Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, gestures as he speaks during a news conference at the European Council in Brussels, Belgium (Photographer: Dario Pignatelli/Bloomberg)  

An Unwelcome Reminder Puts Iran in Spotlight

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A trove of documents unveiled by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a televised press conference yesterday appears to add little to what was already known about Iran's former covert nuclear weapons program. But Tehran’s leaders have at least two reasons to want to deny their authenticity.

The documents first provide an unwelcome reminder that Iran's continued claim never to have sought nuclear weapons flies in the face of a formal 2015 finding to the contrary by the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

That Israel was allegedly able to find and extract half a ton of Iran’s most secret documents created a second source of embarrassment for Tehran. Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi ridiculed the idea that so sensitive a trove might have been stored in what Netanyahu described as “a dilapidated warehouse.”Araghchi dismissed the Israeli presentation as a “childish” fabrication, aimed at collapsing the nuclear deal when a self-imposed U.S. deadline for its renegotiation expires on May 12.

Iran has long claimed to be the victim of intense espionage activity by Mossad, the CIA, MI6 and other spy agencies. Numerous arrests have been made of foreign nationals, most recently Abbas Edalat, a British-Iranian professor of computer science and mathematics at London’s prestigious Imperial College. In 2012, a man was sentenced to death for one of several assassinations Iranian nuclear scientists. He was alleged to have been working for Israel.

Those fears of foreign spying may now be exacerbated.

An Unwelcome Reminder Puts Iran in Spotlight

Global Headlines

Legal problems | Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, has asked a federal judge to probe leaks of confidential grand jury information that he claims interferes with his right to a fair trial. The request comes as the New York Times disclosed a list of questions that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has told Trump’s lawyers he would want answered in an interview with the U.S. president.

Tariff waiver | The European Union, Mexico and Canada will get an additional one-month reprieve from Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs. The White House also announced agreements-in-principle with Argentina, Australia and Brazil. The moves give breathing room to allies who've been scrambling to secure permanent refuge from the duties and could be seen as a goodwill gesture as the U.S. seeks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Brexit solution? | It’s been months that the EU has been badgering Prime Minister Theresa May to come forward with a solution to the intractable problem of how to prevent a hard border going up with Ireland when the U.K. leaves. Finally, the Brits have a new plan but it’s unclear if it’ll be enough to please Brussels. EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier promised to work “day and night” in the lead-up to a June summit of EU leaders.

Losing friends | China’s attempts to isolate the self-governing island of Taiwan appear to be paying off as yet another country switched allegiance from Taipei to Beijing. The Dominican Republic, seeing “immense” opportunities, formally established ties with China  — a move that Taiwan blasted as “checkbook diplomacy.” Only 19 countries now recognize the island’s government, among them the likes of Kiribati, Swaziland, St. Lucia and the Vatican.

Warning signs | Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris put half of his $5.7 billion net worth into gold, believing prices will rally further, while “overvalued” stock markets will crash. “You have China and they will not stop consuming. And people also tend to go to gold during crises and we are full of crises right now,” he said. “Look at the Middle East and the rest of the world, and Mr. Trump doesn’t help.” Watch the interview here.

And finally… Trump is keeping everyone guessing again — this time over the location for his planned talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Seemingly impressed by the optics from Kim’s meeting last week with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the inter-Korean border, Trump said the demilitarized zone would be an “intriguing” location. He also floated Singapore and other spots. Kim is thought to favor Mongolia as he can take the train there.

An Unwelcome Reminder Puts Iran in Spotlight

 

To contact the author of this story: Marc Champion in London at mchampion7@bloomberg.net.

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