Trump critical of Iran as Israel releases ‘secret’ nuclear files

Netanyahu accuses Tehran of lying about nuclear weapons activities after 2015 deal

Israeli prime minister Binjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference  in Tel Aviv on Monday. Photograph: Amir Cohen/Reuters

Israeli prime minister Binjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference in Tel Aviv on Monday. Photograph: Amir Cohen/Reuters

 

US president Donald Trump declined to reveal if he will pull out of the Iran deal in the coming weeks after Israel said it had conclusive proof of a secret Iranian nuclear programme.

Speaking at a press conference in the White House minutes after Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed the existence of what he said were “secret nuclear files” during a televised address from Tel Aviv, Mr Trump welcomed the Israeli announcement, claiming that it proved that the 2015 nuclear deal was “a horrible agreement for the United States. ”

But he declined to say whether he would sign a waiver lifting US sanctions on Iran ahead of a May 12th deadline.

Speaking alongside the visiting president of Nigeria in the Rose Garden of the White House, Mr Trump said that the development showed that he had been “100 per cent right” on Iran.

He said that it was “not acceptable” that the nuclear deal will have expired in seven years, warning that the country was “not sitting back idly.”

‘I’m not telling you’

But he suggested that America could be open to negotiating a “new deal.”

“We’ll see what happens. I’m not telling you,” he said when asked if he would pull out of the accord. But he added: “it doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t negotiate a new agreement.”

In a live press conference, the Israeli leader unveiled what he claimed are thousands of documents of secret files showing Iran’s nuclear programme.

Standing beside a huge televised screen, and speaking first in English and then Hebrew, Mr Netanyahu said Israel had “new and conclusive proof of the secret nuclear weapons programme that Iran has been hiding for years.

“The Iran deal is based on lies; it’s based on Iranian lies and Iranian deception,” he said, noting that the nuclear deal gives Iran a clear path to increasing its nuclear arsenal.

Though Iran always denied having a nuclear weapons programme, this was widely disbelieved by the international community. Much of the information revealed by the Israeli leader on Monday was already known.  The Iran nuclear deal, negotiated by the US, Iran and five other powers, was signed in December 2015, and gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for the country halting nuclear activity.

But the current US president has consistently attacked the deal, terming it the “worse deal ever.”

Mr Netanyahu, who spoke with Mr Trump by phone on Saturday, said he had shared the information with the United States, and was prepared to share it with other countries.  Mr Netanyahu also met new US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who visited Israel following a Nato meeting in Brussels.

Intervention

The announcement from Tel Aviv came amid controversy over a missile strike in Syria overnight, with some blaming Israel for the intervention.

Mr Trump spoke with French president Emanuel Macron by phone on Monday, the White House confirmed, with the two leaders discussing Iran and Syria.

Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif responded to the developments in a tweet: “Pres [ident] Trump is jumping on a rehash of old allegations already dealt with by the IAEA to “nix” the deal,” he said, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency. “How convenient. Coordinated timing of alleged intelligence revelations by the boy who cries wolf just days before May 12. But Trump’s impetuousness to celebrate blew the cover.”

Meanwhile, there are increasing signs that the Trump administration will push ahead with plans to impose steel and aluminium tariffs on EU imports into the United States, despite pleas by the French and German leaders last week for him to reconsider. Europe had been given an exemption from the recently-announced measures until May 1st.

EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom spoke with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Monday in a last-ditch effort to persuade the administration not to impose sanctions.

The imposition of tariffs could spark a trade war between the EU and the United States, with Brussels likely to retaliate.