Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2012 warning world that Iran was about a year away from having a nuclear bomb was contradicted just weeks later by a top secret assessment from Israel’s own Mossad intelligence agency — which concluded that Tehran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons,” according to newly leaked documents
The news, revealed Monday in by The Guardian newspaper and Al Jazeera, comes amid growing anticipation of Mr. Netanyahu’s upcoming speech on Iran before Congress March 3.
It also arrives against a backdrop of growing accusations that Iranian leaders — not Israel’s prime minister — are the one’s guilty of trying to deceive the world about Tehran’s nuclear activities.
With an end-of-March deadline approaching for a deal to be reached in nuclear negotiations between the U.S., its allies and Iran, several U.S. lawmakers and various advocacy groups have stepped up charges that Tehran is secretly pursuing a nuclear bomb.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran, a leading Iranian dissident organization, plans a Tuesday news conference in Washington to release “critical and reliable intelligence on the existence of an active and secret parallel nuclear program in Iran.”
No details on the new revelations were given, but the group, with good sources within the Iranian nuclear efforts, has in the past exposed key parts of the Iran’s nuclear program that were hidden from the United Nations and international inspectors.
Monday’s claims by The Guardian and Al Jazeera came after the latter reported that it had received the 2012 Mossad assessment as part of a massive leak of dossiers, files and cables from the world’s major intelligence intelligence services.
The documents — nearly all marked confidential or top secret — reportedly span nearly a decade of global intelligence traffic between 2006 and 2014.
An article posted on the Guardian’s website said that just a few weeks after Mr. Netanyahu warned of Iran’s nuclear capabilities during a widely-watched U.N. speech, Mossad analysts said that Tehran had enriched some uranium to 20 percent, but did “not appear to be ready to enrich it to higher levels.”
During the U.N. speech, the Israeli prime minister famously brandished a large placard with the outline of bomb on it, and drawn a red line across the top of the image marked “90 percent.”
“By next spring, at most by next summer at current enrichment rates, [Iran] will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage,” Mr. Netanyahu had said. “From there, it’s only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.”
He had added that his assertions were “not based on secret information” and “not based on military intelligence,” but on “public reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency.”
The Guardian report Monday maintained that, behind the scenes, Mossad had a different view.
“In a report shared with South African spies on 22 October 2012 — but likely written earlier — [Mossad] conceded that Iran was ‘working to close gaps in areas that appear legitimate, such as enrichment reactors, which will reduce the time required to produce weapons from the time the instruction is actually given,’” the newspaper reported. “But the report also states that Iran ‘does not appear to be ready’ to enrich uranium to the higher levels necessary for nuclear weapons.”
The U.S. and its allies have argued for years that Tehran is secretly trying to build a nuclear bomb, in violation of international nonproliferation accords. Iranian officials argue that their nuclear program is for purely peaceful and civilian purposes.