In a compelling address to United Nations General Assembly (GA) on Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu combined a daring technique with a few well-placed messages to clearly delineate his goal: getting European leaders to sign on with Israel and the United States in supporting new sanctions on Iran.
The Prime Minister wasted no time in getting down to business and reminded the GA, within moments of ascending the podium, that when he’d stood there three years ago only Israel, out of all 200 countries represented, was opposed to the nuclear deal with Iran.
“We opposed it because it threatened our future, our very survival,” said Netanyahu, reiterating Israel’s conviction that lifting the sanctions would only hasten Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons. The bottom line, “We opposed the deal it because it was based on a fundamental lie – that Iran is not seeking to develop nuclear weapons.” And now, finally, said Netanyahu, there’s proof of that.
He revealed that Israel had essentially mythbusted the idea of a peaceful nuclear Iran last February when it obtained hundreds of thousands of incriminating documents and videos from within an innocuous looking building in Tehran. He paused, then blew the whistle. First on the international media outlets he’d met with at the time, providing them with hard evidence that Iran was still building a nuclear arsenal. Then on the very body charged with safeguarding the peaceful use of nuclear technology.
“That information was also shared with members of the Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)”, he announced.
Incredibly, said Netanyahu, “months have passed, and the IAEA still hasn’t taken any action, asked a single question of Iran, or demanded to inspect a single new site discovered in the secret archive.” Therefore, said the Prime Minister, he was about to do something drastic and unprecedented.
As if whistle-blowing and the news itself weren’t startling enough, Netanyahu proceeded to reveal recently unclassified information on live television. “What I’m about to say has not been shared publicly before… today I’m disclosing for the very first time that Iran has another secret facility in Tehran.” Seemingly from nowhere he produced a map with a photo of the site and waved it before his astonished audience. “This is the secret atomic warehouse for massive amounts of equipment and material for Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” he said, publicizing the street address and GPS coordinates and adding, “except, it’s no longer secret.”
And what happened to all that radioactive material the Iranians now had to get rid of? “The Iranians spread it around Tehran to hide the evidence,” Netanyahu said with disgust. He had a message for the residents of Tehran: Geiger counters are available on Amazon for only $29.99.
“Why would Iran keep a secret atomic archive and a secret atomic warehouse?” Netanyahu asked the delegates. He pointed out that the first thing South Africa and Libya did when they abandoned their nuclear programs was to destroy all archives, material, and equipment. “The answer is obvious,” he said, Iran hasn’t abandoned its goal to develop nuclear weapons, they were using these sites to have an atom bomb ready to break out when the time was right.
“But ladies and gentlemen, that won’t happen,” Netanyahu assured them, “it won’t happen because what Iran hides, Israel will find.”
He reminded the delegates Iran had promised inspections could take place anytime, anywhere, then delivered his second message of the day, to Mr. Yukiya Amano, Head of the IAEA. “Do the right thing”, Netanyahu urged Amano, “go inspect this atomic warehouse. Immediately. Before the Iranians finish clearing it out.” He advised countries with satellite capabilities that they will likely notice increased activity in Tehran’s alleyways in the days and weeks after his speech, as Iranian officials scurry to clean up the site.
Furthermore, said the Prime Minister, nuclear deal supporters were wrong about what would happen when sanctions were removed. They thought Iran’s regime would become more moderate and peaceful, and use the billions of dollars it received in sanctions relief to improve the lives of its people. But on the contrary said Netanyahu, Iran used the money to its fuel war machine, citing situations with Iraqi Kurds, Sunnis in Syria, Hamas in Gaza, and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
“Hey while we’re talking about Hezbollah, look at this,” said Netanyahu. He pulled a second poster seemingly out of thin air. “Here’s a picture that’s worth a thousand missiles. This is Beirut’s international airport, Iran is directing Hezbollah to build secret sites to convert inaccurate projectiles into precision-guided missiles that can target deep inside Israel.”
He pointed out three missile conversion sites along the airport’s edge, two in civilian neighborhoods and one in a soccer stadium. “Hezbollah is deliberately using the innocent people of Beirut as human shields,” he said, and delivered his third message.
“This message is for Hezbollah,” Netanyahu said, “Israel knows what you’re doing. Israel knows where you’re doing it. And Israel will not let you get away with it.”
Netanyahu began to tie the pieces together “Where are the leaders of Europe while America confronts Iran with new sanctions?” asked Netanyahu, while looking directly at them. He answered his own question. “They are appeasing Iran, trying to help it bypass the new sanctions. Will they ever wake up?”
And just as the nuclear deal supporters were wrong about what would happen when sanctions were removed, they were wrong about what would happen when sanctions were restored, said Netanyahu. They had argued that sanctions by the United States alone would have little impact on Iran. But on the contrary, he continued, since President Trump forced businesses to choose between doing business with the U.S. and doing business with Iran, Iran’s economy has collapsed.
The deal’s supporters were also wrong when they argued that restoring sanctions would rally the Iranian people around the regime, said Netanyahu, on the contrary yet again, “the brave people of Iran are finally standing up to the brutal regime that repressed them for decades and still squanders their money in bloody wars across the Middle East.
“I have a message to the leaders of Europe,” said Netanyahu, and made one of his final points, “Take an example from the courageous people of Iran. Instead of coddling Iran’s dictators, join the U.S., Israel, and most of the Arab world in supporting new sanctions against a regime that endangers all of us in all of the world.”