump [led him] to abandon the [nuclear] agreement,” Rouhani told government officials at a meeting covered by the official state Fars news agency.
He went on to stress that he wasn’t commenting on whether the documents stolen in 2018 had been authentic.
“Then there was a war and the enemy dropped bombs on our people,” Rouhani said, appearing to reference subsequent operations — allegedly carried out by Israel — against Iran’s nuclear program, as well as the sanctions instituted by Trump after he withdrew from the deal in 2018.
“Instead of cursing the person who dropped the bomb on the people, those who sought to protect the country were attacked,” Rouhani claimed.
He added that Iran had also been losing the public relations war, lamenting “our media could not defeat the conspiracy of the Zionist media.”
Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicized the Mossad appropriation of approximately 110,000 documents in April 2018.
The agency’s operatives broke into the building where the trove was housed in January of that year, removed the files and disks, and smuggled them back to Israel the same night.
The acquisition of the documents and files that were seized, which proved that Iran had been working to develop nuclear weapons, was thought to have factored in the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement in May of that year.
In 2019, Netanyahu confirmed a report that he had informed Trump of the Mossad’s plans to conduct the operation in advance, as well as the assumption that his decision to reveal the theft of the archive was an effort to convince the United States to drop out of the nuclear deal with Iran.
“I approved this operation out of the belief that exposing [Iranian] plans would assist in persuading the president of the United States to leave the dangerous nuclear agreement with Iran,” Netanyahu said then. “When I met [Trump] in Davos [in January 2018], I told him that I plan to send our people to the heart of Tehran to bring back archive materials.”
The prime minister said he had “no doubt” that the operation and the contents of the archive were key factors in Trump’s decision to leave the Iran nuclear deal.
The administration of Trump’s successor, President Joe Biden, has been engaged in indirect negotiations with Iran in Vienna aimed at reviving the deal.
However, the sides have not made significant progress and will likely face additional hurdles once Rouhani is replaced by the more hardline Ebrahim Raisi next week.
Avi Davidi contributed to this report