In a "bizarre" performance that conjured memories of former national security adviser Colin Powell's infamous weapons of mass destruction speech in 2002, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday theatrically deployed props and powerpoint slides in an attempt to distort facts and convince his "audience of one"—U.S. President Donald Trump—that Iran is failing to comply with the nuclear accord.
"The U.S., Israel, and Saudi Arabia are setting the scene for war. They are filling in the justifications to fit a pre-ordained conclusion, just like before the invasion of Iraq."
—Medea Benjamin, CodePink
"Iran lied, big time, after signing the nuclear deal in 2015," Netanyahu claimed from a stage in Tel Aviv, Israel, dramatically unveiling shelves of disks and binders that he insisted contain conclusive proof that Iran is still pursuing nukes.
But while Netanyahu made much of the "incriminating blueprints, incriminating photos, incriminating videos, and more" he supposedly revealed for the first time on Monday, critics argued that the Israeli prime minister's "evidence" largely consists of old information that has been repackaged for political purposes but does nothing to undermine the nuclear accord.
In fact, according to National Iranian American Council (NIAC) President Trita Parsi, the "concerns" Netanyahu raises about Iran's previous nuclear program were the exact reasons "why the international community negotiated an agreement to limit" the country's nuclear capacities in the first place.
"Netanyahu revealed nothing that indicates Iran is not upholding its obligations under the nuclear deal," Parsi said in a statement following the Israeli prime minister's speech. "Netanyahu's desperation to kill the Iran deal and drag the United States into war with Iran was on full display today. Netanyahu played a key role in helping con the American people into the war with Iraq and is now pulling out all the stops to do the same with Iran."
Rather than aiming to impact the IAEA and JCPOA signatories, Netanyahu's aim was to give Trump a false basis to exit the #IranDeal WITHOUT PAYING THE COST. Instead, Trump will argue that he has no choice to quit the deal cuz Iran is “cheating” - despite absence of real evidence.
— Trita Parsi (@tparsi) April 30, 2018
Responding to Netanyahu's performance on Monday, Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said the prime minister's speech "has not put into question Iran's compliance" with the nuclear deal.
Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the anti-war group CodePink, argued in a series of tweets on Monday that Netanyahu's remarks were an effort to both "distract" from Israel's "killing and terrible siege of Gaza" and undermine an agreement international analysts say has been very effective.
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— Medea Benjamin (@medeabenjamin) April 30, 2018
"The U.S., Israel, and Saudi Arabia are setting the scene for war. They are filling in the justifications to fit a pre-ordained conclusion, just like before the invasion of Iraq," Benjamin told Common Dreams in an email. "Trump has Pompeo and Bolton ready to sell war. And war is a great distraction from domestic troubles."
"Trump's war cabinet has not even been in place for a week but is already setting the stage for an all out regional war."
—Trita Parsi, National Iranian American Council
While Netanyahu's speech did little to convince experts and independent commentators that Iran is failing to live up to its commitments under the nuclear deal, the presentation certainly reached its intended audience.
During a news conference with the president of Nigeria on Monday, Trump declared that Netanyahu's performance demonstrates that he has "been 100 percent right" in his criticism of the nuclear accord.
The deadline for Trump to recertify the nuclear agreement is May 12, and many believe the president will decide to withdraw from the deal.
In recent weeks, both Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javar Mohammad Zarif have reminded the international community that their country has no desire, and no plans to build, a nuclear weapon.
With or without the nuclear deal, Iran does "not seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction," Rouhani said in a televised speech last week.
In his response to Netanyahu's speech on Monday, Parsi of NIAC argued it's "hard to believe it is a coincidence that Netanyahu's announcement comes on the heels of [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo's meeting with the prime minister."
"Trump's war cabinet has not even been in place for a week but is already setting the stage for an all out regional war," Parsi concluded.