Middle East

Israel PM 'differed' with Mossad on Iran, says report

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel shows an illustration as he describes his concerns over Iran's nuclear ambitions Image copyright AP
Image caption The Israeli prime minister expressed his concerns at the UN General Assembly in 2012

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu's view in 2012 that Iran was a year away from being able to make a nuclear bomb was not shared by his own intelligence service, a leaked cable suggests.

In a speech at the UN, he warned that Iran was months away from producing enough weapons-grade uranium for one.

But Al Jazeera and The Guardian say a Mossad report found Iran was "not performing the activity necessary".

An Israeli official said there was "no discrepancy" between the accounts.

The Mossad report is part of a batch of documents leaked to Al Jazeera and shared with the Guardian.

They mainly involve exchanges between South Africa's intelligence agency and its foreign counterparts.

Other cables suggest:

  • The CIA tried to access the militant Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas through back-channels, despite an official ban on contact
  • South Africa monitored suspected Iranian agents under pressure from the US
  • British intelligence asked for help from the South Africans to recruit a North Korean spy

'Red line'

In September 2012, Mr Netanyahu addressed UN delegates carrying a sketch of a bomb. He called for the world to draw a "clear red line" over Iran's nuclear programme to make it back down.

Mr Netanyahu warned that Iran was "well into the second stage" of enriching its uranium to a medium level of purity, or 20%, and could enrich it to 90%, or weapons-grade, "by next spring, at most by next summer".

But in the report, dated 22 October 2012, Mossad said: "Even though Iran has accumulated enough 5% enriched uranium for several bombs, and has enriched some of it to 20%, it does not appear to be ready to enrich it to higher levels.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Iran maintains its nuclear programme is peaceful

"It is allocating some of it to produce nuclear fuel for the [Tehran Research Reactor], and the amount of 20% uranium is therefore not increasing."

The report concluded: "Bottom line: though Iran at this stage is not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons, it is working to close gaps in areas that appear legitimate such as enrichment, reactors, which will reduce the time required to produce weapons from the time the instruction is actually given."

On Tuesday, an unnamed senior Israeli official said: "There is no contradiction whatsoever between the quotes in the story - allegedly from Israeli intelligence - and Prime Minister Netanyahu's declarations on the Iranian nuclear threat."

"The central theme of the prime minister's 2012 UN speech was that continued Iranian enrichment is creating the 'explosive material', ie enriched uranium, for a nuclear bomb."

"Even the alleged quotes from the Mossad state plainly that Iran is 'working to close gaps in areas that appear legitimate such as enrichment, reactors, which will reduce the time required to produce weapons from the time the instruction is actually given'."

The leak comes as Iran and six world powers try to reach deal over Iran's nuclear programme, which Tehran insists is peaceful.

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