JERUSALEM, July 2 (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that he informed U.S. President Donald Trump in advance of what Israel has described as a spy mission in Tehran last year to capture a secret Iranian nuclear archive.
Netanyahu said in April 2018 that Mossad operatives had spirited thousands of hidden documents out of Tehran that proved Iran had previously pursued a nuclear weapons progamme. Trump cited the Israeli findings in his decision, a month later, to quit a 2015 deal that had scaled down Iran‘s nuclear project.
Iran denies ever seeking nuclear weapons and has accused Israel of faking the Tehran mission and documents trove.
Awarding an Israeli national security prize on Tuesday to the Mossad team credited with the so-called “Atomic Archive” capture, Netanyahu said he had discussed the planned operation with Trump when they met at the Davos forum in January 2018.
“He asked me if it was dangerous. I told him that there was a danger to it that was not negligible, but that the outcome justified the risk,” Netanyahu said at the closed-door ceremony, according to a transcript issued by his office.
Netanyahu said that, when he later presented main findings from an Israeli analysis of the documents to Trump at the White House, the president “voiced his appreciation for the boldness”.
“I have no doubt that this helped to validate his decision to withdraw from this dangerous (Iran nuclear) deal,” he said.
With the United States having reimposed sanctions on Iran, tensions have been soaring in the Gulf in recent weeks.
Mossad officials have said the Tehran mission took place in February 2018, but have not given details on how the documents were brought out to Israel.
Six Mossad officers – four men and two women – received Tuesday’s prize for leading the mission, which also involved “hundreds” of others, the intelligence agency’s director, Joseph (Yossi) Cohen, told an international security forum this week.
(Writing by Dan Williams Editing by Mark Heinrich)