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Israel Reveals New Information, Presses U.S. To Scrap Iran Deal


President Trump is near a decision on whether to keep an agreement with Iran limiting its nuclear program. And the view of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is clear. In a televised address, the Israeli leader urged President Trump to do the right thing, and he presented thousands of documents showing that back in 2003 or so, Iran had a secret program called Project Amad.


PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: We can now prove that Project Amad was a comprehensive program to design, build and test nuclear weapons.

INSKEEP: Now, that was with - now, that was before the nuclear deal was signed years later. No evidence yet revealed shows that Iran is working on a bomb now, but the Israeli leader offered this trove of documents as proof that Iran lied about its past activity. NPR's Peter Kenyon has covered the nuclear deal and other issues relating to Iran for years. He's on the line from Istanbul.

Hi there, Peter.


INSKEEP: What's Iran say about this revelation?

KENYON: They're dismissing it as best they can. Deputy Prime Minister Abbas Araghchi said these allegations are laughable. He was one of the Iranian negotiators, by the way. And the head negotiator, the foreign minister - he tweeted that Netanyahu was like the boy who cried wolf - so nothing too specific, but a basic denial.

INSKEEP: Yeah, but as far as they go, given that these are documents about the past, not the present, the documents actually aren't laughable, right? Don't they show something that people widely knew, that Iran did have some nuclear ambitions once upon a time?

KENYON: Well, yes. I would say absolutely. And we're talking about a lot of documents, and there's probably some new information in there, but basically, the broad outline is that Tehran did look at pursuing a nuclear weapon, did some research right up until about 2003, and then after that, claimed it had never done so. That is not new. That's pretty well been known, even before these nuclear talks got going years later. And certainly, all the countries that negotiated the deal with Iran knew that these denials that Tehran kept making about, we never pursued anything like a nuclear weapon - they knew those denials weren't credible. Negotiators said the past is not the key thing here; what matters is what we can verify going forward. We need to be on the ground doing inspections, and the International Atomic Energy Agency's been doing that, and they say that Iran has remained in compliance with this 2015 deal.

INSKEEP: Well, that's a key question here because President Trump, who very much dislikes the terms of this deal, is deciding whether to keep the United States in it, keep the United States - take the United States out of it. Are nuclear inspections permanent - nuclear inspections part of this agreement - even if some of the provisions expire?

KENYON: They go on for many years. Certainly, the restrictions on enriching fuel, which is very important, go on till something like 2030. It's not a permanent, in-perpetuity deal, but they are part of the nonproliferation treaty, which says you can't build a nuclear weapon. So whether or not President Trump gets a new deal out of this, there are going to continue to be restrictions on Iran.

INSKEEP: Any possibility that the United States and Europeans, who are also part of this deal, will agree on some approach before this May 12 deadline?

KENYON: Well, that would be a big question, and it would be surprising based on what we've seen so far. Analysts have looked at ways that Europe could try to protect their companies, but that's a very complicated thing, and having it happen in the next week - that's a big question, big ask.

INSKEEP: Protect their companies so they can keep doing business even if the U.S. pulls out.

KENYON: Exactly.

INSKEEP: Peter, thanks very much, really appreciate it.

KENYON: Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Peter Kenyon. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.