With all the skill and showmanship of a fairground hustler about to introduce us to the bearded lady, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu whipped up his audience to heightened expectations on TV on Monday . The headlines had us all on the edge of our seats as he revealed how crates of top secret nuclear archives had come into his government's possession after a daring raid on a deadly treasure of secrets stashed away in Tehran. His presentation, in English, went global and was timed to hit prime TV news slots across the West.
The images of what looked like the outside of a Tehran market trader's lock-up were deceiving, crowed Netanyahu, before booming that inside this unremarkable, unguarded warehouse was proof that Iran had lied. I must confess that I stopped what I was doing and moved closer to the TV.
"This is an original Iranian presentation from these files," he boasted as he swaggered around the stage, pressing the case that Iran's "mission statement is to design, produce and test five warheads with 10 kiloton of TNT yield for integration on missiles."
As Netanyahu unveiled with a dramatic flourish 55,000 pages of documents and 183 CDs, he said that Iran had moved its nuclear weapons files — known as Project Amad — to the secret location in Tehran. Then, in a flash — a nuclear one if you will — he lost me and probably millions of other viewers; I could almost hear the laughter ringing out from the corridors of Imam Khomeini Hussainiya where Iran's Supreme Leader conducts his business.
Renowned intelligence experts and diplomats around the world have already dismissed the so-called smoking gun alleged by the Israeli leader to prove that Iran has violated the terms of the international nuclear agreement. Although Netanyahu has probably boosted the case for those sceptics who want to see the deal scrapped, Europe appears to be as solid as ever on the deal, despite Monday night's TV extravaganza from Tel Aviv.
Of course, US President Donald Trump, who also wants to scrap the deal with Iran, said that he was impressed and convinced by Netanyahu's presentation, but he would say that, wouldn't he? His new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Tel Aviv on Sunday, promising that Washington will cancel the Iran nuclear deal if it is not fixed.
However, it doesn't matter how much sparkle, glitz and spin Netanyahu used in his global TV appearance (which was ridiculed on the social networks), it seems that Israeli intelligence has delivered more of a pig in a poke than a smoking gun. No amount of lipstick is going to convince otherwise those of us who can only see that proverbial pig.
The cache of documents, claims Netanyahu, proves that Iran lied to the world about its nuclear programme, and did so for years. Maybe it did, but this was the Prime Minister of Israel speaking, a state which won't even admit that it has a nuclear weapons arsenal much deadlier than most countries bar Russia and the USA. In fact, we only know about Israel's nukes thanks to the heroic whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu who is still being persecuted by the Zionist State to this day for telling the British media in 1986 about what technicians at the nuclear plant at Dimona in the Negev Desert really get up to. Banned from travelling since his release from prison in 2004, his every move is watched after 18 years behind bars, including nearly 12 in solitary confinement.
Netanyahu concluded his bizarre "show and tell" by saying: "Iran lied about never having a secret nuclear programme. Secondly, even after the deal, it continued to expand its nuclear programme for future use. Thirdly, Iran lied by not coming clean to the IAEA. The nuclear deal is based on lies based on Iranian deception." All of this came out of the mouth of a man who throws himself into a petulant sulk whenever the international community calls for the opening of Israel's own nuclear facilities to IAEA inspection and for his government to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
After the TV-led press conference, the Israeli leader then took to the telephones, telling French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel about his revelations concerning Iran's drive for nuclear weapons. Apparently, teams of experts will be dispatched to Germany and France to brief the folks there about the documentation stolen by Israel. He has also called Russian President Vladimir Putin about the archive, who told Netanyahu that he'd meet him "as soon as possible". I wouldn't count on that meeting happening any day soon.
Britain's Foreign Minister, Boris Johnson, said that the Israeli presentation "underlines the importance" of keeping the deal, with its tough constraints on Iran, in place. "The Iran nuclear deal is not based on trust about Iran's intentions," he added. "Rather, it is based on tough verification."
The UN nuclear watchdog, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, issued a statement on Tuesday reaffirming that there were "no credible indications of activities in Iran relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device after 2009." EU foreign policy Chief Federica Mogherini said that Netanyahu had not provided evidence that Iran is violating the current deal and noted its continued compliance.
In Iran, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif described Netanyahu as "the boy who can't stop crying wolf." After Monday night's performance, however, I saw a slightly different character; we should refer to him as "Netanyahoo" after the wholly disagreeable human-like creatures that Lemuel Gulliver encounters in the Country of the Houyhnhnms in "Gulliver's Travels". Yahoos are portrayed by the author Jonathan Swift as intractable, mischievous and malicious. He could well have been describing the Prime Minister of the nuclear-capable State of Israel.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.