Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Israel’s Bennett Releases Documents Iran Stole from UN Watchdog to Evade Nuclear Probes

Israel’s Bennett Releases Documents Iran Stole from UN Watchdog to Evade Nuclear Probes

Wednesday, 1 June, 2022 - 06:45
Pictures from the stolen documents released by the Israeli Prime Minister on Tuesday, May 31, 2022. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett accused Iran on Tuesday of stealing internal UN nuclear watchdog reports under a plan to prepare ways of staving off scrutiny of its nuclear program.

“Iran stole classified International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) documents ... and used that information to systematically evade nuclear probes,” Bennett said in a social media post that included a selection of the alleged stolen files, some of them translated into English.

“How do we know? Because we got our hands on Iran’s deception plan.”

A Bennett aide said the assertion referred to Israeli allegations in 2018 of what they said was a secret trove of documents seized in Iran and related to its nuclear projects. Tehran called that so-called “Atomic Archive” a fabrication.

Bennett quoted an Iranian defense official as writing in the alleged documents that “sooner or later they (IAEA) will ask us, and we'll need to have a comprehensive cover story for them.”

Neither Tehran nor the IAEA immediately responded to requests for comment about the allegations, which Reuters said appeared to be part of an Israeli campaign to dissuade big powers from renewing a 2015 Iranian nuclear deal in now-stalled Vienna negotiations.

Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful. Israel, Washington and the IAEA have long made clear that they believe Iran had a coordinated nuclear weapons program until 2003.

The IAEA spent more than a decade investigating Iran's past activities, and it is now again seeking answers from Iran on the origin of uranium particles found at three undeclared sites.

Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Iran secured access to secret IAEA reports almost two decades ago and circulated the documents among top officials who prepared cover stories and falsified a record to conceal suspected past work on nuclear weapons, it quoted Middle East intelligence officials and documents.

One of these officials was then-defense minister Ali Shamkhani, who is currently the Secretary-General of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC).

Separately, the United States and five other powers have pursued talks with Iran on renewing the 2015 deal that former US President Donald Trump abandoned, deeming it insufficient.

Israel is not a party to those negotiations but has some sway over foreign powers. “We are saying: This is not a good deal, and there won't be a disaster if it's not signed,” Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told Tel Aviv radio station 103 FM.

Editor Picks