(CNSNews.com) – As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Washington from the Middle East late Monday night, he assured reporters that documents released by Israel relating to Iran’s nuclear weapons program were both “authentic” and included new revelations.
He also reacted to a reporter’s suggestion that the Iranians may have kept the huge quantity of nuclear blueprints for historical purposes.
In a speech earlier revealing large quantities of Iranian data on a “comprehensive program to design, build and test nuclear weapons” up until at least 2003, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu charged that Iran had secretly retained the documents “to use at a time of its choice to develop nuclear weapons.”
Speaking to reporters on the plane, Pompeo said the Iranians “kept the documents for a reason, and one can speculate as to why.”
He recalled that according to the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Iranians were told “you won’t ever have a nuclear weapons program.”
And yet, he said, “you chose to store in secret and hide these documents?”
“Historical record?” a reporter interjected. “You’re not willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that they don’t want to destroy their history or –“
“The world can decide if this was for the Iranian museum that they decided to hang onto it,” Pompeo replied, to laughter.
Pompeo also pushed back at claims from some quarters that the documents released by Israel were not authentic – or that they contained nothing that was not already known to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
“Nothing new” was among the most common reactions to Netanyahu’s speech from longstanding advocates of the JCPOA.
According to Netanyahu, Israel had several weeks ago “obtained” the large trove of documents from a warehouse in Tehran, in what he called “a great intelligence achievement.”
But some JCPOA supporters questioned their provenance, speculating that Israel may have hacked the material from the IAEA, or simply been handed then by the U.S. – releasing them now as part of a ploy to justify President Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal.
“I know there are people talking about these documents not being authentic,” said Pompeo. “I can confirm for you that these documents are real; they’re authentic.”
Pompeo served as CIA Director until being sworn in as secretary of state last week.
Asked about the view that the U.S. has known for years about Iran’s clandestine attempts to develop a nuclear weapons capability, Pompeo said that was “partly true.”
“But there are thousands of new documents and new information,” he said. “We’re still going through it. There’s still a lot of work to do to figure out precisely the scope and scale of it.”
Pompeo said the scale of the work undertaken as revealed in the material “makes very clear that, at the very least, the Iranians have continued to lie to their own people.”
“So while you say everyone knew, the Iranians have consistently taken the position that they’ve never had a program like this.”
‘It is time to revisit the question of whether Iran can be trusted to enrich’
In an earlier statement, Pompeo made clear the administration is backing Netanyahu’s stance on the Iranian documents.
“For many years, the Iranian regime has insisted to the world that its nuclear program was peaceful. The documents obtained by Israel from inside of Iran show beyond any doubt that the Iranian regime was not telling the truth,” it said.
“I have personally reviewed many of the Iranian files. Our nonproliferation and intelligence officials have been analyzing tens of thousands of pages and translating them from Farsi. This analytical work will continue for many months. We assess that the documents we have reviewed are authentic.”
Under the JCPOA, Iran is allowed to enrich uranium to a limited degree (to no more than 3.67 percent), but various restrictions on enrichment fall away after eight, 10 and 15 years – the deal’s so-called “sunset” provisions.
Pompeo concluded his statement by referencing Trump’s upcoming decision on whether the U.S. should withdraw from the agreement.
“Now that the world knows Iran has lied and is still lying, it is time to revisit the question of whether Iran can be trusted to enrich or control any nuclear material,” he said.
“As the President’s May 12 deadline to fix the Iran deal approaches, I will be consulting with our European allies and other nations on the best way forward in light of what we now know about Iran’s past pursuit of nuclear weapons and its systematic deception of the world.”