War drums appear to be beating in the region, as tensions escalated between Israel and Iran, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Tehran on Monday of conducting a “secret” nuclear weapons programme dubbed “Project Amad,” ahead of US President Donald Trump’s looming decision on the Iran nuclear weapons deal. However, Netanyahu said on Tuesday that his country is not seeking a war with Iran.
Netanyahu claimed that he had “evidence” showing that Iran lied to the world when denying that it is still developing nuclear weapons, even after signing the 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers. Iran concluded the historic accord with the US, the UK, Russia, France, China, and Germany, aimed at limiting its nuclear programme for more than a decade in return for lifting economic and political sanctions.
Meanwhile, Trump, who opposed the accord and will decide by 12 May whether to quit the agreement, said that Netanyahu’s speech showed that he is “100% right” in criticising the Iran nuclear deal. The White House also released a statement backing Netanyahu, stating that the “US is aware of the information just released by Israel,” and continues to examine it carefully.
Moreover, new US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the Israeli documents on Iran were proof “beyond any doubt” that “the Iranian regime was not telling the truth.” Pompeo previously said, following a meeting with Netanyahu on Sunday, that the US will cancel the Iran nuclear deal if it is not “fixed.”
For its part, Iran refused Israel’s claims, describing them as “baseless.” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded on Twitter, saying, “Trump is jumping on a rehash of old allegations already dealt with by the IAEA to “nix” the deal,” adding, “how convenient. Coordinated timing of alleged intelligence revelations by the boy who cries wolf just days before May 12. But Trump’s impetuousness to celebrate blew the cover.” Meanwhile, Iran’s deputy defence minister, Abbas Araghchi, described Netanyahu’s statements as “childish and ridiculous”, saying they were planned in the run up to US President Donald Trump’s announcement about the nuclear deal.
Tensions escalated between long-standing foes Israel and Iran after Tehran got involved in the Syrian civil war, backing the regime of Bashar Al-Assad. Last April, Iran and the Syrian government accused Israel of carrying out an airstrike on a Syrian airbase, which killed seven Iranian military personnel described as military advisers. At that time, a senior Israeli official claimed responsibility for the attack, saying, “it was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets in Syria.”
Meanwhile, a missile attack on Sunday hit facilities in Syria, where Iran and its militant proxies had set up a camp, reportedly killed 16, many of them Iranians. More than 1,000 Iranians have been killed in the Syrian civil war, as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have been fighting in support of Al-Assad for several years.