Trump administration officials praise Netanyahu’s ‘powerful presentation’
U.S. officials and congressional insiders view the disclosure Monday by Israel of Iran’s ongoing efforts to develop a nuclear weapon as game over for the landmark nuclear deal, telling the Washington Free Beacon that new evidence of Iran’s top secret nuclear workings makes it virtually impossible for President Donald Trump to remain in the agreement.
Senior Trump administration officials confirmed the findings as authentic and praised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s for disclosing thousands of secret documents proving Iran lied about its past work on a nuclear warhead, telling the Free Beacon the revelation was a “powerful presentation” by Israel outlining why the Iran deal must be fixed or killed.
U.S. officials who reviewed the secret documents confirmed their authenticity and said that Israel has shared the information fully with the United States, most likely to help build the case for Trump to abandon the nuclear deal, rather than try to fix what the White House views as a series of insurmountable flaws.
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A State Department official confirmed to the Free Beacon Monday evening that it is “aware of the information just released” by Israel and is “examining it carefully.”
“The United States has reviewed many of the documents Israel has obtained relating to Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” an official confirmed to the Free Beacon. “We assess that the documents that we have reviewed are authentic.”
The State Department further confirmed that “new details in this information are consistent with a large body of evidence and intelligence the U.S. government has amassed over many years on Iran’s past clandestine nuclear weapons program,” according to the official.
While the administration’s analysis of the document cache is “ongoing,” officials said they “agree with the Israelis that…. this information provides new and compelling details about Iran’s past efforts to develop nuclear weapons deliverable by a Shahab-3 ballistic missile.”
In addition, the new “information indicates plans for Iran’s nuclear weapons program included building five nuclear weapons,” the official said. “It demonstrates once again that Iranian leaders have for years lied to the world and their own citizens when they claim Iran has never pursued nuclear weapons.”
The documents confirm a longstanding U.S. suspicion that “Iran has systematically hid evidence of clandestine weapons work from international inspectors,” according to the State Department official.
“If there was ever any doubt, every struggling Iranian citizen must now realize that Iran has lost countless dollars from nuclear sanctions for one reason, and one reason alone: the Iranian regime’s reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons, weapons that Supreme Leader Khamenei personally insists are un-Islamic,” the official said. “It is long past time for Iran to come clean and cooperate with international inspections into its past weapons work in order to convince the world it is serious about never again pursuing nuclear weapons.”
Iran’s efforts to obfuscate this information will “be a key factor” in Trump’s decision on either stay in or withdraw from the nuclear deal on May 12, the official said.
Multiple sources who spoke to the Free Beacon say that Monday’s presentation by Netanyahu resulted from a recent conversation between the prime minister and Trump, who has expressed his opposition to remaining in the deal.
During his presentation, Netanyahu disclosed that Israel had obtained some 100,000 secret documents that provide “conclusive proof” Iran lied to the world about its past nuclear work. The Israeli leader further presented information from these documents purporting to show that Iran continues to build on its nuclear know-how in pursuit of a fully functioning weapon.
While Trump has not made a final decision on whether to scrap the deal, sources close to the president say he is increasingly wary of the deal itself, as well as proposed fixes to the deal currently being discussed by the Europeans.
One senior administration official, speaking only on background, confirmed to the Free Beacon that the United States assessed the secret documents obtained by Israel to be fully authentic.
“All the materials we have reviewed are in our assessment authentic,” the official said, praising Netanyahu for presenting the evidence to the world.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu gave a powerful presentation today of compelling new evidence documenting Iran’s determined pursuit of a nuclear weapon,” the senior official said. “It certainly would have been helpful to have this information when the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] was negotiated but the Iranians decided to lock it away in a secret vault for future reference.”
The cache of documents showing that Iran has retained the infrastructure and know-how to produce a nuclear weapon has cast further doubts on U.S. efforts to broker a series of fixes to the landmark agreement.
“Only the regime knows what else they’re hiding, but the revelations today don’t give us much confidence in their protestations that they have never had interest in militarizing their nuclear program,” the official said. “They’re showing us in Syria how they plan to deploy their existing arsenal—we would be foolish to think that behavior is going to change because of a deal that was implemented two years ago that was based on a lie.”
Following Netanyahu’s remarks, Trump emphasized his opposition to the deal.
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Those familiar with the president’s thinking said that he has soured on efforts to fix the deal and would prefer to see a wholly new agreement, a demand Iran has rejected in recent days.
Trump “made a clear signal today that he’s not confident in the JCPOA,” said the senior administration official. “The decision is with him and I don’t think he’s made it, but he seemed to indicate he’s more open to a new deal then to try to fix something this broken.”
A senior congressional official who has worked closely with the White House on the Iran issue told the Free Beacon the news has sent shockwaves through Capitol Hill.
“Everything the Obama administration told us about the Iranian nuclear program was a lie,” said the source, who was not authorized to speak on record. “They assured us that we knew everything about Iran’s nuclear weapons program, that it was put on ice, and that the intelligence community had full insight into what was going on.”
“Now we find out the Iranians have warehouses of nuclear weapons designs. People are in shock,” the source said. “Forget the policy implications, which get to the heart of the deal, this shows how the whole sale was built on a lie. Expect to see momentum build in Congress for just scrapping the whole thing.”
“The United States is aware of the information just released by Israel and continues to examine it carefully,” the White House said. “This information provides new and compelling details about Iran’s efforts to develop missile-deliverable nuclear weapons. These facts are consistent with what the United States has long known: Iran has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world and from its own people. The Iranian regime has shown it will use destructive weapons against its neighbors and others. Iran must never have nuclear weapons.”
The White House National Security Council has yet to comment formally on Netanyahu’s disclosures. The Free Beacon will update this report as more information becomes available.