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Mossad stole Iran nuclear files, smuggled them back to Israel in one night

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says in a speech at the defence ministry in Tel Aviv on April 30, 2018 that he has "proof" of a secret Iranian nuclear weapons programme
Jack GUEZ (AFP)
Trump briefed on daring Israeli mission in January; Iran found out just weeks ago about Mossad infiltration

Israel’s Mossad spy agency infiltrated the compound in Tehran where Iran was storing top-secret files related to its nuclear weapons program, stole tens of thousands of files, and managed to successfully smuggle them back to Israel the same night, The New York Times reported Monday.

The operation was revealed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a live broadcast speech on Monday aimed at offering “proof” of an Iranian nuclear weapons plan that could be activated at any time.

Netanyahu described the operation to obtain the files as one of the “greatest achievements” of Israeli intelligence, but offered few details of the feat.

A senior Israeli official who spoke to The New York Times on condition of anonymity due to the top-secret nature of the mission said that the warehouse which held the files was discovered by the Mossad in February 2016 and put the building under surveillance.

The official revealed that operatives from the Israeli spy agency infiltrated the building one night last January, stole tens of thousands of original documents stored there, and smuggled them back to Israel the same night, according to the paper.

Iran, meanwhile, only found out that the Israelis had infiltrated their secret warehouse months after the operation, according to a report by Israeli investigative journalist Ronen Bergman published by the Ynet news outlet on Tuesday.

Jack GUEZ  (AFP)

US President Donald Trump was informed of the operation by Mossad chief Yossi Cohen during a visit to Washington in January, the official said.

The official added that the existence of the secret nuclear files was made public only now due to the time it took to analyze the content of the materials, which were mostly in Persian.

In an elaborate televised presentation, Netanyahu stood in front of a bookcase laden with binders he said held copies of the original stolen documents and CDs and accused Iran of lying about its nuclear ambitions.

"We're going to show you Iran's secret nuclear files," Netanyahu said, revealing that they were stolen by Israeli operatives from an "innocent-looking, dilapidated compound" in the Shorabad District in southern Tehran of which he displayed pictures.

He said that Mossad agents had managed to bring back to Israel “half a ton” of materials, consisting of 55,000 pages and 55,000 files on 183 CDs containing “incriminating documents, incriminating charts, incriminating presentations, incriminating blueprints, incriminating photos, incriminating videos and more.”

He then laid out what he said was a years-old secret nuclear weapons program stored away that could be put into action at any time. But he did not provide evidence that Israel's main enemy had actively worked to obtain an atomic weapon since the 2015 agreement between Tehran and six world powers.

Netanyahu said the "intelligence achievement, one of Israel's greatest ever" had already been shared with the United States -- which could vouch for its authenticity -- and that it would be shared with global nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Pompeo says files 'authentic'

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who until last week served as the head of the CIA, said that the files were “authentic” and that many of them contained information that was new to American experts.

The White House released a statement following Netanyahu’s speech underscoring its position that "Iran must never have nuclear weapons".

"These facts are consistent with what the United States has long known: Iran had a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world and from its own people," it said.

Iran has always denied it sought a nuclear weapon, insisting its atomic program was for civilian purposes.

Jack GUEZ  (AFP)

Supporters of the Iran nuclear deal have argued that Netanyahu's intelligence release deals simply with a historic Iranian program and does not prove they are in breach of the 2015 accord.

But Pompeo argued that it helped to "spell out the scope and scale of the program that they undertook" in Iran.

He said Trump would have to determine whether the United States feels Iran is in violation of the deal, and said US translators and analysts are still trawling through the intelligence provided by the Israelis.

Netanyahu, like Trump, has repeatedly called for the accord -- which Iran signed with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States -- to either be altered or scrapped.

He says the agreement does not prevent Tehran from eventually obtaining nuclear weapons and says the lifting of sanctions has increased Tehran's ability to finance proxy militants in the Middle East.

Haim Tzach/GPO

Netanyahu also wants to see curbs on Iran's missile program.

He said the nuclear deal was "based on Iranian lies and Iranian deception."

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reacted to the latest claims by lambasting both Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump, who has a May 12 deadline to decide whether to walk away from the nuclear deal.

Zarif accused Trump of "jumping on a rehash of old allegations already dealt with by the IAEA to 'nix' the (2015 nuclear) deal."

"How convenient. Coordinated timing of alleged intelligence revelations by the boy who cries wolf just days before May 12," Zarif said of Netanyahu.

Israel is considered the Middle East's sole nuclear-armed nation, though it has never acknowledged the capability.

AFP contributed to this report.

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