Bibi’s Iran bombshell and the Mossad’s dramatic feat

Screenshot from Netanyahu’s speech

Yesterday (Monday) Binyamin Netanyahu gave advance notice that he was going to make a speech to the nation the same evening.  I admit I was a bit unnerved: I wasn’t sure if he was going to announce his resignation or declare war on Iran. In the end it was neither of those things.

In a dramatic speech, first in English and then in Hebrew, accompanied by slides and PowerPoint presentations, he disclosed a massive haul of half a ton (!) of 55,000 documents and hundreds of CDs stolen from Iran by the Mossad, which reveal the depth of Iranian lies and deceit about their nuclear program.

The Jewish Press (via Arlene Kushner) summarises the speech thus:

The prime minister methodically displayed photos, blueprints, spreadsheets, outlines — in short, a comprehensive program called Project Amad that ran from 1999 to 2003. The material was secretly stored, to be used at a time of Iran’s choosing, to build nuclear weapons, said Netanyahu. “These files conclusively prove that Iran is brazenly lying when it says it never had a nuclear weapons program,” he said. “The files prove that.” He added that the United States has vouched for the authenticity of the secret archive obtained by Israel, and that it will make the documents available to the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other countries.

According to documents seen in the archive, the goal of Project Amad was to build five warheads, each with 10-kiloton TNT yield for integration on a ballistic missile. Five elements were involved in the project: testing, simulations, building warheads, centrifuge enrichment of uranium and yellowcake production.

There are, the prime minister said, four conclusions that one can draw from the wealth of material brought out from Iran:

1. Iran lied about never having a nuclear weapons program;
2. Even after signing the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal, Iran continued to preserve and expand its nuclear weapons know-how for future use;
3. Iran lied again in December 2015 when it didn’t “come clean” to the IAEA as required by the nuclear deal; and
4. The nuclear deal is based on lies.

The general assumption is that the speech was aimed mainly at “an audience of one”: President Trump:

“In just a few days — by May 12 — President [Donald] Trump will make his decision on the nuclear deal,” Netanyahu said. “I’m sure he’ll do the right thing, the right thing for the United States, the right thing for Israel, and the right thing for the peace of the world.”

You can watch the speech below. As some wit noted on Twitter, one would hope that the Mossad operation was more efficient than the tech people who couldn’t manage to get Netanyahu’s microphone operating correctly at the start of his speech!

Legal Insurrection provides us with some highlights of the speech in tweets:

After this breath-taking, dramatic bombshell, it was infuriating to read that the co-chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations pooh-poohed Netanyahu’s news, saying there was nothing new there (via Benjy P):

Vijeta Uniyal at Legal Insurrection reports that other members of the EU also dismissed Netanyahu’s claims, persisting in standing by the nuclear deal:

The EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini dismissed the intelligence findings, claiming the deal was “based on concrete commitments, verification mechanisms and a very strict monitoring of facts.” She defended Iran’s conduct, saying, UN nuclear watchdog IAEA has “published 10 reports, certifying that Iran has fully complied with its commitments.”

Mitigating this European bone-headedness somewhat, both Germany and France gave vague support to Israel while still not agreeing to withdraw from the deal. Business is business after all:

In an uncharacteristic move, Germany contradicted the EU foreign policy chief by agreeing with Israeli intelligence assessment that the agreement had failed to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s new-found flexibility on the issue could have something to do with her Oval Office meeting with President Trump on Friday.

“Israel’s scoop offers a chance for a better Iran deal,” the headline in the German daily DIE WELT said. “For years, Iran has shamelessly lied about its nuclear program. The Israeli revelations are a welcome opportunity to renegotiate the nuclear agreement.” The newspaper, however, dismissed the idea of killing the deal, saying, “Pulling out would be self-defeating.” Praising the Israeli intelligence Mossad, the newspaper wrote:

One thing is for sure: the operation by the Mossad, to smuggle out 50,000 documents belonging to the Iranian regime on its nuclear program, should make it into the annals of history of the Western intelligence agencies. It is a spectacular and daring mission–even for an agency known for its high-stake operations in order to secure the existence of Israel. [Translation by the author]

Largely thanks to President Trump’s diplomatic efforts, France has diluted its support for the Iran deal as well. Earlier this week, President Macron said he favored a “new deal” with Iran. However, the multi-billion trade agreements secured by French companies in Iranian oil and gas sector in the wake of the nuclear deal makes it unlikely for the French government to back any harsh US sanctions or actions against the Islamic regime. France, much like Germany, would prefer some additional safeguards than a complete US withdrawal from the agreement.

Given these reports I admit I was rather surprised to read this analysis from Judah Ari Gross at the Times of Israel (via Benjy P), in which he states that Mossad’s amazing feat overshadows the actual value of the intel it stole:

While revealing a truly impressive intelligence coup by the Mossad, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday night did not present evidence that Iran had violated the 2015 nuclear deal, nor did the material shed dramatically new light on the Islamic Republic’s pre-agreement atomic program.

The alleged location of a warehouse in southern Tehran where Iran kept documents on its nuclear weapons program, until Israel’s Mossad stole them. (Google Earth)

Indeed, as Netanyahu noted, Iranian officials lie when they say their country never planned to manufacture nuclear weapons and put them on ballistic missiles. They did, and probably still do.

But the information proving their deception, while perhaps not widely known, was well-documented and made publicly available in its entirety — not by Israel, but by the International Atomic Energy Agency watchdog — back in 2011.

The details about Iran’s AMAD nuclear weapons program, the identity of project leader Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Tehran’s plans to put a nuclear warhead on a Shahab-3 ballistic missile, the suspicion that efforts to create an atomic bomb continued after AMAD was formally shuttered in 2003 — all “revealed” by Netanyahu on Monday night — can be found in the heavily footnoted IAEA report from nearly seven years ago.

The main difference, perhaps, is that the IAEA’s 25-page, abbreviation-filled document lacks the panache of Netanyahu’s exhibition.

“We didn’t really get any new information [from Netanyahu] per se,” said Emily Landau, a senior researcher at the influential Institute for National Security Studies think tank and a staunch critic of the Iran nuclear deal.

However, it’s unclear if the prime minister’s intention was to reveal new secrets or whether his dramatic presentation was more of a public relations effort, a reminder of Iran’s duplicity meant to influence US President Donald Trump, who next month will decide the fate of the nuclear deal.

Gross’s view clarifies somewhat the irritating European reaction and puts the speech into some perspective.

Another view was expressed by one of my readers, DavidinPT, who wrote about the sub-text to Bibi’s speech on my previous post:

1. Message 1 to Iran, we know EVERYTHING there is to know about your nuclear program, including the weak, vulnerable spots in your underground bunkers, eg: the necessary air intakes.
2. Message 2 to Iran – We have demonstrated we have the munitions that can destroy these bunkers.
3. Message 3 to Iran – We possess the required determination and courage to deal with you.
4. Message 4 to Iran – We will continue to “provoke” you in Syria, and any counter attack by you will lead to attacks on your soil – see Message No 1 above.
5. Message to EU and Russia, if you don’t get onside with Trump, we now have means and intelligence to attack Iran, and have made the necessary political decision. If you oppose Trump, expect us to make sure you are dragged into a full scale regional war, that will threaten your oil supplies and cause hyperinflation.
6. Message to Trump – Israel is doing its bit, now you do yours.
7. Message to Israeli Police and Attorney General – Leave me alone while I deal with this, there is no-one else who has the experience and gravitas to handle this situation internationally.
8. Message to Coalition Partners – This is the Great Game. Do not waste political energies on “small” squabbles.
9. Message to Saudi Arabia. We are fighting your fight. Don’t side track us with Palestinian peace initiatives now, which are just wasteful diversions.

I guess we will find out the effect of Bibi’s speech, if any, on May 12th when Donald Trump decides whether to withdraw or fix the nuclear deal.

Meanwhile we can take huge pride in the efficiency and effectiveness of the Mossad and appreciate their application of the long arm of Israeli law across thousands of miles and a continent. Kol hakavod!

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7 Responses to Bibi’s Iran bombshell and the Mossad’s dramatic feat

  1. Pingback: Bibi’s Iran bombshell and the Mossad’s dramatic feat – 24/6 Magazine

  2. Jeff Polaski says:

    It was an absolutely fantastic accomplishment. I’m a former member of the intelligence community, long ago and far away. Mossad is absolutely great. This treasure trove of intelligence comes at a time when it is needed. It is in a class with the breaking of the Enigma codes and the Japanese naval codes back in WWII. Whatever else happens, this feat of bravery and sheer persistence will be a lesson to those who come after us.
    My mind is boggled, and I can only be proud of the people who did this for Israel and the world.

  3. Charlie in NY says:

    The Iranians seem quite bent out of shape by this presentation. A very strange reaction if, indeed, there were nothing new in the material, and especially if it is what the IAEA had in 2011.
    I think everyone recognized at the time the nuclear plan was agreed to that Iran was lying about what it had done and of its intentions (anyone recall, for instance, the Supreme Leader’s anti-nuclear fatwa that President Obama mentioned?). The major flaw remains verification. It is neither robust nor severe. If it were, Iran would not be given 24 days notice to declared sites and the IAEA inspectors would have immediate access to undisclosed sites, regardless of Iran’s objections.
    The entire gamble with the plan was that, before the sunset clauses take effect, the current theocratic regime would be replaced by a civil democratic one. That was a delusion of the first magnitude, as we see today. The billions released (whether they “belonged” to Iran or not) did not go to help their economy but to subsidize its military and various terror proxies, along with continued ballistic missile development.
    As with the Iraqi and Syrian nuclear programs, the West is content to make Iran Israel’s problem so that it can virtue signal about peace, keep its ethical skirts clean and make money from trade in the interim. Of course, should Israel fail, well then the EU is the next target and Houellebecq’s dystopia might just come to pass (albeit in Shi’a not Sunni garb). Talk about a fool’s gamble.

  4. Henry says:

    1) This is one of the greatest spy feats ever accomplished. Eli Cohen would be proud.
    2) Iran and Russia are embarrassed; Iran for losing its secrets and Russia for providing useless air defense systems to Syria and Iran.
    3) Iran must be going bonkers trying to discover who assisted Israel and to what extent. A purge in the Iranian military leadership ranks is coming if Khamenei and Rouhani are to trust anyone again.
    4) All signs are leading to war, but Iran must be nervous since Israel now has all its nuclear secrets and likely a lot more Netanyahu is keeping silent about…for now. Why tell your enemy what you know unless there is a reason? The reason isn’t just to nix the nuke deal, but to make Iran believe Israel knows all its secrets.
    5) If there is a war the Iranian oil flow may be cut off for a long time. If Israel has the blueprints to the Iranian nuke program we can assume hacking into the details of the storage and export facilities was already done. No Iranian oil has to make China, Japan (Abe is in Israel), South Africa (Trump/Haley may shut off South African aid), etc. very nervous.
    6) Hezbollah and Hamas may strike at the same time, perhaps with Iranian-backed troops in Syria. If so, the games of buzzing a presidential palace with an F-15 are over. Israel has to end it decisively regardless of what the anti-Semites in the UN and EU think. The Sunnis, led by MSB, will stay out of the way hoping the common enemy of Iran and its proxies are defeated.

  5. Reality says:

    The points DavidinPT write make the most sense. Otherwise ,even though this was such a daring and well accomplished mission, it seems that the program was closed down, even though another one is up and running. ie obviously Iran lied. Duh!

    The question is :now what? Hopefully Trump will try to undo the damage that evil Obama created ,with or without any European countries agreement.

    That too is a message in my opinion. Trump is effectively telling them that there’s a new Sheriff in town ,and he doesn’t care if they don’t play along with him. He’ll go ahead with his plans without them,in order to protect America and her people (and hopefully Israel along the way).

    • anneinpt says:

      Yes, I agree. It seems that Netanyahu’s dramatic announcement was in order to bolster Trump and give him a tailwind when he comes to decide whether to withdraw from the Iran deal. As has been pointed out, he is a businessman and that is the framework for how he sees the deal. For him it’s a bad deal so it should be canceled. Bibi just provided him with the military and political justification.

      Who would have thought that the rescue would come in the shape of Trump? Mind boggling.

  6. Pingback: The US withdraws from the Iran Deal; Israel’s northern border hots up | Anne's Opinions

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