Israel told the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency about the existence and contents of the previously unknown Iranian nuclear site whose presence was publicly revealed at the UN Thursday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but the atomic watchdog failed to act on the information, a senior Israeli official said.
According to the unnamed official, quoted Friday by Israel’s Channel 10 news, the “secret atomic warehouse” revealed by Netanyahu contained nuclear materials that Iran is not allowed to hold without declaring them to the IAEA. Yet the IAEA knew nothing about the site, the official said, and still failed to act when Israel informed both the IAEA and the US administration about it.
The official added that Israel knows exactly what was being stored at the facility after it was uncovered by the Mossad spy agency a few months ago, from which time the Israeli secret service kept the location under surveillance.
When the IAEA failed to act, the Israeli government apparently agonized over what to do with the information, and decided after discussions in the Prime Minister’s Office that Netanyahu would reveal it in his annual speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday in an attempt to goad the IAEA into taking action.
“There was no choice but to reveal this information, because the goal is to prompt the IAEA to take action,” the senior official said. “We wanted to wake up the world and pressure the IAEA to act against the suspected facilities in Iran.”
Channel 10 reported that the senior official revealed that the nuclear facility is under the supervision of a secret Iranian defense ministry department headed by Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, named by Netanyahu in his April presentation of the seized nuclear archive as the Iranian physicist who heads the country’s nuclear program.
“Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh,” urged Netanyahu in April, showcasing the material that he said proved conclusively that Iran has lied when it says it has not sought nuclear weapons and that the 2015 nuclear deal was built upon “Iranian deception.”
The US on Friday asked the IAEA to investigate Netanyahu’s new allegations, although Reuters also quoted US officials saying the prime minister’s information was misleading, and that the site contained documentation and not nuclear materials.
The Israeli official was adamant, by contrast, that what the Iranians were keeping in the newly revealed warehouse was considerably more grave than the contents of the archive. The official did not elaborate beyond saying it was “forbidden nuclear material,” the TV report said.
In May an Israeli TV report suggested Jerusalem may have decided not to assassinate Fakhrizadeh because it prefers to keep him alive and watch what he is up to, even as other Iranian nuclear experts have been assassinated in recent years in hits attributed to the Mossad.
Netanyahu revealed the existence of the site Thursday, saying it could contain up to 300 tons of nuclear material, and accused the IAEA of failing to investigate findings that he presented earlier this year about Iran’s nuclear program.
Iranians on Friday published selfies taken outside the facility, whose address Netanyahu specified in his speech Thursday.
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