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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the media on the Iranian nuclear issue, Sept. 9. Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

In a statement to the press Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed what he claimed was a covert nuclear weapons development site near the city of Abadeh, Iran, that was demolished in July after the Iranians realized it was compromised.

Why it matters: Netanyahu made his statement the same day that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors convened in Vienna to discuss the Iranian nuclear program and Iran's attempts to block access and information from UN atomic inspectors. Netanyahu’s statement also comes 8 days before the Israeli elections, allowing him to again highlight the threat posed by Iran and emphasize a message that has been core to his re-election campaign.

Details: During his remarks, Netanyahu showed satellite imagery of several buildings at the site in Abadeh, southeast of the city of Isfahan, from June. Then, Netanyahu showed a second image from July with all the buildings demolished.

Netanyahu also showed satellite imagery of the atomic warehouse in the Turquzabad neighborhood in Tehran, which he first exposed in a speech at the UN General Assembly meeting in September 2018.

  • In July, I reported that UN inspectors who visited that site afterward found traces of radioactive materials, raising concerns that Iran had been storing undeclared nuclear material.
  • The satellite images showed that the Iranians cleaned up the Tehran site before the IAEA inspection in an effort to erase any traces of nuclear material. Netanyahu said the Iranian efforts didn’t work and traces of uranium were found by the UN inspectors.
  • "Iran holding undeclared nuclear material is a flagrant violation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. … What is needed is pressure, pressure and more pressure," Netanyahu added.

The big picture: Earlier today in Vienna, IAEA acting director general Cornel Feruta told delegates from 35 member states of the organization’s board of governors that evaluations of possibly undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran continue.

  • "I stressed to the Iranians the need for Iran to respond promptly to agency questions related to the completeness of Iran’s safeguards declarations. … Time is of the essence," Feruta said.

What they're saying: Netanyahu’s political opponents criticized his statement and blamed him for politicizing intelligence and national security.

  • Yair Lapid — one of the leaders of Blue and White, the main opposition party — said the Iranian nuclear issue "can’t be used as an election campaign stunt."
  • Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak called Netanyahu’s statement "an election spin."
  • Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted: "The possessor of REAL nukes cries wolf—on an ALLEGED “demolished" site in Iran. He and [White House national security adviser John Bolton and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman] just want a war, no matter innocent blood & another $7 TRILLION."

Editor’s note: This post was updated to add comments from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Go deeper

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Sudan's military places civilian prime minister under house arrest

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok during a 2020 news conference in Khartoum, Sudan. Photo: Mahmoud Hjaj/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Sudan's civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was put under house arrest and several other ministers were also detained Monday in what appears to be a military coup in the country, per local reports.

Why it matters: The arrests of the civilian faction in the Sudanese government came a day after U.S. envoy Jeffrey Feltman met with the head of the military faction of the Sudanese government General Abdul Fattah al-Burhan and warned him against staging a coup.

"Atmospheric river" swings Northern California from drought to flood

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A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are delivering historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest — triggering widespread power outages and flooding.

Why it matters: The strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is causing Northern California to whiplash from drought to flood.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Saudi dissident claims MBS said he could get "poison ring" to kill king

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attending the Saudi Green Initiative Forum, via video link, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Saturday. Photo: Royal Court of Saudi Arabia/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A former senior Saudi intelligence official who worked with the U.S. on counterterrorism alleged to "60 Minutes" in an interview broadcast Sunday that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed in 2014 killing the kingdom's then-monarch.

Why it matters: The claim by the exiled Saad al-Jabri, whom Saudi authorities describe as "a discredited former government official," that the crown prince, known as "MBS," allegedly said he could obtain a "ring from Russia" to carry out the attack, is one of several serious but unproven allegations he made on the CBS show.