Israel doesn't know if Trump will pull out of Iran deal: source

Jerusalem (AFP) –


US President Donald Trump has not informed Israel of whether he will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal it opposes on or before a May 12 deadline, a senior Israeli official said Sunday.

The comments came as Israel pushed its case to have the deal changed or eliminated, arguing intelligence documents it recently unveiled on Iran's alleged nuclear ambitions helped demonstrate why.

Some experts and analysts believe Trump will pull out of the agreement concluded in 2015 under his predecessor Barack Obama and which he has harshly criticised.

They have also questioned whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's televised unveiling of the trove of tens of thousands of intelligence documents on April 30 was coordinated with Washington.

"In effect, I don't know what Trump will decide because he hasn't told me," the senior Israeli official said on condition of anonymity, making clear Israel had not yet been informed of Trump's decision.

The official added however that "I think that he has the same sceptical view."

Proponents of the nuclear deal argued the trove of documents Israel obtained from Tehran shed little new light on Iran's nuclear programme and in fact made the case for why the accord is important.

Netanyahu argues the documents show the deal with his country's main enemy was built on a lie -- Iran denied having pursued nuclear weapons -- and demonstrates it has a secret atomic weapons programme ready to activate at any time.

World powers that were party to the agreement, including Britain and France, said those arguments only strengthened the reasoning for the deal, which has safeguards in place designed to keep Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons.

They also said the intelligence documents did not show Iran was violating the deal.

Trump could decide by May 12 to reimpose US sanctions on Iran lifted as part of the agreement.

The Israeli official said while he did not know what Trump's course of action would be, there could be a range of options.

He said he believed one option could be Trump declining to renew a waiver on sanctions against Iran due to expire on May 12, but using the lag time between when sanctions take effect to negotiate from a stronger position.

Trump could alternatively decide to single out firms key to Iran's economy for what are known as secondary sanctions to apply pressure on Tehran.

"I think you want to ratchet up the pressure," the Israeli official said.

Netanyahu on Sunday meanwhile disputed arguments from deal proponents that the intelligence trove he unveiled had no new details. He also said it did not matter if Iran violated the agreement or not since the deal was fatally flawed.

"If you don?t violate a dangerous deal, it doesn?t make it less dangerous," he said.

Trump and his Middle East allies, particularly Israel, argue the agreement was too weak and needs to be replaced with a more permanent arrangement and supplemented by controls on Iran's missile programme.