Canadian nuclear horn rises: Daniel 7

Uranium production to resume in Canada

13 April 2021

Canada’s Cameco and Orano Canada on 9 April both announced plans to resume uranium production. Cameco said that it plans to restart production at its Cigar Lake uranium mine located in northern Saskatchewan. Production at Cigar Lake was temporarily suspended in December 2020 due to increasing risks posed by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. At that time, the availability of workers in critical areas was shrinking due to the pandemic, with more individuals screening out or residing in communities with pandemic-related travel restrictions.

“The safety of our workers, their families and communities is always our top priority,” said Cameco president and CEO Tim Gitzel. “In recent months we have implemented several enhanced safety protocols for Cigar Lake, including increased distancing between passengers on flights, mandatory medical-grade masks for all workers and increased sanitisation and physical barriers in our eating areas. We also worked with the Saskatchewan Health Authority and have established a licensed COVID-19 testing facility at the mine site. These further safety measures, along with the provincial vaccine rollout programme and increased confidence around our ability to manage our critical workforce, have given us greater certainty that Cigar Lake will be able to operate safely and sustainably.”

Cameco said the timing of production restart and the production rate at Cigar Lake will depend on how quickly it is possible to remobilise the workforce. “Cameco will not be in a position to provide updates to our outlook for 2021 until production has resumed and we understand the rate at which we will be able to sustainably operate the mine, it said.

Gitzel said Cameco always intended to resume production. “There are significant costs associated with having the mine in temporary care and maintenance, and we have a home in our contract portfolio for these low-cost pounds. We will also continue to purchase material, as needed, to meet our committed deliveries. Having said that, worker health and safety is our top priority, and we will not hesitate to take further action if we feel our ability to operate safely is compromised due to the pandemic.”

Cameco said its strong balance sheet has provided the company with the financial capacity to successfully manage the production disruption at Cigar Lake. As of 31 December 2020, Cameco had $943 million in cash and short-term investments and a $1 billion undrawn credit facility. The Cigar Lake operation is owned by Cameco (50.025%), Orano Canada (37.1%), Idemitsu Canada Resources Ltd (7.875%) and Tepco Resources (5.0%). It is operated by Cameco.

Orano Canada said it will resume production at its McClean Lake uranium mill over the coming weeks in tandem with the announced restart of production at the Cigar Lake uranium mine. Production has been paused at McClean Lake since late December, “but the operation has maintained its staffing levels to minimise disruption to our employees while performing maintenance, training and preparations to enable a smooth restart of the mill”, Orano said.

“I am pleased with the restart of production at the Cigar Lake mine and McClean Lake mill,” said Orano Canada President and CEO Jim Corman. “We are encouraged to see that the vaccine roll out in northern Saskatchewan specifically is having a real impact and that the pace of vaccinations throughout the Province is accelerating.

“Safety remains our utmost priority and we have been proud to continue to offer a safe workplace over this difficult year.”

Orano Canada accounted for the processing of 10 million pounds of uranium concentrate produced in Canada in 2020. Orano Canada has been exploring for uranium, mining and milling in Canada for more than 55 years. It is the operator of the McClean Lake uranium mill and a major partner in the Cigar Lake, McArthur River and Key Lake operations. The company employs over 450 people in Saskatchewan, including about 320 at the McClean Lake operation where over 46% of employees are self-declared Indigenous. Orano Canada is a subsidiary of the multinational Orano group.

Undeclared Nuclear Sites Are A Sign Of The Iran Deal Failures

Undeclared Nuclear Sites Are A Sign Of Inadequate Pressure Over Iran’s Nuclear Activities

28th March 2021

Iran: Fordow enrichment facilities

Rafael Grossi, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, recently stated that Iran must come clean about its past nuclear work if there is to be the hope of salvaging the 2016 nuclear deal. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was originally intended to close the file on that issue, but soon after it was implemented, it became clear that the regime was still actively hiding its history of nuclear work at, at least one site, even after the deal was implemented. More recently, the IAEA has identified unexplained uranium particles in soil samples from at least two more locations, thereby broadening the possible military dimensions of the regime’s activities.

Weeks before Grossi made his latest statement on the lack of Iranian transparency, the National Council of Resistance of Iran held a press conference to share additional details about one of the two newly-identified nuclear sites. The information was collected by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI-MEK), which was also the entity responsible for exposing the first key details of the regime’s clandestine nuclear weapons program, including the existence of the Natanz uranium enrichment site and the Arak heavy water plant.

The NCRI’s press conference drew explicit comparisons between the new information about a site at Abadeh and the now-established information about the Parchin military base, which came under suspicion of nuclear activity in 2012 but was not accessed by the IAEA until 2017, well after the nuclear deal went into effect. The NCRI found that in each case, the site was subject to similar sanitization methods led by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. In the case of Abadeh, all buildings on the site were reportedly destroyed in 2019 after it became clear that their existence and purpose had been exposed. Afterward, IRGC contractors attempted to remove and replace a thick layer of soil in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to eliminate traces of nuclear material.

The same process had been observed at Parchin, with satellite images confirming that the entire area had been razed and overhauled. Despite this clear evidence of tampering, Tehran continued obstructing the IAEA’s access to the site for months. Unfortunately, the JCPOA’s weak provisions concerning undisclosed sites and especially military sites made this fairly easy.

Since the withdrawal of the US from the deal, the overarching focus of European leaders has been to salvage that agreement by any means necessary. So it goes without saying that the problems of insufficient IAEA access have never been addressed. Quite to the contrary, they have been exacerbated by Iran’s efforts to retaliate against the re-imposition of US sanctions – efforts that have been aimed at Europe at least as much as at America but have received little to no coordinated response from Western powers.

In February, in accordance with a law that was passed late last year, Iran ceased compliance with the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and effectively revoked the IAEA’s already-limited rights of access to the country. Although the regime stopped short of kicking international inspectors out altogether, it has explicitly threatened to do exactly that if its adversaries don’t capitulate to the pressure, remove sanctions, and provide new concessions in order to buy Iran’s continued recognition of the JCPOA.

Neither Europe nor the US can allow themselves to be blackmailed in this fashion. The nations of Europe must thoroughly revise their approach to the issue in the wake of the IAEA’s latest findings regarding undeclared nuclear sites. If Tehran is not subjected to additional pressure, the mullahs will no doubt conclude that both their deception and their threats have paid off and will continue to do so.

This is an especially dangerous proposition when those threats have become so blatant, and that deception has become a recognizable source of pride for Iranian officials. On February 9, Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi highlighted one of Tehran’s main defenses of its “peaceful” nuclear program but did so in a way that plainly discredited it. “The fatwa forbids the production of nuclear weapons,” he said, referring to a religious edict from the regime’s Supreme Leader Khamenei that says such weapons are contrary to Islam, “but if they push Iran in those directions, it is not Iran’s fault. Those who pushed Iran in that direction will be to blame.”

This statement was arguably the highest-level public recognition of the regime’s potential nuclear weapons capability, and it should have sparked an immediate reassessment of the issue by anyone who has ever doubted the conclusion that Tehran is intent on obtaining nuclear weapons.

If Alavi’s tacit admission was not enough of a motivator for any given Western policymaker, they should only need to look at some of the comments that Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, has made since the beginning of 2019. In interviews with state media, he has openly boasted about deceiving the international community over a range of JCPOA provisions. Based on those remarks, it appears that Iran’s plutonium pathway to nuclear weapons capability has remained open via the Arak heavy water plant, while reductions in uranium enrichment were implemented in such a way as to be rendered almost meaningless.

“They thought that they won the negotiation,” Salehi said of Western participants in JCPOA negotiations. “…But we had a countermeasure, and while we proceeded with the case, they didn’t achieve what they planned for, and we did not become trapped in the enrichment deadlock… So, when you enter negotiations, you may accept something, but you have countermeasures. But you can’t reveal your cards, and afterward, your opponent, who thought you were trapped, suddenly sees you are continuing your enrichment.”

Although Tehran is certainly prone to overreaching rhetoric, this statement was already proven not to be empty by the time it was made. By the end of 2019, Iran had already ramped up the size of its nuclear stockpiles and the level of its uranium enrichment to the degree that was shocking to many supporters of the JCPOA. Since then, the regime has seemingly expanded its nuclear activities to the point of actually exceeding what it had accomplished prior to the start of negotiations in 2015.

If the JCPOA had represented adequate pressure over this issue, such a rapid resumption of nuclear activity should never have been possible. But of course, no amount of pressure could be adequate if it did not result in the regime adopting full transparency about the scale and detail of its prior nuclear activities or their military dimensions. So, whether the international community pushes for the initial reimplementation of the existing deal or chooses instead to start from scratch at this moment, it should be clear that the previous deal did not restrict the regime, and the regime was able to go back promptly to the point where it singed the deal.

India to Increase her Nuclear Arsenal

IAF Experts Explain Why India Needs To Quickly Invest In ‘Nuclear Bombers’ & Match China’s Growing Military Arsenal?

March 12, 2021

Strategic nuclear bombers can be stupendous instruments of power projection and an essential part of the nuclear triad to deter and defeat any adversary.

Currently, only three nations — the US, Russia, and China — fly bombers. India, the fourth largest air force in the world, is out of this league.

There has been much debate on whether India should equip its air force with this ultimate airpower asset, but the experts differ in their views.

The bombers can penetrate enemy air defenses and carry nuclear weapons. Their long-range capability and immense striking power despite the heavy weapons load they carry give the countries possessing them an option to strike “anytime, anywhere.”

The addition of a strategic bomber, which can fly into the enemy territory and deliver large amounts of munitions to destroy military installations, logistics establishments, or even the whole cities, can truly complete India’s nuclear triad, offering exceptional deterrence from its two nuclear-armed neighbors.

While this aircraft is not needed on the Pakistan front, the threat from China is increasing with the country about to induct its newest and most powerful bomber, the H-20.

The upcoming H-20 will truly make China an intercontinental power, claims the South China Morning Post, which describes the bomber as being a heavy and stealthy plane, capable of flying across the Pacific with a 45-ton weapons’ payload. That claim is, however, refuted by critics saying such range and carrying capability will significantly increase the aircraft’s size.

The SCMP quotes sources in China as saying the bomber will have a range of at least 12,000 kilometers, which would even put Hawaii within its reach. If the plane took the Arctic route from China, then the whole of the United States would be within its striking distance.

China’s H-6 bomber

Much to the consternation of military observers in India, China’s newest bomber will give the country a formidable nuclear strike capability far deeper into enemy territories.

However, the experts say the modern fighter aircraft have the ability to carry out strategic bombings, and the primary delivery aircraft need not be a bomber necessarily. They argue that India already has the Su-30 MKI, Mirage-2000, Jaguar and the Rafale fighters with the capability of strategic nuclear delivery.

The current H-6 bombers possessed by China are known to be vulnerable to both ground and airborne targets because of their large radar cross-section. However, the EW system aboard the H-6 has the capability to blind the radars, a challenge, which the Indian military experts feel, can be countered by shooting down the bomber with both ground-based and airborne platforms.

Does India Need Strategic Bombers?

So does India need the strategic bomber capability? If one considers nuclear deterrence against China, India can’t match their numbers in strategic bombers and missiles, which would take at least a decade or two. Speaking of conventional strategic bombing, India will need a staggering number of such aircraft considering the vastness of the Chinese territory, says Group Captain A.K. Sachdev (retd).

“However, given the fact that Chinese bombers can reach Indian cities, airports and military installations, the desirability of having strategic bombers capable of holding a similar threat for at least a proportion of Chinese target systems is undebatable,” he adds.

The US B-2 bomber

And there is very little optimism about India being able to produce a strategic bomber even if it wanted to, considering the country spent enormous amounts of money on a fighter aircraft, which took three decades to build, and still couldn’t deliver the efficiency that was promised.

Going for a bigger aircraft, with sophisticated and complex combat requirements, would, therefore, take decades to materialize.

Let’s not forget the elephant in the room – the cost of building a strategic bomber – which is exorbitant, even from the standards of the United States, which has witnessed severe opposition to bomber programs.

The total production cost involved with the development of the US’ latest bomber is estimated to be around $100 billion, which is one of the reasons only a handful of countries operate and build them.

The US has witnessed continued erosion of its bomber force since the Cold War when it had a total of 400 such aircraft, a number now reduced to just 157. That does not, however, mean that the era of bombers is almost over. The strategic bombers continue to be the most important instruments of power projection in the US arsenal.

The country continues to deploy them in the Middle-East and other Asian countries of concern in a show of power. The B-52s were deployed for the airstrikes against ISIS in Qatar destroying their weapons storage facilities and other installations.

Last week, B-52 bombers were flown over the Middle-East to send a message to Iran amid tensions between the two countries. This marked the fourth-such bomber deployment into the region this year, proving how such aircraft continue to be the potent instruments of deterrence in the hands of major powers. The US is developing the B-21 Raider as the future of its Air Force bomber fleet, which is a modified version of the B-52 Stratofortress.

“A bomber can help India take the war deeper into enemy territory. It can be a bigger deterrent. Can India’s fighter-bombers, surface-to-surface missiles and cruise missiles stand-in for bombers, remains a moot question. If it was true, then the major powers need not develop bombers,” argues Air Marshal Anil Chopra (retired).

And since both India and China are large countries, it may be of interest for India to have a bomber of its own, he says, adding that they will be a great asset for dominance of the Indian Ocean Region.

Chopra believes that the Chinese bombers will remain a real threat to India in the future. India, he says, can develop bombers that as a platform can combine more roles for now.

“India will have to consider acquiring some strategic bombing assets, at least 20 of them, in the next decade. It is time to take a call,” he concludes.

Although such aircraft packs a punch when it comes to delivering decisive victories in war, India has a long way to go before it can acquire or build its own bombers. Packing both electronic warfare elements and nuclear offensive capabilities, bombers will be significant force-multipliers in the Indian arsenal.

Iran Digs a Deeper Nuclear Hole

IAEA says Iran enriching uranium with advanced centrifuges, in further breach

UN nuclear watchdog tells member states Islamic Republic has started using a third cluster of advanced IR-2m centrifuges at underground Natanz plant

By Agencies and TOI staff

8 Mar 2021, 10:08 pm

The International Atomic Energy Agency reportedly told its member states Monday that Iran has started enriching uranium with a third cascade, or cluster, of advanced IR-2m centrifuges at its underground plant at Natanz, in a further breach of the 2015 nuclear deal.

“On 7 March 2021, the Agency verified… that: Iran had begun feeding natural UF6 into the third cascade of 174 IR-2m centrifuges,” the Reuters news agency quoted the UN atomic watchdog as saying in a new report.

UF6 is uranium hexafluoride, a compound that can be fed into centrifuges to produce nuclear fuel.

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“The fourth cascade of 174 IR-2m centrifuges was installed but had yet to be fed with natural UF6; installation of a fifth cascade of IR-2m centrifuges was ongoing; and installation of a sixth cascade of IR-2m centrifuges had yet to begin,” the IAEA report said, according to Reuters.

Since the US left the nuclear deal in 2018 under Donald Trump, Iran has walked away from the pact’s limitations on its stockpile of uranium and has begun enriching up 20 percent, a technical step away from weapons-grade levels.

It is also spinning advanced centrifuges barred by the deal, which saw Iran limit its program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Rafael Mariano Grossi, right, speaks with spokesman of Iran’s atomic agency Behrouz Kamalvandi upon his arrival at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport, Iran, on February 20, 2021. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

Iran’s conservative-dominated parliament last month ordered the government to start limiting some inspections by the IAEA, after which the head of the agency, Rafael Grossi, hammered out a temporary technical deal with Tehran.

They confirmed that Iran will continue to allow access to UN inspectors to its nuclear sites — but will for three months bar inspections of other, non-nuclear sites.

According to a report last month, IAEA inspectors last summer found uranium particles at two Iranian nuclear sites that Iran tried to block access to.

Iranian authorities had stonewalled the inspectors from reaching the sites for seven months before the inspection, and Iranian officials have failed to explain the presence of the uranium, Reuters reported, citing diplomats familiar with the UN agency’s work.

IAEA inspectors watch the Iranian Nuclear Horn Grow: Daniel 8:4

IAEA inspectors find new evidence of Iran’s undeclared nuclear work — WSJ

AL-MUKALLA: Several European ambassadors to Yemen visited the southern port of Aden, the interim capital of the country, on Saturday as Yemeni officials reported that the Houthis were raising obstacles during the prisoner swap talks in Amman.

The ambassador of the EU and ambassadors of France, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Ireland and Finland, as well as the deputy ambassador of Norway, landed in Aden, where they discussed peace efforts with senior government officials.

Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, Yemen’s foreign minister, was quoted by the official media thanking the EU ambassadors for their visit to Aden that carries an “important political message” of support to the Yemeni government, adding that he discussed with the ambassadors the Riyadh Agreement, Houthi resistance to repairing the Safer tanker, the government’s efforts to restore services in the liberated provinces and the government willingness to reach a “real, comprehensive and lasting” peace in Yemen.

The EU delegation is the highest ranking group of foreign envoys to visit Aden since the arrival of Yemen’s new government, which was formed under the Riyadh Agreement.

The Yemeni government delegation in the prisoner swap talks in Amman said the talks encountered a stumbling block after the Iran-backed Houthis refused to swap abducted journalists and activists and seriously ill abductees.

“The Yemeni government delegation has offered concessions for the talks to succeed,” Majed Fadhail, deputy minister of human rights and a member of the government delegation in the talks, told Arab News on Saturday, adding that the Houthis have become more uncompromising and sought to obstruct the talks.

The Yemeni official attributed the Houthis’ new hardline behavior during talks to the US decision to reverse the designation of the Houthis as terrorists.

“Everyone must know that this criminal and terrorist militia refuses to release the remaining journalists in their detention or even consider swapping them with their fighters captured on the battlefields,” Fadhail said.

Representatives of the Yemeni government and the Houthis last month resumed UN-backed prisoner exchange talks with the aim of releasing 301 prisoners on both sides.

At the same time, the Abductees Mothers’ Association, an umbrella organization for thousands of relatives of abductees in Yemen, called for the urgent release of 127 extremely sick prisoners held by the Houthi militia and the Yemeni government.

Fadhail said the government delegation presented names of dozens of sick abductees among the Houthi prisoners and demanded their release during this round of talks. “We floated their names during the talks, but the Houthis refused to discuss releasing them,” Fadhail said.

In a social media campaign Yemeni activists, journalists and politicians demanded an end to Houthi crimes against Yemenis and criticized the US move to drop the terrorist designation of the Houthis.

Using the hashtag #StopHouthiTerrorismInYemen, dozens of Yemenis said that the Houthis have displaced thousands of people, abducted thousands more, blown up the houses of their opponents and carpeted the Yemeni land with tens of thousands of landmines.

Jamal Al-Mamari, a former abductee, reminded the new US administration in a tweet that the Houthis had tortured and killed an American contractor John Hamen, who died in Houthi custody in 2015

“For the Yemenis, the word Houthis means death, destruction, kidnapping, displacement, prisons, torture, diseases, starvation and rape,” said Mohammed Al-Asal, the deputy governor of Raymah province.

Yemeni activists also expressed opposition to any peace deal with the Houthis that does not punish them for human right abuses.

“Yemen does not want an incomplete peace with the Houthi militia who only believe in the language of exclusion, murder, torture, pillage and lack of equal citizenship. Our demand is a comprehensive and just peace, punishing the Houthis for all violations and crimes they committed and disarming them,” Huda Al-Sarari, a Yemeni lawyer and human rights activist who documents human right abuses in the southern city of Taiz.

The US administration should have used the terrorism designation of the Houthis as pressure to force them to stop obstructing the UN mission to repair the floating Safer tanker, Yemen experts said.

“By revoking Houthis designation unconditionally, the Biden administration made a huge mistake. It could have been used as leverage on the Houthis to deliver something in return — at least to allow engineers to empty the Safer. The US just lost that leverage for nothing,” said Nadwa Al-Dawsari, a Yemeni conflict analyst and a non-resident fellow at the Middle East Institute.

Iran deepens breach of nuclear deal: Daniel 8

Iran deepens breach of nuclear deal at underground enrichment site

Tehran has recently accelerated its breaches of the deal, raising pressure on US President Joe Biden.

Iran has deepened a key breach of its 2015 nuclear deal, enriching uranium with a larger number of advanced centrifuge machines in an underground plant as it faces off with the new US administration on salvaging the accord.

Tehran has recently accelerated its breaches of the deal, raising pressure on US President Joe Biden as both sides say they are willing to come back into compliance with the badly eroded agreement if the other side moves first.

Iran began its breaches in 2019 in response to Washington’s withdrawal in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump and the reimposition of US economic sanctions against Tehran that were lifted under the deal.

The accord says Iran can refine uranium only at its main enrichment site – an underground plant at Natanz – with first-generation IR-1 centrifuges. Last year Iran began enriching there with a cascade, or cluster, of much more efficient IR-2m machines and in December said it would install three more.

“Iran has completed the installation of one of these three cascades, containing 174 IR-2m centrifuges, and, on 30 January 2021, Iran began feeding the cascade with UF6,” the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report obtained by Reuters on Tuesday, referring to uranium hexafluoride feedstock.

The IAEA later confirmed that the Islamic Republic had started enriching with the second cascade.

Tehran is also pressing ahead with the installation of more advanced centrifuges, the report indicated. Of the remaining two cascades of IR-2m machines, installation of one had begun while the other’s installation was “nearing completion,” it said.

Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, said on Twitter Tehran had also started installing IR-6 centrifuges at Fordow, a site dug into a mountain where Iran has begun enriching uranium to the 20% purity it last achieved before the 2015 deal. The IAEA report made no mention of that.

Earlier on Tuesday Israel’s energy minister said it would now take Iran about six months to produce enough fissile material for one nuclear weapon, a timeline almost twice as long as that anticipated by a senior Biden administration official.

Iran denies any intent to weaponise enrichment. The nuclear deal sets a limit of 3.67% enrichment purity, suitable for producing civilian nuclear energy and far below the 90% that is weapons-grade.

Blinken: Iran Will Be Ready to Develop Nuclear Weapon in ‘Weeks’

Blinken: Iran Could Be Ready to Develop Nuclear Weapon in ‘Weeks’

Asharq Al-Awsat

Tuesday, 2 February, 2021 – 06:45

How Iran Lured a Dissident From France to Execution

Tuesday, 2 February, 2021 – 06:15

In October 2019, Iranian dissident Ruhollah Zam was running a widely followed news site based in France, accompanied by his family and benefitting from refugee status as well as security in his country of exile.

But just over a year later, on December 12, 2020, Zam was hanged in Iran, an execution that prompted international condemnation.

How had Zam gone from the relative comfort of his life in France to meeting his death aged just 42 at the hands of the hangman in his home country, whose leaders he had targeted in his work?

His father Mohammad Ali Zam is a cleric still based in Iran and was, at one time, a senior figure in Iranian cultural institutions.

So fervent was his support of the 1979 Islamic Revolution that ousted the Shah that he named his son after its founder, Ruhollah Khomeini.

Colleagues and friends of Ruhollah Zam in France told AFP that he had made the mistake of being lured into a trip to Iraq in October 2019, defying their warnings of danger and falling into a trap set to exploit his own character.

“He played a dangerous game by going to Iraq and he lost,” said Mahtab Ghorbani, a Paris-based Iranian writer and a refugee who worked with Zam.

“He was dragged into a dirty psychological game designed by this regime.”

Resident in France for almost half a decade, Ruhollah Zam had attracted up to two million followers to his Telegram channel Amadnews, encouraging people to turn out in protests during the winter of 2017-2018 and also publishing sometimes sensational allegations about the Iranian leadership.

As the privileged child of an influential father, Zam enjoyed good contacts in Tehran which he held onto even after leaving the country following the 2009 protests over disputed elections.

He first went to Malaysia and Turkey, and then France.

“When there were turf wars between people in power, they turned to Zam,” said Maziyar, a friend and fellow Iranian refugee, who worked on Amadnews and asked that his full name not be published.

“He delivered information without limits, he had no red line, he respected neither the president, nor the supreme leader, nobody. He even laughed at his own father.”

But the success of Amadnews and Zam’s own growing radicalism proved their undoing as Telegram suspended the account for inciting followers to use Molotov cocktails against police.

Zam’s influence appeared to be waning. Even friends began to question if he was pushing too hard for the overthrow of the Iranian regime.

“Ruhollah became really well known. He advocated the overthrow of the regime and maybe he started to think of himself as a leader,” said Hassan Fereshtyan, a Paris-based lawyer who assisted Zam.

“Bit by bit, he lost his friends,” he said.

“He was alone and isolated, and part of the Iranian opposition in exile did not trust him,” added Ghorbani.

He was also receiving an increasing number of threats, which prompted French police to give him protection.

His friends said this was a dark time for Zam, a hugely ambitious man who feared that the media presence he had built up so fast was now rapidly losing clout.

“He was in the position where he could make bad decisions and fall for the trap,” said Maziyar.

In mid-October 2019, he appeared at Fereshtyan’s Paris office and told the astonished lawyer that he was going to travel to Iraq to conduct an interview with Ayatollah Ali Sistani, one of the most influential figures in Shia Islam.

This interview was supposed to launch a new television channel suggested by an individual claiming to be an Iranian businessman.

His associates immediately sensed the danger, given the security influence Iran has in Iraq.

“I shouted, I told him: ‘If you go, it’s the end, you will never come back to France!'” said Fereshtyan.

And even though Zam gave no indication of when he planned to go, he took the plane to Amman and then onwards to Baghdad the next day.

“Everyone advised him against leaving, even his bodyguard, but he simply replied that he was tired of waiting,” added Maziyar.

“And he went. Sadly.”

Zam telephoned his wife from Amman airport but he appears to have been apprehended as soon as he arrived in Baghdad.

He was later blindfolded, put into a car and driven to the Iranian border in footage later seen on Iranian state TV.

His detention inside Iran saw him in July 2020 give an interview to state TV, a method used on prisoners in Iran that activists regard as a forced confession extracted by torture.

Sitting in a deep armchair, he was interviewed on the program “Without Compliments” by Ali Rezvani, officially a journalist for state broadcaster IRIB but who campaigners say is actually an interrogator for the Revolutionary Guards.

Zam was convicted of charges including “sowing corruption” and spying for foreign intelligence including France and Israel, accusations vehemently denied by him and his supporters.

His execution on December 12 came just four days after the confirmation of the supreme court’s verdict was announced, a haste that is unusual.

His father wrote on his Instagram account that he was allowed to meet his son a day before the execution, about which he said Ruhollah had been kept in the dark.

His daughter Niaz wrote on social media that her father had called on WhatsApp — inexplicably from a +44 UK number — hours before his execution.

“I knew that was it, and the hardest thing was that I knew and I could not do anything about it!” she wrote.

Still in grief, the family declined requests for interviews from AFP through their lawyer.

The United States and Europe expressed outrage at the execution while UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said there were “serious concerns” that Zam’s capture outside of Iran “could amount to an abduction”.

But Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said he did not believe the killing would harm relations between Iran and Europe, noting that capital punishment is part of Iranian law.

And for dissidents based in France, the execution was a warning that their security cannot be guaranteed even while outside the country.

“With this execution, they wanted to send a message to the loyalists of the regime not to take another path,” said Ghorbani. “And also to show opponents outside of Iran their power and sow panic among them.”

Iran is 6 Months from a Nuclear Bomb: Daniel 8

Israel sees 6-month Iran nuclear breakout, longer than Blinken projection

February 2, 2021

JERUSALEM: Israel’s energy minister said on Tuesday it would take Iran around six months to produce enough fissile material for a single nuclear weapon, a timeline almost twice as long as that anticipated by a senior member of the Biden administration.

Israel is wary of the Biden administration’s intent to reenter the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal and has long opposed the agreement. Washington argues that the previous Trump administration’s withdrawal from the deal backfired by prompting Iran to abandon caps on nuclear activities.

Speaking last month a day before he took office as US secretary of state, Antony Blinken said that the so-called “breakout time” — in which Iran might ramp up enrichment of uranium to bomb-fuel purity — “has gone from beyond a year (under the deal) to about three or four months”.

He said he based his comments on information in public reporting.

But Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, in a radio interview, said the Trump administration “seriously damaged Iran’s nuclear project and entire force build-up”.

“In terms of enrichment, they [Iranians] are in a situation of breaking out in around half a year if they do everything required,” he told public broadcaster Kan.

“As for nuclear weaponry, the range is around one or two years.”

Iran, which denies seeking nuclear weaponry, has recently accelerated its breaches of the deal, which it started violating in 2019 response to the US withdrawal and reimposition of sanctions against it.

The last quarterly estimates by the UN nuclear body in November show that Iran’s stock of enriched uranium had risen to 2.4 tonnes, more than 10 times the amount allowed under the deal but still a fraction of the more than eight tonnes it had before.

Since then Iran has started enriching uranium to higher purity, returning to the 20 percent it achieved before the deal from a previous maximum of 4.5 percent. The deal sets a limit of 3.67 percent, far below the 90 percent that is weapons grade.

Iran Enlarges Her Nuclear Horn: Daniel 8

Iran deepens breach of nuclear deal at underground enrichment site

Francois Murphy

VIENNA (Reuters) -Iran has deepened a key breach of its 2015 nuclear deal, enriching uranium with a larger number of advanced centrifuge machines in an underground plant as it faces off with the new U.S. administration on salvaging the accord.

FILE PHOTO: A view of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility 250 km (155 miles) south of the Iranian capital Tehran, March 30, 2005. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi/File Photo

Tehran has recently accelerated its breaches of the deal, raising pressure on U.S. President Joe Biden as both sides say they are willing to come back into compliance with the badly eroded agreement if the other side moves first.

Iran began its breaches in 2019 in response to Washington’s withdrawal in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump and the reimposition of U.S. economic sanctions against Tehran that were lifted under the deal.

The accord says Iran can refine uranium only at its main enrichment site – an underground plant at Natanz – with first-generation IR-1 centrifuges. Last year Iran began enriching there with a cascade, or cluster, of much more efficient IR-2m machines and said in December it would install three more.

“Iran has completed the installation of one of these three cascades, containing 174 IR-2m centrifuges, and, on 30 January 2021, Iran began feeding the cascade with UF6,” the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report obtained by Reuters on Tuesday, referring to uranium hexafluoride feedstock.

The IAEA later confirmed that the Islamic Republic had started enriching with the second cascade.

Tehran is also pressing ahead with the installation of more advanced centrifuges, the report indicated. Of the remaining two cascades of IR-2m machines, installation of one had begun while the other’s installation was “nearing completion,” it said.

Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, said on Twitter Tehran had also started installing IR-6 centrifuges at Fordow, a site dug into a mountain where Iran has begun enriching uranium to the 20% purity it last achieved before the 2015 deal.

In a second report on Tuesday evening also reviewed by Reuters, the IAEA said only that Iran had informed it in a letter dated Feb. 1 that two cascades of IR-6 centrifuges would be installed at Fordow to be used with the 1,044 IR-1 machines already enriching in six cascades there.

The report did not say installation had begun.

The IAEA confirmed in a statement that Iran had informed it that the two cascades would be installed at Fordow.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Iran’s latest actions increased U.S. “urgency” to address Iran’s atomic program.

“It has undergirded our belief that this is a challenge we have to tackle immediately,” he said. He said he was referring to the broad issue of ensuring Iran cannot develop nuclear weapons.

Earlier on Tuesday Israel’s energy minister said it would now take Iran about six months to produce enough fissile material for one nuclear weapon, a timeline almost twice as long as that anticipated by a senior Biden administration official.

Iran denies any intent to produce nuclear weapons. The nuclear deal sets a limit of 3.67% enrichment purity, suitable for producing civilian nuclear energy and far below the 90% that is weapons-grade.

Reporting by Francois MurphyAdditional reporting by Dubai newsroomEditing by Mark Heinrich, Richard Chang and Sonya Hepinstall

Nuclear Deal Hangs in Balance with the Iranian Horn

Nuclear Deal Hangs in Balance as Iran Intensifies Uranium Enrichment

LONDON – The 2015 Iran nuclear deal was hailed by its signatories at the time as a triumph of global diplomacy. The elation was short-lived.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the agreement three years later and imposed crippling sanctions on Iran’s economy. Tehran responded by increasing its nuclear enrichment activities, edging closer to the levels of purity required for atomic weapons.

With a new administration in the White House, U.S. allies in Europe are hoping that the escalating crisis can be stopped in its tracks and that both sides can be tempted to return to the negotiating table.

U.S. President Joe Biden has indicated his willingness to rejoin the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), if Tehran halts uranium enrichment and returns to its obligations under the agreement.

President Biden has been very clear in saying that if Iran comes back into full compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA, the United States would do the same thing,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on January 27. “And then, we would use that as a platform to build with our allies and partners what we called a longer and stronger agreement and to deal with a number of other issues that are deeply problematic in the relationship with Iran.”

Blinken said that point remains a long way off.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives to hold his first press briefing at the State Department in Washington, Jan. 27, 2021.

“Iran is out of compliance on a number of fronts, and it would take some time should it make the decision to do so for it to come back into compliance and time for us then to assess whether it was meeting its obligations. So, we’re not there yet, to say the least,” he said.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif suggested Monday that an EU official could “choreograph” moves between the United States and Iran to help the two countries overcome their impasse.

Zarif’s comments to CNN International were a shift in his previous position in which he said the United States should remove U.S. sanctions before Iran returned to the deal.  

Each government has said it wants the other to come back into compliance with the nuclear deal first. 

“There can clearly be a mechanism to either synchronize it or coordinate what can be done,” he said, when asked how to bridge the gap between the United States and Iran. 

On Thursday, Iran announced it had produced 17 kilograms of 20% enriched uranium — a short step away from weapons-grade 90% uranium enrichment, and in clear breach of the JCPOA.

Tehran said the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA severely damaged trust in the West and is demanding that the United States eliminate sanctions imposed under Trump.

“As soon as they practically fulfill their commitments, [Iran will do as well], which means removal of the entire sanctions,” Iranian Parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf told lawmakers January 28.

FILE – Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf speaks after being elected as speaker of the parliament, in Tehran, Iran, May 28, 2020.

There is hope on all sides that the nuclear deal can be saved, said Julie Norman, a Middle East security analyst at University College London.

“Both of the major parties are at least vocally, rhetorically, suggesting that they’re willing to come back to this agreement, but each kind of wanting the other side to make the first move,” she said.

Critics argue that the Biden administration should not consider a return to the deal.

“The Middle East of 2021 is not at all the Middle East of 2015 when the deal was negotiated, or 2018 even when the U.S. left that accord,” said Behnam Ben Taleblu of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).  

“And more importantly, Iran is in gross violation of that deal. Iran is hoping to weaponize time by adding more capability to its nuclear program, recreating more facts on the ground and trying to push the Biden administration to as speedily as possible return to the deal or return to offering some kind of sanctions relief.”

Allies in Europe are pushing for the United States to rejoin. Fellow signatories China and Russia also support the deal.

“In Europe, there’s an enormous hope that the JCPOA can be resurrected,” said Erica Moret of the Global Governance Center at the Graduate Institute of Geneva.

“First of all, in terms of commitment, global commitment to multilateralism or global governance. And secondly, the fact that there is now a really important window within which there is a stronger chance of resuming the deal,” said Moret, who also chairs the Geneva International Sanctions Network.

Trump accused Iran of developing an illegal ballistic missile program and supporting terrorism in the region. He imposed new sanctions on vast swaths of Iran’s economy, part of what Trump termed a “maximum pressure” campaign.

The sanctions simply do not work, said Moret. “Those kinds of measures that affect an entire population can only be counterproductive and don’t help a government like the United States reach its stated policy objectives.”

Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at FDD, argues the sanctions were effective.

“When it comes to maximum pressure, a policy that is largely but not exclusively economic, it has done more damage to the Iranian economy unilaterally and in record time, when compared to a decade-plus of multilateral measures against the Islamic Republic. Maximum pressure simply didn’t have enough time to work,” he said.

The political calculations in Tehran and Washington are further complicated by Iran’s presidential election, scheduled for June 18. Incumbent Hassan Rouhani is under pressure from hard-liners to abandon the nuclear deal altogether. Many Iranians feel the agreement failed to deliver economic benefits, said Norman.

“So, there’s some urgency on Rouhani’s side to get this process moving relatively quickly,” Norman said, adding that the future of the JCPOA largely depends on whether either side is willing to make the first move. Iran has said its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.