Speed Reads

Iran nuclear deal

The White House corrects its statement on Iran's nuclear program, undercutting Israel's claim Iran lied

On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a big show of unveiling what he called proof that Iran "lied" about its nuclear program, showing a wall of compact discs he said prove Iran had a nuclear weapons program, called Project Amad, that it shelved in 2003 — 12 years before Iran signed its nuclear deal with the U.S. and five other world powers. Netanyahu, a fierce opponent of the deal, said Iran did not "shelve its nuclear ambitions," but he offered no proof and took no questions.

The White House released a statement saying Israel's intelligence confirms what the U.S. already knows, that "Iran has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world." It then issued a second statement changing "has" to "had," effectively confirming that Iran no longer has a nuclear weapons program. A White House official told NBC News that a "clerical error" was to blame for the wrong verb tense being used. James Fallows, who worked in the Carter White House, compared that "error" to "a surgeon amputating the wrong leg."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. has "known about this material for a while" and he had discussed it with Netanyahu, but when asked if it shows Iran violating the nuclear agreement, as Netanyahu claimed, he said, "I'll leave that to the lawyers." In his April 12 Senate confirmation hearing, Pompeo, then CIA director, had said he has "seen no evidence that they are not in compliance today." Under the 2015 deal, Tehran cannot make nuclear fuel until 2030 and it has agreed never to make nuclear weapons. The U.S. and International Atomic Energy Agency have had similar proof that Iran used to have a nuclear weapons program since at least 2008.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi dismissed "Netanyahu's show" as "a childish and ridiculous game" timed "to affect Trump's decision on Iran's nuclear deal" by May 12. A senior Israeli official tells The New York Times that Israel believes President Trump will pull out of the Iran deal so Netanyahu's presentation was to "support" Trump, not "pressure" him.