Netanyahu’s detractors in the US and Israel called his presentation as a dog and pony show. “He didn’t tell us anything we haven’t known for years,” they sniffed.
Moreover, they insisted, Netanyahu’s presentation was actually counterproductive because he couldn’t show evidence that Iran is in breach of the nuclear deal it concluded in 2015 and so did nothing to persuade the Europeans to abandon the deal.
None of these claims are correct. Mossad agents who seized a half ton of documents and computer discs from a secret warehouse in Tehran brought proof that Iran has been lying about its nuclear ambitions since 1999. The information was never more than surmised by nuclear experts.
As for the nuclear deal, the archive itself is a material breach of the nuclear deal. Paragraph T.82 of the deal bars Iran from conducting “activities which could contribute to the design and development of a nuclear explosive device.”
Since the only possible purpose of the archive was to enable Iran to build on the progress it already made toward designing and developing a nuclear explosive device, its existence was a breach of Paragraph T.82.
As for who was impressed, and who wasn’t, this too misses the point.
The Trump administration wasn’t simply impressed with Netanyahu’s presentation. The Trump administration was a full partner in Israel’s decision to make the presentation. Netanyahu reportedly briefed President Donald Trump and his top advisers about the operation and its initial findings during his White House visit on March 5. The same day, the Mossad gave the CIA a copy of the entire archive.
Netanyahu coordinated his presentation with Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last Saturday and Sunday.
As for the Europeans, they aren’t key players. If Trump abandons the nuclear deal, Congress will reinstate sanctions suspended in January 2016 when the deal went into effect. And then the Europeans will have an easy choice to make. Trade with the US or trade with Iran.
Which brings us to the soldiers singing a love song in Persian the day of Netanyahu’s speech.
Netanyahu had two main target audiences on Monday evening: The Iranian regime and the Iranian people.The power of his presentation rested on two key observations. First, the Iranian regime believes its antisemitic rhetoric.
At its base, Jew-hatred is a neurotic condition. Antisemites fear Jews. They perceive them as all powerful. This neurotic worldview makes rational analysis impossible for antisemites. Everything is a Jewish plot for them. Through circular reasoning, antisemites see Jewish fingers in everything bad that happens to them.
Netanyahu’s presentation pushed all of Iran’s leaders’ neurotic antisemitic buttons.
Netanyahu opened by revealing the existence of Iran’s secret archive of its military nuclear program.
“Few Iranians knew where it was, very few,” he began.
And without missing a beat, as if stating the obvious, he added, nonchalantly, “And also a few Israelis.”
In other words, Netanyahu told the Iranians that just as they fear, the Jews know everything about them. The Jews know their deepest secrets. It doesn’t matter how closely guarded a secret is. The Jews know it.
That would have been enough to send the likes of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps Commander Gen. Kassem Suleimani into a fetal position. But Netanyahu was just getting warmed up.
Netanyahu then showed photographs of the nuclear archive – first from the outside, and then from the inside. It was as if he just wrote, “Kilroy was here,” on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s bedroom door.
And then came the coup de grace. Netanyahu pulled down two black curtains and revealed the files themselves. Two hundred or so binders filled three bookcases. Two panels contained row after row of CDs – all taken from Iran.
Many spectators scratched their heads at the seemingly archaic find. Why did the Mossad officers go to the trouble of removing the actual notebooks? Why didn’t they just scan them into a flip drive and carry them out of Iran in their pockets? That way, they could have gotten access to the archive without tipping the Iranians off. The files could have remained in place.
This line of questioning misses a key purpose of the operation. Israel wanted the Iranians to know its agents seized the files.
For years, Israel’s enemies and allies alike have recognized its technological prowess. But ironically, rather even as it raised the fears of its enemies, Israel’s technological superiority also fed their contempt.
Israel’s enemies insisted that Israel resorts to cyber warfare and other indirect assaults because it is too afraid to have its soldiers face the enemy on a physical battlefield.
The very existence of the nuclear archive indicates that the Iranian regime bought into this line. Khamenei and Suleimani wouldn’t have risked placing the physical archive of Iran’s illicit military nuclear work under one roof if it had feared that Israel would send its forces to seize it.
Under the circumstances, if the Mossad had simply scanned the documents onto a hard drive and not taken the trouble to physically seize the files themselves, the effect of the raid would have been significantly diminished.
When Netanyahu pulled back the curtains, he exposed not only the regime’s perfidy, but its weakness.
The Jews breached its vaunted defenses and made off with a half ton of incriminating documents without being discovered.
There can be no greater humiliation.
Channel 10 News Arab affairs commentator Zvi Yehezkely reported Wednesday that the Arab world responded with glee to Netanyahu’s speech.
This then brings us to the Iranian public. How did the Iranian people respond to Netanyahu’s presentation? Iran’s anti-regime protests in December and January were widely covered. But the protests didn’t end in January. They are ongoing – and spreading.
According to recently retired Pentagon adviser on Islamic affairs, Dr. Harold Rhode, the anti-regime protests span from one end of Iran to the other and include people and sectors from all walks of life.
“When you ask Iranians where anti-regime protests are taking place in Iran today, they respond that the list of cities where anti-regime protests aren’t taking place is shorter than the list of cities where they are taking place.”
Iranian women have had it with the regime’s religious coercion, which forces them to wear hijabs, forces them out of public events, and enforces misogynist regulations through female goon squads that patrol the streets searching for women with hair showing to beat and bludgeon.
Iranian traders have had it with the regime. Its proliferation of ballistic missiles and terror sponsorship caused the US to impose sanctions that severely limit Iran’s access to the international banking system.
Barred from open currency trading, the Iranian rial has sunk like a stone. Iranian traders cannot carry out commerce.
Their plight will only deteriorate and their anger at the regime will increase if the US reinstitutes its nuclear sanctions on May 12.
Residents of Isfahan have had it with the regime.
Its water policies have dried up the city’s river. For the first time in history, Isfahan is suffering from an acute water shortage.
Iran’s Kurdish, Baluchi and Arab minorities are sick of the regime that oppresses them due to their ethnic identities.
Anti-regime protesters who have taken to the streets since last December shout slogans attesting to their loss of fear of the regime. Israel’s stunning intelligence coup, and Netanyahu’s stone cold humiliation of the regime is not likely to persuade them to rally around their leaders. To the contrary, it will empower them to revolt.
And this brings us to Israel’s strategic goal. Netanyahu’s presentation indicates that Israel’s goal is to empower the Iranian people to overthrow the regime.
The first step toward achieving that goal is to make the regime lose confidence in itself. The US is Israel’s partner in achieving this step.
The day before Netanyahu made his presentation, massive air strikes attributed to Israel destroyed bases in Hama and Aleppo, Syria, that housed major Iranian assets. One base was a recruitment and training center for Iranian-organized Shiite militias. The other housed 200 precision-guided Iranian missiles.
Whereas Iran responded with threats of retribution after Israel attacked the T-4 airbase outside Palmyra on April 7, its response to Sunday’s attacks was muted.
Between the two attacks, a new reality presented itself to the Iranians.
Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the US consistently shielded Iran and its proxies from Israel. In 1982, the US compelled Israel to remove its forces from Beirut. In 2006, the US insisted that Israel accept cease-fire terms in the war with Hezbollah that left Iran’s Lebanese proxy in charge of south Lebanon and paved the way for its takeover of the government in 2008.
During the Obama administration, the US shielded Iran from Israel on multiple fronts.
Over the past several months, commentators have noticed that Israel has taken its gloves off in Syria.
Many have attributed the rising power of Israel’s air strikes to the heightened threat posed by Iran’s entrenchment in the country. While true enough, over the past three weeks, the Trump administration has made clear that it has no intention of restraining Israel. Central Command Commander Gen. Joseph Votel’s working visit in Israel last week was deliberately leaked to the media. The White House and State Department have repeatedly stated that Israel informed them of its plans to carry out various air strikes.
The Iranians now realize that Israel has been given a green light from the US to defeat its forces in Syria.
And they are terrified. This is why they insisted that there were no Iranian forces killed in Sunday’s air strikes against Iranian targets in Syria.
Netanyahu’s critics have claimed that his presentation Monday, along with Trump’s anticipated announcement that the US is abandoning the nuclear deal increase the threat of war. But this is not necessarily the case. Indeed, in all likelihood, his presentation, together with the strikes against Iranian targets in Syria and the US’s support for Israel reduced the prospect of war.
Hemmed in by an empowered US-backed Israel, and an angry, rebellious Iranian public that just watched its humiliation on Israeli television, it is hard to see the scenario where the regime embarks on a war it is now convinced it will lose.
The only way to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power without a major war is to overthrow the regime. Netanyahu’s presentation advanced that goal in a profound way. Declarations of friendship to the Iranian people, like the IDF’s Persian love song, further empower the people of Iran to bring down the regime that oppresses them and endangers the entire world.
Originally Published in the Jerusalem Post