Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shocked the world Monday with his revelation that the Israeli government possessed a treasure trove of evidence proving Iran was running a secret nuclear weapons program.
But a less shocking revelation followed on Tuesday: Netanyahu is selling old goods.
The information unveiled by Netanyahu with great fanfare on Monday has largely been known to American intelligence agencies for years, the officials said, confirming the assessment of Washington lawmakers and private experts.
Netanyahu argued that because Iran maintained the records of its previous program, it would take far less time for the country to restart, should it so desire.
But nothing Netanyahu presented was earth shattering:
Other U.S. intelligence officials added that nothing in the documents, which Netanyhu said were smuggled out of Tehran, has changed the American intelligence judgment that Iran is living up to its agreement not to restart a nuclear weapons program, as American intelligence officials told senators Feb. 13.
"There is literally nothing new here," said Jeffrey Lewis, an arms control expert who favors the Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran from which President Trump is contemplating an American exit.
Lewis' view was echoed by American intelligence officials, who told NBC News that while the documents may contains new details, the story they tell — that Iran once had an unauthorized nuclear program — is an old one.
But the consensus appears to be that Netanyahu’s presentation – which was spoken in English and included ample visuals – was not intended to sway vast swaths of the world with regard to Iran; he was speaking to just one person – President Donald Trump.
Trump has until May 12 to determine his action on the Iran nuclear deal and has indicated he is unsure of how he will proceed.
The JCPOA is not a treaty, because the Obama administration did not think it could win Senate approval for one. It is a multilateral agreement negotiated by the U.S., France, Germany, the UK, Russia, China and the European Union, under United Nations auspices.
Therefore, if Trump refuses to continue waiving sanctions on Iran next week — most likely before the May 12 deadline — U.S. sanctions would be re-imposed on Iran.
Such a move would open up justification for Iran to restart its nuclear program, as reimposing U.S. sanctions would violate the terms of the deal.