World News

Iran Calls Israel’s Reported Theft of Nuclear Trove ‘Laughably Absurd’

Posted July 18, 2018 8:11 p.m. EDT

Iran has denied as “laughably absurd” a detailed Israeli claim that intelligence agents stole clandestine Iranian documents this past winter that reveal what Israel has called Iran’s extensive past research on nuclear bombs.

The Iranian denial, issued by the country’s United Nations mission, was in response to articles in The New York Times and other publications in recent days about the detailed claim by Israel, which considers Iran its most dangerous foreign threat.

The Times article, published in Monday’s print editions, and similar accounts in The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, were based on a partial viewing of the documents by journalists from those publications at the invitation of the Israeli government.

Israeli officials also provided new details on how they said the documents had been obtained — through a secret raid on a Tehran warehouse on Jan. 31 by agents of the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, equipped with blowtorches. The trove included what the Israelis described as 50,000 pages and 163 compact discs of memos, videos and plans for building weapons.

There was nothing in Israel’s claim that suggested the Iranians were still engaged in such activity, which U.S. intelligence reports have said ended in 2003. But the documents suggested not only that Iran had been deceitful but also that its work in weaponizing nuclear power had been far more sophisticated and organized than initially suspected.

The authenticity of the documents, which purport to be at least 15 years old, has not been independently confirmed. Iran has always denied accusations by Israel and others that Iranian nuclear work was meant for military purposes, a denial that Iran’s U.N. mission reiterated in response to Israel’s latest claim.

“Iran has always been clear that creating indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction is against what we stand for as a country, and the notion that Iran would abandon any kind of sensitive information in some random warehouse in Tehran is laughably absurd,” a spokesman for the Iranian mission, Alireza Miryousefi, said in an emailed statement. “It’s almost as if they are trying to see what outlandish claims they can get a Western audience to believe.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel first announced the results of the seizure in April after he had given President Donald Trump a private briefing. Just days later, Trump made good on his long-standing vow to renounce the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran that was negotiated by the Obama administration and the governments of five other major powers, including major European allies of the United States.