Benjamin Netanyahu's Big Speech On Iran Was Aimed Directly At Trump

"It was pretty obvious that the speech had an audience of one," one expert said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a dramatic speech on Monday, boasting of new and shocking evidence about Iran’s nuclear program.

Standing in front of a giant white screen, Netanyahu gave a nearly 20-minute presentation in which he told audiences, “Iran lied, big time.” It appeared to be a clear attempt on his part to convince U.S. President Donald Trump to pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, observers said.

“It was pretty obvious that the speech had an audience of one: the president of the United States,” said Ali Vaez, Iran project director for the International Crisis Group.

Everything about the speech, from its simplified breakdown of major points to the fact that Netanyahu spoke in English, gave the impression that he had geared the address directly toward the White House.

“The fact that it’s in English clearly demonstrates that it’s intended for the Trump administration and perhaps a U.S. audience,” said Dina Esfandiary, Centre for Science and Security Studies Fellow at King’s College London.

“It was intended to show there was no point in keeping the nuclear deal.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, on April 30, 2018.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, on April 30, 2018.
Amir Cohen/Reuters

The Iran deal involves six world powers agreeing to lift sanctions on Iran in exchange for the Iranian government ceasing its nuclear weapons program. Netanyahu delivered his speech just days ahead of the May 12 deadline for Trump to decide whether he will restore sanctions on Iran, which would deal a severe blow to the nuclear deal.

World leaders who support the agreement, including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have recently appealed to Trump to preserve the deal.

On Monday night, it was Netanyahu’s turn to repeat his case that Trump should abandon the U.S. commitment to the deal, which he views as insufficient to stop Iran from threatening Israel while giving economic relief that will increase Iran’s regional power.

The prime minister claimed Israeli secret services secured a trove of Iranian documents earlier this year that proved Iranian officials had lied in the past about their intention to build a nuclear weapon. But Netanyahu did not give any proof that Iran was violating the current terms of the deal, and the documents did not appear to refute the International Atomic Energy Agency’s assessment that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons activities after 2009.

“Basically all that Netanyahu did was show more information about something that we already knew about,” said Esfandiary.

Experts say that although the documents may offer more details on Iran’s nuclear program before 2009, they have little to no bearing on the country’s activities today. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which enforces the Iran nuclear deal, also already made the key points of Netanyahu’s speech public in reports years ago.

“When you compare Netanyahu’s speech to the IAEA’s final report on Iran’s nuclear weapons program, everything Netanyahu said is already described by the IAEA,” said Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia nonproliferation program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

“This is really a political effort by Netanyahu.”

Amir Cohen/Reuters

Netanyahu has long opposed the nuclear deal with Iran, even pleading with the U.S. Congress in 2015 to reject the agreement. He’s found a more welcoming reception for his message since Trump took office, and following Netanyahu’s broadcast on Monday, Trump told reporters the documents backed up his repeated claims that the nuclear agreement is the “worst deal ever.”

“What’s happening today and what’s happened over the last little while and what we’ve learned has really shown that I’ve been 100 percent right,” Trump said.

But experts say that if Netanyahu’s speech proves anything, it’s the necessity of the nuclear argreement’s strict inspection regime and legal framework.

“The fact that Iran lied in the past is the very reason why you need to have a nuclear deal today,” said Esfandiary.

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