Netanyahu’s ‘Nowhere Land’ Blunder

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave another one of his typical U.N. speeches last week in which he accused Iran of having a “secret atomic warehouse”:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel told the United Nations on Thursday that his intelligence agents had discovered a “secret atomic warehouse” in downtown Tehran, escalating a growing confrontation with Iran and setting up a direct challenge to its government to open the facility to inspectors and prove it is not in violation of the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran denied the accusation, and Netanyahu’s claim was subjected to widespread ridicule in Iran. The location of the facility that he identified was in a remote village whose name, Torquzabad, called to mind the Farsi expression for “nowhere land,” and the building that he identified as the warehouse is a former carpeting cleaning site. Holly Dagres describes the reaction from Iranians:

A group of young Iranian men wasted no time and visited this so-called nowhere land right after Netanyahu’s speech. “Don’t bother coming here – there’s nothing here,” they laugh in a video popularly shared on social media. Since the video, Iranians are now using the Persian carpet cleaning facility site as an opportunity to post selfies. At least two were featured on the frontpage of Iranian newspapers. Even the Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces, Major General Mohammad Bagheri, weighed-in on the speech on Twitter with the Persian hashtag #Torquzabad and a photo of himself and other high ranking officials laughing.

Euronews sent a reporter to talk to the locals in the village, who found the idea that the site had anything to do with nuclear materials preposterous:

“Somebody must have given him (Netanyahu) this information to fool him,” says one Iranian citizen who owns a nearby carpet cleaning business. “Look at this place and you’ll notice it is nothing. Its owner doesn’t even have enough water to drink. Their water was cut off by the Water Organization for being in debt – now he is supposed to be making atomic bombs?”

At most, the location may be a storage site for documents:

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States is aware of the facility Netanyahu announced and described it as a “warehouse” used to store “records and archives” from Iran’s nuclear program.

A second US intelligence official called Netanyahu’s comments “somewhat misleading. First, we have known about this facility for some time, and it’s full of file cabinets and paper, not aluminum tubes for centrifuges, and second, so far as anyone knows, there is nothing in it that would allow Iran to break out of the JCPOA any faster than it otherwise could.”

Netanyahu’s claim that the facility held “massive amounts of equipment and material” appears to be completely unfounded. The IAEA doesn’t need to inspect this site because there is no reason to think that there is anything there. Netanyahu has made a habit of making false and overblown claims about Iran’s nuclear program for decades. He has been consistently wrong about Iran’s nuclear program, but his statements continue to be taken seriously in the West. Netanyahu keeps trying to mislead the world into believing his alarmism about Iran’s nuclear program, but his warnings have been so wrong for so long that Western audiences should know by now to stop listening to him.

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at The American Conservative, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and is a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Dallas. Follow him on Twitter. This article is reprinted from The American Conservative with permission.