At last week’s United Nations General Assembly Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu disclosed intelligence information about Iran’s activities in the region. His warnings to Iran and Hezbollah, its proxy in Lebanon, for playing with fire failed to get across to EU which continues to be committed to the nuclear deal with Iran and doing business with the country. In Israel, Netanyahu’s diplomatic offensive was largely welcomed by the opposition although it lacked any ideas or initiatives about resuming the peace process with the Palestinians.
According to Israeli reports, Iran has stored equipment and nuclear material from its secret nuclear weapons program in a warehouse in the Turquz-abad district of Tehran. And in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, Hezbollah has secretly placed three missile conversion sites close to the international airport and underneath a soccer stadium.
The sites are intended for upgrading Hezbollah’s vast arsenal of Iranian missiles. On 17 September the Israel air force hit Syrian targets in the port city Latakia where missile precision equipment for Hezbollah was stored. A Russian aircraft was downed by Syrian anti-aircraft fire. Russia which backs the Assad regime blamed Israel for the shooting down.
Netanyahu’s latest disclosure (27 September) of intelligence information follows a similar disclosure last May when he revealed a cache of documents on Iran’s nuclear program in the past. Israeli intelligence had captured the documents last January in a location in Teheran.
While those documents showed that Iran had lied about never having a nuclear weapons program in the past, this time the disclosures are more worrying.
They seem to indicate that Iran has kept material for resuming the nuclear program in the future, after the nuclear deal has expired, while continuing arming Hezbollah in case the current tension escalates to war, using its foothold in Syria for smuggling weapons to its proxy.
In his speech, Netanyahu had a message for the ”tyrants of Tehran”: ”Israel knows what you’re doing and where you’re doing it. Israel will never let a regime that calls for our destruction to develop nuclear weapons. Not now, not in ten years, not ever.” He added that Israel will continue to act against Iran in both Syria and Lebanon, despite the tension with Russia.
He also had a similar message for Hezbollah: ”Israel will not let you get away with it.”
By publicly sharing the intelligence information for the first time, Netanyahu apparently wants to put pressure on among others EU and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to act to prevent the current situation from erupting to war with devastating effects for the civil population on both sides.
Asked by The Brussels Times for comments on Netanyahu’s speech, a EU spokesperson said that it was up to IAEA to act and assess the new information. In fact, IAEA and a few intelligence agencies have already received the information but not yet acted on it, according to Netanyahu.
”The EU has expressed its concern on the regional military build-up on several occasions, including Iran’s missile programme, and we call upon Iran to refrain from activities which may deepen mistrust, such as ballistic missile tests, which are inconsistent with United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 on the nuclear deal,” explained the EU spokesperson.
The spokesperson repeated EU’s position that this must be addressed outside the nuclear deal and separately from nuclear-related issues, in the relevant formats and fora, and referred to an on-going high-level political dialogue between EU member states (EU/E4) and Iran. The latest meeting took place in Brussels on 12 September.
But according to the brief statement following that meeting, the discussions focused on the political and humanitarian situation in Yemen and the follow-up of the recent summit in Tehran between Iran, Russia and Turkey.
There is nothing to indicate to date that EU has protested openly against Iran or taken it to task for its destabilizing activities in Syria and Lebanon. ”The participants agreed to meet again in this format in the near future,” is the only conclusion in the statement.
On Syria, the EU spokesperson added that ”the country needs a political transition, not an escalation of military activities that could easily spiral out of control”. No statement was issued by the European External Action Service (EEAS) on the incident in Latakia.