In a surprise development, less than two weeks before President Donald Trump’s decision on the fate of the Iran nuclear deal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made serious charges about Tehran's nuclear program. He said Israel obtained 100,000 “secret files that prove” Iran lied about never having a nuclear weapons program. Furthermore, he alleged that Iran worked to “expand its nuclear weapons know-how for future use,” even after 2015 nuclear accord.
Netanyahu presented maps, charts, photographs, and videos allegedly detailing Project Amad, whose goal was to design, produce and test nuclear weapons. He said that the information had been shared with the United States and that it could vouch for its authenticity. “After signing the nuclear deal in 2015, Iran intensified its efforts to hide its secret nuclear files,” said Netanyahu. He drew four conclusions from the archives.
- “Iran lied about never having a nuclear weapons program.”
- “Even after the [2015 nuclear] deal, Iran continued to preserve and expand its nuclear weapons know-how for future use.”
- “Iran lied again in 2015 when it didn’t come clean to the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) as required by the nuclear deal.”
- “The nuclear deal is based on lies.”
The prime minister presented a document seeming to indicate that Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani split the nuclear program into two parts, covert and overt, in 2003. “The general aim is to announce the closure of Project Amad…. Special activities will be carried out under the title of scientific knowhow development,” read the directive. Since 2013, Shamkhani has served as Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, one of the Iran’s most powerful decision-making bodies. Netanyahu claimed that head of Project Amad, Dr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, is continuing his work in 2018 with many of the same personnel.
The existence of Iran’s covert nuclear weapons program has been public knowledge for more than a decade. Richard Nephew, a former senior State Department official who helped negotiate the JCPOA, told The Washington Post that Netanyahu’s revelations were “interesting, and important for building a history of [Iran’s] program. But it is not a new revelation, at least in terms of where the program was when we were negotiating.” Ali Vaez, Iran Project Director at the International Crisis Group, who consulted with both sides during the talks, also noted that most of what Netanyahu said was “public knowledge.”
In 2007, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report on Iran’s nuclear intensions and capabilities. “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons,” it said.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has published multiple reports on the possible military dimensions of Iran’s controversial program. In 2015, it concluded:
The Agency’s overall assessment is that a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003 as a coordinated effort, and some activities took place after 2003. The Agency also assesses that these activities did not advance beyond feasibility and scientific studies, and the acquisition of certain relevant technical competences and capabilities. The Agency has no credible indications of activities in Iran relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device after 2009.
Former U.N. weapons inspector David Albright, the president and founder of the Institute for Science and International Security, told Bloomberg that the “most significant thing is that this is a warehoused collection intended to be used later for reconstitution.” Mark Dubowitiz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, tweeted that Iran’s retention of such a large archive was “new, alarming and inconsistent with JCPOA pledge to only have a program for peaceful purposes.”
Netanyahu has been one of the most vocal critics of the JCPOA since it was brokered in 2015. In his presentation on April 30, he said the “terrible” deal was “based on lies and Iranian deception” and that it should never have been brokered. Netanyahu gave three reasons for why he thinks the deal gives Tehran a “clear path” to nuclear weapons:
- The JCPOA will eventually allow Iran to enrich an unlimited amount of uranium
- The agreement did not address Iran’s continued development of ballistic missiles
- The deal did not adequately address Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program
President Trump has demanded fixes to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) under threat of withdrawing from it; he is due to make a decision on May 12. “I'm sure he'll do the right thing. The right thing for the U.S. The right thing for Israel. And the right thing for the peace of the world,” said Netanyahu.
Trump watched part of Netanyahu’s briefing just before his joint press conference with Nigeria’s president on April 30. “I think if anything what’s happening today … and what we’ve learned has really shown that I’ve been 100 percent right [about Iran],” said Trump. This “is not an acceptable situation,” he said, referring to Tehran’s alleged archival of plans for nuclear weapons.
E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Netanyahu’s revelations warranted investigation by the IAEA but did not necessarily impact the JCPOA. “What I have seen from the first reports is that Prime Minister Netanyahu has not put into question Iran's compliance with the JCPOA commitments, meaning post-2015 nuclear commitments,” she said in a statement.
The following is a transcript of his remarks and a video of a later interview with CNN.
Prime Minister Netanyahu
"Good evening. Tonight, we’re going to show you something that the world has never seen before. Tonight, we are going to reveal new and conclusive proof of the secret nuclear weapons program that Iran has been hiding for years from the international community in its secret atomic archive.
We’re going to show you Iran’s secret nuclear files.
You may well know that Iran’s leaders repeatedly deny ever pursuing nuclear weapons. You can listen to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei: “I stress that the Islamic Republic has never been after nuclear weapons.” You can listen to Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani: “Nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction have no place in Iran’s security and defense doctrine, and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions.” This is repeated by Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif: “We didn’t have any program to develop nuclear weapons. Anyway, we consider nuclear weapons both irrational as well as immoral.”
Well, tonight, I’m here to tell you one thing: Iran lied. Big time.
After signing the nuclear deal in 2015, Iran intensified its efforts to hide its secret nuclear files. In 2017, Iran moved its nuclear weapons files to a highly secret location in Tehran. This is the Shorabad District in southern Tehran. This is where they kept the atomic archives. Right here. Few Iranians knew where it was, very few, and also a few Israelis.
Now, from the outside, this was an innocent looking compound. It looks like a dilapidated warehouse. But from the inside, it contained Iran’s secret atomic archives locked in massive files. Actually, they’re a little bigger than this, okay?
A few weeks ago, in a great intelligence achievement, Israel obtained half a ton of the material inside these vaults. And here’s what we got. Fifty-five thousand pages. Another 55,000 files on 183 CDs.
Everything you’re about to see, is an exact copy of the original Iranian material.
You may want to know where are the originals? Well, I can say they’re now in a very safe place.
Here’s what the files included: incriminating documents, incriminating charts, incriminating presentations, incriminating blueprints, incriminating photos, incriminating videos and more.
We’ve shared this material with the United States, and the United States can vouch for its authenticity. We will also share it with other countries, and we’ll share it with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
So, let me tell you the history of this material.
We’ve known for years that Iran had a secret nuclear weapons program called Project Amad. We can now prove that Project Amad was a comprehensive program to design, build and test nuclear weapons. We can also prove that Iran is secretly storing Project Amad material to use at a time of its choice to develop nuclear weapons.
Here’s what Project Amad’s explicit goal was: creating nuclear weapons. This is an original Iranian presentation from these files, and here’s the mission statement: Design, produce and test five warheads, each with ten kiloton TNT yield for integration on a missile. You don’t need to read Farsi to read 10 kilotons here. TNT. This is the specific goal of Project Amad. That’s like five Hiroshima bombs to be put on ballistic missiles.
This is an original Iranian spreadsheet from the archives of Project Amad. Look at what we have here. Yellowcake production, centrifuge enrichment process, warhead project, simulation project, and test. And indeed, when we analyzed what’s in these archives, we found that Project Amad had the all the five elements, the five key elements, of a nuclear weapons program. I want to take them one by one.
The first element is designing nuclear weapons. This is an original Iranian illustration of a weapon. Again, you don’t have to read Farsi to understand this. This is U235—that’s enriched uranium, right here at the core. That’s the only place where you find in the core enriched uranium. And here’s an Iranian simulation, original Iranian simulation putting all these components together. That’s the first component.
Second component – developing nuclear cores. Here’s a photo showing the casting process and a cast metal core, from the archives. And here’s a secret underground facility the Iranians were building to produce nuclear cores. We have hundreds of documents for each of these components.
Third component – building nuclear implosion systems. This is an original Iranian photo of a measuring device for implosions. And here’s a simulation of a nuclear implosion.
Fourth element – preparing nuclear tests. Here’s a map of five potential locations for a nuclear test in eastern Iran, One, two, three, four, five.
We have many, many more such documents.
And fifth – integrating nuclear weapons on missiles. Here’s a design for a nuclear payload on a Shahab3 missile, from the archive. Here’s the warhead, here’s the bomb. And I don’t have to remind you, I think, that Iran is continually expanding the range of its ballistic missiles, its nuclear-capable missiles. They started with 1,000 kilometers, they’re now up to 2,000, roughly. They can reach Riyadh, Tel Aviv, Moscow, but they’re working on far, far greater ranges. They’re planning much longer range missiles to carry nuclear weapons.
So these files conclusively prove that Iran is brazenly lying when it says it never had a nuclear weapons program. The files prove that.
But here’s what happened next. Iran was faced with mounting pressure in 2003. You remember that, that was following the Gulf War, so it was forced to shelve Project Amad. But it didn’t shelve its nuclear ambitions. So Iran devised a plan to do two things. First, to preserve the nuclear know-how from Project Amad, and second, to further develop its nuclear weapons related capabilities. That plan came directly from Iran’s top leadership.
There’s another document from the archive. This is following the new directive of Iran’s Minister of Defense, Mr. Shamkhani, today he’s the director of the National Security Council. Following the new directive of Iran’s Minister of Defense, the work would be split into two parts, covert and overt. A key part of the plan was to form new organizations to continue the work. This is how Dr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, head of Project Amad, put it. Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh. So here’s his directive, right here. And he says: “The general aim is to announce the closure of Project Amad,” but then he adds, “Special activities”—you know what that is—“Special activities will be carried out under the title of scientific know-how developments.” And in fact, this is exactly what Iran proceeded to do. It continued this work in a series of organizations over the years, and today, in 2018, this work is carried out by SPND, that’s an organization inside Iran’s Defense Ministry. And you will not be surprised to hear that SPND is led by the same person that led Project Amad, Dr. Fakhrizadeh, and also, not coincidentally, many of SPND’s key personnel worked under Fakhrizadeh on Project Amad.
So this atomic archive clearly shows that Iran planned, at the highest levels, to continue work related to nuclear weapons under different guises and using the same personnel.
I want to give you another example of Iran’s nuclear weapons related activity that continued after Project Amad. You all remember the Fordow Facility? The Fordow Uranium Enrichment Facility. This was a secret underground enrichment facility that the Iranians built under a mountain. You don’t put thousands of centrifuges under a mountain to produce medical isotopes. You put them there for one reason: nuclear weapons, enrichment for nuclear weapons. But the files show that Fordow was designed from the get-go for nuclear weapons as part of Project Amad. Here’s an original Iranian blueprint of Fordow. And what happened was that Iran continued to build Fordow years, secretly building, years after Project Amad ended. Here’s what it looks like. That’s the entrance. It goes under a mountain. You also will not be surprised that Iran insisted on keeping Fordow. And amazingly, the nuclear deal enabled it to do it. It enabled it to do it, but this came with a hitch. Iran was required by the nuclear deal, to come clean to the International Atomic Energy Agency about its nuclear program. This was an explicit condition for implementing the nuclear deal. Iran has to come clean. So in December 2015, the IAEA published its final assessment of what it called the military aspects of Iran’s nuclear program. This is the report. This was Iran’s chance to fully come clean to the IAEA. They could tell the truth, they could say, we had this program, this secret program, it’s over, we shelved it, it doesn’t exist, we destroyed the material. Here’s what Iran actually told the IAEA. It said, Iran denied the existence of a coordinated program aimed at the development of a nuclear explosive device, and specifically denied, get this, specifically denied the existence of the Amad plan. The material proves otherwise, that Iran authorized, initiated and funded Project Amad, a coordinated program aimed at the development of a nuclear explosive device.
Here’s another document from the archive. This is the master plan of Project Amad. Iran said to the IAEA, no work has been conducted with multi-point initiation. This is multi-point initiation. You’ve got to forgive me, this jargon, this scientific terminology is something that is necessary to understand the production of nuclear weapons. But here’s what they say, no work has been conducted with MPI technology in hemispherical geometry. But again, the archive shows that this is a complete fabrication. Iran conducted extensive work with MPI technology in hemispherical geometry. There’s an example. Hundreds more documents prove it.
Iran said to the Agency, that it had not conducted metallurgical work specifically designed for a nuclear device. But the files again show that this is a lie. Iran conducted extensive metallurgical work specifically designed for a nuclear device. Here’s an original Iranian photo, plenty more in the archive.
So what I’ve shown you tonight is just a fraction of the total material that we have. But even from this sample, you can draw four main conclusions. First, Iran lied about never having a nuclear weapons program. 100,000 secret files prove that they lied. Second, even after the deal, Iran continued to preserve and expand its nuclear weapons know-how for future use. Why would a terrorist regime hide and meticulously catalogue its secret nuclear files, if not to use them at a later date. Third, Iran lied again in 2015, when it didn’t come clean to the IAEA, as required by the nuclear deal. And finally, the Iran deal, the nuclear deal, is based on lies. It’s based on Iranian lies and Iranian deception. 100,000 files right here prove that they lied.
So here’s the bottom line. Iran continues to lie. Just last week, Zarif said this: “We never wanted to produce a bomb.” Again: “We never wanted to produce a bomb.”
Yes you did. Yes you do. And the atomic archive proves it.
The nuclear deal gives Iran a clear pass to an atomic arsenal. It does so because it gives them the three components that are necessary to produce this arsenal. First, unlimited enrichment in a few years. And they plan to do that. They plan to have several hundred thousand advanced centrifuges with which they can enrich mountains of uranium for that core that I showed you before. For many, many such cores. Second, it completely fails to address Iran’s continued development of ballistic missiles. And third, and this is new, it completely fails to address Iran’s secret nuclear bomb program and its advanced work on weaponization. We just did.
So this is a terrible deal. It should never have been concluded. And in a few days’ time, President Trump will decide, will make a decision on what to do with the nuclear deal. 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."
“I wanted the world to hear it. All of it. And there are only a few million Hebrew speakers and there are a few billion English speakers. So I think that’s why I did it. I would have done it in other places as well. You know I spoke before the American Congress, when I thought there was a message. President Macron of France spoke to the American Congress the other day. This is a very important subject, which relates to our quest for peace and security in the Middle East and the world. And I thought it was important that the broadest audience possible would hear the dramatic findings that we found about Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program.”
“I think no one had better intelligence on Iran than Israel. And when we got this trove of 100,000 documents, we learned so many things that we didn’t know. We’re still learning them. We needed to translate it from Farsi. All of these documents, all these simulations, all this data, all this testing, and everything, all these sites, we’ve learned an enormous about Iran’s secret nuclear program.
Now, the deal that everybody is talking about was premised on the fact that Iran had no such material. But Iran bothered – took enormous pains – after the nuclear deal – and before – but especially after, to hide this information. It’s like an arsenal of knowledge. It’s not just in the minds of people, who they have, it’s actual calculations that they’ve done. The blueprints. The measurements. They kept it hidden because they don’t want the world to know what I showed yesterday, that they actually have this capability – a pretty advanced capability – to manufacture nuclear weapons.
Because I think, if this was known in 2015, the nuclear deal, as was done, would not be done. And in fact, a key condition for its implementation was that Iran come clean and it gave them a clean bill of health. That they have no secret nuclear weapons program. That’s not true. They had it. They’ve kept it. And they are ready to use it.”
“Well first of all, there is an enormous amount of new information that we dind’t know, that shows how advanced they were in their bomb-making work. So that’s the first thing. Second, if people knew this, then how could they close the file and say they never did anything like this. This was the condition for entering the deal. Third, I think it’s crucial to understand that the nuclear deal right now that we are discussing, is premised on the assumption that Iran will somehow become a peaceful country. It’s not. It’s become an empire that’s devouring one country after another. And that they are doing before they have nuclear weapons.
This deal will give them unlimited enrichment of uranium. Unlimited. In a few years. President Trump said yesterday, seven years. Unlimited enrichment of uranium. Second, it doesn’t address their ballistic missiles, in which they could carry the bombs. And third, as I’ve just shown, they have the wherewithal, the stored up, preserved knowledge to make a bomb very quickly, if they wanted to do it. If you put all these three things together, enriched uranium, bomb, missiles together, then that’s a prescription for catastrophe. And I think it was important for me to put that forward.”
“There are many premises that are incorrect in your statement. The first is, we’re better off because we have this deal. No, you’re not, because this deal, the fact that you have a dangerous deal, the fact that Iran is keeping or not violating a dangerous deal, does not make it less dangerous. It’s completely flawed. It’s based on lies. It’s based on the fact that they have a nuclear weapons program and knowledge they stored up. They didn’t come clean with it. It’s also based on the fact that Iran will somehow be a docile neighbor. That’s not what’s happening. The opposite is happening.
I said from the start, if you want peace, if you want security, you should oppose that deal as structured. I said that. I said that Iran is not going to be more pacific, more moderate, once you sign the deal. And that is exactly what has happened. Iran has done the very opposite. It’s taken in the money, the billions, and it’s using it to conquer Yemen, to fire rockets on Saudi Arabia, to colonize Syria militarily, to arm Hezbollah with the most dangerous missiles on earth, to call for Israel’s annihilation, to spread its totalitarian wings throughout the Middle East and to oppress its people inside Iran to boot.
So, the whole premise that this deal somehow guarantees a safer, more moderate Iran is wrong. This deal paves Iran’s path to a nuclear arsenal. If you got rid of it, the first thing that would happen is that you would crash Iran’s money machine, in which it’s pursuing its dreams of a conquest and empire. They are funding it with tens of billions of dollars. Their aggression throughout the region. And this deal facilitates it. If you take away the deal, they are going to be in a huge economic problem.
Second thing, I think you have to insist that you actually dismantle the components that actually allow Iran to produce an arsenal of nuclear weapons. If you don’t and you do nothing, then I predict that what you’ll do is head right into a wall. You’ll head into a terrible conflict and perhaps a terrible war, in which Iran would be armed with nuclear weapons. That’s bad. If you want peace, oppose this deal.”
“Well nobody is seeking that kind of development [war]. Iran is the one that is changing the rules in the region. Iran is the one that is practicing aggression against every country in the Middle East. Iran is firing rockets into the capitals of neighboring countries. And Iran is preparing 150,000 rockets to be fired in Israel, with the explicit goal of annihilating us. Iran is also moving its army, that’s it declared purpose, right next to the Golan Heights. Right next to Israel. So, Iran is obviously on a campaign of aggression.
You know, I’ve learned something from history and I think you have to. When you have an aggressive, tyrannical regime, with a murderous ideology, you know stop it at the beginning. Don’t let that tyranny grow and expand. Don’t let that aggression conquer more and more territories. So yes you have to take a stand. We take stand. I think that’s the way to prevent war. I think if history has taught us anything, it’s that opposing such tyrannies and their aggression early on actually prevents catastrophe. And if you don’t, you invite catastrophe.”
“We’ve always said that we won’t be the first to introduce it [nuclear weapons], so we haven’t introduced it. And I’ll tell you one thing, we’ve never called for the annihilation of any country.”
“That’s as good an answer as you’re going to get. But I’ll tell you one thing, Chris, and I think it’s important. You know, Iran signed NPT. Iran signed all sorts of commitments. Iran said that they don’t have this nuclear weapons program. And Iran calls daily for the annihilation of my country. We don’t do that.”
“It’s not the spirit of disclosure, its commitment. Specific, written commitment by Iran, as part of the deal, to disclose what it has. Iran undertook that specific commitment. Not only did it not keep that commitment, it lied. That’s my point.”
“Well, you can make all your assumptions. One thing is clear, Israel is not threatening the annihilation of any country. And you know, it’s interesting that the nuclear arms race that I predicted would unfold once this deal was signed, because everybody knew that they were just kicking the can forward for a few years and that Iran would get a nuclear arsenal, so now you hear other countries in the region saying we want nuclear weapons too. Or rather, we want unlimited nuclear enrichment of uranium the way that Iran has it, why shouldn’t we have it?
Nobody said that about Israel. You may think about Israel what you want. For decades, nobody cared. But as soon as this regime in Tehran, this murderous, terrorist regime that wants to conquer all the Middle East and is sending its terrorist tentacles throughout the world, the minute they understood that it has a clear path to a nuclear arsenal, everybody now in the Middle East is trying to get their hands on nuclear weapons. Not a good idea. So if you want peace, the crucial thing is don’t let Iran get a clear path to the bomb. That’s what that deal does. And I think if you want to assure it, the peace and security of the Middle East and the world, you can’t let that happen.”
Click here for Iranian reactions to Israel's claims.
Click here for European remarks on Prime Minister Netanyahu's revelations about Iran's nuclear program.
Click here for the U.S. response to Israeli allegations.
Click here for the IAEA's statement and report about Iran's nuclear activities.
Click here for responses from experts and former officials.