With the most viscerally startling public statement known to humanity since day 23 on the Ark, when leading biblical meteorologist Noah advised passengers not to bother with the sun cream, Benjamin Netanyahu turns his mind to Iran’s nuclear ambitions once again.
Ever the stickler for tradition, the lovable Israeli prime minister used another of his popular pictorial illustrations to simplify things. Since he was effectively addressing an audience of one, and since the lone audience member was Donald Trump, one appreciates why.
That said, his latest chart – apparently one of 55,000 documents stolen from Iran in the boldest Israeli raid since Entebbe, and featuring Farsi lettering beside arrows pointing to the bull’s-eye in the middle of concentric circles – was more elaborate than the Looney Tunes bomb with which he clarified the issue for the UN general assembly in 2012.
Lest the president fail to grasp the point from the subtle title, “Designing Nuclear Weapons”, Netanyahu detonated a bombshell of his own. He declared that before striking the deal with the US and European powers, including the UK, the Iranians lied. They denied having any ambition to develop nukes when in reality they did. Since it was “built on a lie”, he posited, Trump must withdraw the US from the deal negotiated by his predecessor when he announces his decision on or before 12 May.
Before we come to the stupendously obvious, a reminder may be helpful. Netanyahu wasn’t talking to Israelis, or the UN, or Tehran, or Pugh, or Barney McGrew, or me, or you. He was speaking exclusively to the most credulous and proudly ignorant creature on this or any planet in any solar system charted by cosmologists.
Any other sentient life form would immediately rumble the paradox that relegates Netanyahu point from bone-chilling revelation to a footnote in the Complete History of Smart Politicians Playing Dumb.
If the Iranians were lying about their nuclear intentions, and if everyone didn’t know they were lying, why would Barack Obama take such trouble to prevent then developing nuclear weapons?
Being cautious, we must recognise the possibility that it was more random than it seemed at the time. Perhaps Obama had a fetish for spending month after painstaking month constructing a deal to prevent a country – any country – he didn’t believe intended to build nukes from building nukes.
Maybe he wrote a bunch of names – Costa Rica, Kiribati, the Maldives, Suriname, Vatican City, Iran, Togo, St Vincent and the Grenadines – on scraps of paper, put them in the bottom drawer of the Resolute Desk, stirred them with a stick … and blow me down if the one pulled out wasn’t the only one in the lucky dip with all the centrifuges. Not to mention a compelling motive to manufacture the weapons to deter the Americans from throwing another of their swellegant, elegant regime-change parties, like the one in neighbouring Iraq. What were the odds?
Hats off to the Mossad on purloining the 55,000 documents weighing some half a tonne from a warehouse in Iran, but so far as thrillingly novel information they barely register on the scales of international knowledge.
Iran’s Project Amad, styled “secret” by the leader of a country yet to admit having nuclear weapons more than half a century after it began making them, was known to the UN atomic agency and others long ago, and terminated in 2003. The notion that Iran has retained the data with a view to reviving it if ever it feels sufficiently threatened – if a US president, for example, withdrew from a non-nuclear deal – only reinforces the importance of maintaining the deal.
On the relatively sane listener, Netanyahu’s presentation will have had the opposite effect to the one intended. So it was that Trump responded within minutes with a tweeted: “What we’ve learned has really shown that I’ve been one hundred per cent right”.
He has never seen fit to explain why he thinks this is the worst deal in global history, but he doesn’t need to. If Obama had legislated to transfer ownership of all the bullion in Fort Knox to the Trump Corporation, he’d have signed an executive order cancelling that.
Nothing, not even greed, appears to drive him like the vindictive craving to unpick every thread of Obama’s legacy. Reassuringly, Middle Eastern and global security seems to rests on a personal vendetta.
For the 16 months since his inauguration, the near unanimous advice from within the White House and beyond – most recently from Emanuel Macron – has been to stick with this deal. For 16 months, he has brushed it aside like dandruff on a fellow president’s shoulder.
With the certifiably belligerent John Bolton, now his national security adviser, Netanyahu’s intervention may not have been strictly required. But as cover for the decision one assumes he is about to announce, it was evidently welcome from the kind of instant approval Trump usually reserves for the marginally less ridiculous conspiracy theories peddled on Fox News.
You can’t begrudge Netanyahu his diversion from the Israeli police investigation into his alleged corruption (isn’t it charming when world leaders have a shared interest?). We’ll all miss him and the kindergarten PowerPoint presentations when he’s gone – though possibly less than the Iranian nuclear deal if and when Trump consigns it to the bin labelled “Stuff Obama Did” and offers Tehran a gentle incentive to follow the North Korean path to self-protection.
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