Official website of Ali Khamenei / Wikimedia Commons
Many countries are keeping tabs on the ongoing nuclear activities of Iran especially through the nuclear deal that was established in 2015. A probe on the Islamic nation’s nuclear activities reveals that it has enough enriched uranium to develop a nuclear weapon in days.
A report is set to confirm that Iran has enriched enough uranium to develop a nuclear weapon of its own in a span of fewer than two weeks. Former deputy director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency Oli Heinonen warned that it was time for a more robust approach to the nuclear threat that Iran now poses. Heinonen said that the findings mean that Iran no longer cares what western nations think of them as they push through with their nuclear program.
“Moreover, in a couple of days, the new IAEA report will be an eye-opener. I predict it will show that stocks of 60 percent enriched uranium and 20 percent enriched uranium, when combined, are enough to produce one nuclear device in just a few weeks — less than two months,” said Heinonen. “This means Iran has already achieved a kind of immunity.”
Heinonen went on to accuse France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, as well as US President Joe Biden — who was the vice president when Barack Obama oversaw the nuclear deal — of living in the past. Heinonen said that it was time to move on from the nuclear agreement that was established years ago. With the US having withdrawn from the deal in 2018, it was up to the three other European nations to take action.
“But this is also an opportunity to find a different approach. Iran has no real interest in nuclear weapons, but it does want to end all sanctions,” added Heinonen.
This probe comes at the heels of the initially chaotic evacuation of US troops along with other allies and concerned Afghans from Afghanistan as the war-torn country has now fallen to the insurgent group Taliban. Thousands of Afghans who still fear the hardline regime of the Taliban have looked to flee the country, including fleeing to Iran, which has said it would provide shelter to Afghan refugees.
It should be noted that the Islamic beliefs of Iran and the Taliban have made the two rivals as Iranians despise the Sunni Muslim Taliban.
France, Germany Urge Iran to Return Speedily to Nuclear Deal Talks
BERLIN/PARIS – France and Germany on Wednesday urged Iran to return rapidly to nuclear negotiations, after a break in talks following Iranian elections in June, with Paris demanding an “immediate” restart amid Western concerns over Tehran’s expanding atomic work.
France’s foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told his newly-appointed Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian in a telephone call it was urgent for Tehran to return to the talks, Le Drian’s ministry said in a statement.
A sixth round of indirect talks between Tehran and Washington was adjourned in June after hardliner Ebrahim Raisi was elected Iran’s president. Raisi took office on August 5.
Since April, Iran and six powers have tried to work out how Tehran and Washington can both return to compliance with the nuclear pact, which former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018 and reimposed harsh sanctions on Tehran.
“The minister underlined the importance and the urgency of an immediate resumption of negotiations,” the foreign ministry said after the conversation between Le Drian and Amirabdollahian.
Le Drian repeated his concern with regard to all the nuclear activities carried out by Iran in violation of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Iran has gradually violated limits in the agreement since Washington abandoned it in 2018.
The next round of talks has yet to be scheduled.
Two senior Iranian officials told Reuters in July Raisi planned to adopt “a harder line” in the talks.
Amirabdollahian said on Monday the talks might resume in “two to three months”, although it’s unclear whether that time frame began from now or when the new administration took over last month.
Germany earlier also raised pressure on Tehran asking it to resume talks “as soon as possible.”
“We are ready to do so, but the time window won’t be open indefinitely,” a ministry spokesperson told a briefing.
Last month, France, Germany and Britain voiced grave concern about reports from the U.N. nuclear watchdog confirming Iran has produced uranium metal enriched up to 20% fissile purity for the first time and lifted production capacity of uranium enriched to 60%. Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons.
At a time when the Western, Arab and Asian worlds are watching the astonishing repercussions in Afghanistan and the horrific images from Kabul International Airport, some may overlook the events of the same gravity that’s taking place in Iran, the western neighbor of Afghanistan.
Earlier this year, the European members of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) had expressed grave concerns about Iran’s enrichment of uranium. They said Iran had no credible civilian need to enrich uranium, for this was a “key step in developing a nuclear weapon.”
Yes, this was in the past. But the most recent thing was the confirmation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Tuesday that Iran continues to enrich uranium, which can be used in the production of a nuclear bomb.
In a report issued by the United Nation’s atomic watchdog in Vienna to member nations, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said that IAEA inspectors had confirmed last Saturday that Iran had now produced 200 grams of uranium enriched up to 20 percent.
Enrichment of uranium metal is prohibited under the nuclear deal, known as JCPOA, which is meant to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb. The 2015 deal promised Iran economic incentives in exchange for limits on its nuclear program.
Put all this together with the warnings of France, Germany and other Western parties, about the imminence of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon then there is a new hot spot. Amid this scenario, we even do not know whether this has not already happened or not.
Decisive measures are required to counter this even if there is no possibility of the Iranian regime’s using this weapon or just tampering with it and diverting the nuclear weapon into just another blackmail card on the table.
This has been the case with the Iranian regime, which has been creating cards every day for negotiations as was evident in the case of the Houthis in Yemen, the Hashd Alshaabi in Iraq and Hezbollah in Lebanon, and later perhaps by the Pakistani and Afghan Shiite militias, Zainabiboun and Fatemiyoun, that is created by Iran and trained in Syria.
Things are inseparable from each other, and everyone knows what happened and is happening these days with the eastern neighbor of Iran, and we know perfectly who the new rulers are.
The image is not hidden from a sane person, but imagine how this was lost by the West, led by a Biden Washington that abandoned the region, as the pictures of his army in Kabul told those scenes that will remain immortal in modern history.
Imagine this chaos and recklessness in dealing with our region and with a nuclear Iran, which is already dangerous even without a nuclear weapon. So how dangerous it would be after possessing one?
— This article was originally published in Asharq al-Awsat.
VIENNA: Iran has accelerated its enrichment of uranium to near weapons-grade, the UN atomic watchdog said in a report on Tuesday seen by Reuters, a move raising tensions with the West as both sides seek to resume talks on reviving Tehran’s nuclear deal. Iran increased the purity to which it is refining uranium to 60 percent fissile purity from 20 percent in April in response to an explosion and power cut at its Natanz site that damaged output at the main underground enrichment plant there. Iran has blamed the attack on Israel. Weapons-grade is around 90 percent purity. In May, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran was using one cascade, or cluster, of advanced centrifuges to enrich to up to 60 percent at its above-ground pilot enrichment plant at Natanz. The IAEA informed member states on Tuesday that Iran was now using a second cascade for that purpose, too. The move is the latest of many by Iran breaching the restrictions imposed by the 2015 nuclear deal, which capped the purity to which Tehran can refine uranium at 3.67 percent. The United States and its European allies have warned such moves threaten talks on reviving the deal, which are currently suspended. Following Reuters’ report, Iran reiterated that its nuclear program is peaceful and said it had informed the IAEA about its enrichment activities. It added that its moves away from the 2015 deal would be reversed if the United States returned to the accord and lifted sanctions, Iranian state media reported. “If the other parties return to their obligations under the nuclear accord and Washington fully and verifiably lifts its unilateral and illegal sanctions … all of Iran’s mitigation and countermeasures will be reversible,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh was quoted as saying by state media. The IAEA said on Monday that Iran had made progress in its work on enriched uranium metal despite objections by Western powers that there is no credible civilian use for such work. Uranium metal can be used to make the core of a nuclear bomb, but Iran says its aims are peaceful and it is developing reactor fuel.
Tehran, Iran – Shortly before Iran and the United States, along with other world powers, are expected to head back to Vienna for nuclear talks, Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei said “predatory wolf” President Joe Biden is no different from his predecessor.
He also slammed the European signatories to the deal, saying, “they are like the US as well, but in words and rhetoric they are always demanding, as if it was Iran that for long ridiculed and undermined negotiations”.
The supreme leader’s remarks came during his first visit with President Ebrahim Raisi’s cabinet, which gained a sweeping vote of confidence by the country’s hardline parliament on Wednesday.
On Friday, Iran’s new foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, had his first phone call with the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, during which Borrell called on Iran to commit to a date to come back to Vienna for talks on restoring the nuclear deal.
While Iran has said it will at some point come back to continue six rounds of talks that ended on July 20, a specific date has yet to be determined.
While the Biden administration has said it wants to return to the nuclear deal, the US president is still enforcing Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign as he has refused to lift any sanctions before an agreement is reached in Vienna.
Iranian and American officials have so far clashed on how and what sanctions need to be lifted, and how Iran needs to scale back its nuclear programme again. Iran is currently enriching uranium to 60 percent, its higher ever rate.
Khamenei’s remarks on Saturday appeared to be a double down on Iran’s position before the two countries, in addition to European powers and Russia and China, head back to Vienna.
The supreme leader specifically directed Raisi’s cabinet to plan for managing the country’s ailing economy with the assumption that US sanctions will remain in place.
“Diplomacy must not be influenced and linked with the nuclear issue because the nuclear issue is a separate issue that must be resolved in a manner suitable and deserving of the country,” he also said.
Instead, Khamenei said Raisi and his team must focus on boosting “economic diplomacy”.
The appointment of Amirabdollahian, a veteran diplomat with a focus on regional affairs, is indicative of that orientation. The foreign minister, who is now in Baghdad to participate in a significant regional summit orchestrated by Iraq, has said he aims to craft an “Asia-centric” foreign policy agenda.
The supreme leader on Saturday said the best example that the US is a wolf and “at times acts as a cunning fox” is the current situation in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Khamenei expressed his sorrow at the suicide bombing outside the Kabul airport on Thursday, which killed dozens of Afghans and 13 US personnel, saying “these problems and difficulties are the work of Americans that for 20 years occupied the country and imposed a variety of cruelties on its people”.
“The US didn’t take a single step for the advancement of Afghanistan. If today’s Afghanistan is not behind in terms of social and civil developments compared to 20 years ago, it is not ahead.”
As the Taliban has taken control of almost all of Afghanistan, Khamenei said Iran supports the people of the country because, as before, governments come and go but the people remain.
While negotiations in Vienna between the US and Iran on Iran’s nuclear program appear to be heading nowhere, Teheran keeps edging ever closer to achieving nuclear weapons.
In recent history there are a few examples of countries that were denuclearised, either because they decided to do so or were forced to. What can we learn from these past cases about the chances of denuclearising Iran today?
Is there a way for the international community to force the rogue yet sovereign government in Teheran to abandon what it sees as its nuclear strategic asset – viewed by the regime as an insurance policy safeguarding its survival?
External threats a primary motivator
Except for the first atomic bombs in history, dropped by the US on Japan in 1945 to force its surrender, countries have sought or acquired nuclear weapons mostly to deter external threats. During the Cold War, the US, UK and France feared the Soviets and China, and vice versa, and all ended up with nuclear weapons. In the 1970s, India and Pakistan obtained nuclear weapons to neutralise each other. North Korea (2000s) developed nuclear weapons to counter US power in east Asia. In the late 1970s, South Africa chose to obtain a clandestine nuclear capability after the country’s Apartheid-era white leadership felt isolated and anxious because of developments in neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia and Mozambique.
The rise of Israel as an alleged nuclear power since the late 1960s – a decision also driven by a strong sense of external threat – was one important factor driving some Arab countries to seek nuclear capabilities. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein explained in 1978 that he was building a reactor so “[the Arabs] should have the atom [bomb] …When … they [Israel tells] us, ‘We will hit you with the atom,’ we will say, ‘We will hit you with the atom too.’” Libyan tyrant Muammar Gaddafi also reportedlysought various weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, from the early 1970s onward in response to Israel’s capabilities.
Denuclearisation successes and failures
International sanctions contributed to, but were not the dominant factor, in South Africa’s choice to relinquish atomic weapons in the early 1990s. That choice was part of an internal process of regime change which concluded with the abolition of Apartheid. Critical to the decision to denuclearise was a diminished external regional threat after a US-brokered settlement of the Angolan War, and Namibian independence.
Libya endured similar sanctions for years yet held firmly to its weapons of mass destruction. Change came only in response to the invasion of Iraq by the US-led coalition in 2003, and the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Fearing a similar fate, Gaddafi renounced and later dismantled his nuclear program. Unfortunately for him, Libya quickly spiralled into civil war and he was removed from power and killed.
Sanctions and negotiations over decades with North Korea, including multiple agreements with Pyongyang, ended in total failure. The Kim family regime used the ongoing negotiations to buy time while progressing with its nuclear and ballistic missile projects. Today this dangerously unpredictable and isolated country is thought to possess several dozen atomic bombs and the means to deliver them as far as the US west coast.
Iran’s religiously inspired drive
We now know that in April 1984, the leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, gave the order to initiate the Iranian regime’s nuclear weapons project. The reason was again external threats, especially the then ongoing war with Iraq, which saw many international players providing assistance of various sorts to Baghdad. Then Iranian Prime Minister and current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei explained at the time that the bomb was needed “to secure the very essence of the Islamic Revolution from the schemes of its enemies, especially the United States and Israel.”
Khamenei also added that Iran requires nuclear weapons to “prepare it for the emergence of the Imam Mahdi [Islam’s Messiah]”. His words reveal the uniqueness of Teheran’s drive to the bomb – religious beliefs. The regime believes that the bomb will facilitate the export of the revolution and eventually lead to a Shi’ite revival as Islam’s leading force, as believed to be promised by God.
Diplomacy in the form of sanctions, negotiations and agreements was the main strategy applied by the international community to tackle the Iranian challenge, including especially its nuclear aspect. The 2015 nuclear deal (the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” or JCPOA) was the crown jewel in a long series of agreements with Iran, in which Teheran agreed to decelerate parts of its open nuclear program and facilitate tougher inspection of it in exchange for the easing of sanctions.
Why did the combined diplomatic approach fail to curb Iran, now potentially only a few months from becoming a nuclear threshold state?
The fundamentalist Iranian elite view engagement by the West as a sign of weakness, discouraging Teheran from making meaningful concessions to infidel countries that they are convinced are implacable enemies. The ayatollahs choose instead to employ both defiance and deceit. They breached all nuclear agreements, pushing forward at varying pace towards their goal, while misleading and undermining UN monitoring of their activities.
Responding to sanctions, Teheran’s strategy is attempting to construct a “resistance economy” to maintain self-sufficiency without foreign trade or aid. This strategy of course does not apply to the regime’s corrupt elite, which enjoys riches at the expense of the Iranian people, who suffer increasing distress from the impact of sanctions.
Threats to the regime remain high
The Libyan and South African cases teach us that governments opt to relinquish their nuclear option only when one of two preconditions exist: either the leadership believes the threat to its existence is significantly diminished; or international pressure looks likely to lead to imminent regime change.
In 2021, the level of external threat to the Iranian regime remains high – or at least so it must appear from Teheran. The US, along with Iran’s arch-enemies Israel and Saudi Arabia, lead a camp of Middle Eastern allies working together against Iran and its proxies. Teheran is fuelling these tensions, with attacks and proliferation of terror and radical ideologies directly or via proxies (Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis, and various Shi’ite militias for example). Furthermore, internal discontent in Iran has been increasing as the people suffer under oppression, an ailing economy, water and food shortages, corruption and mismanagement.
The rigged election of Ebrahim Raisi, executioner of his own people, as president has completed the transformation of Iran’s regime into an extremist government controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. With even the pretence of competitive democracy now largely dispensed with, these elements must maintain a focus on external threats as the only justification for their cruel grip on power. Their lesson from the toppling of Saddam and Gaddafi after they gave up their nuclear weapons efforts is that the Iranian regime must avoid such a move lest it face a similar fate.
Israel, with the help of the US (and others?) has sought an alternative to diplomacy by embarking on an unprecedented sabotage campaign to derail Iran’s nuclear program. Mysterious explosions, cyber-attacks, killing of scientists and leading figuresin the project were employed to hopefully slow down Iran’s progress toward bombmaking. These efforts appear to have at least helped ensure that even after four decades, the Iranians have yet to build a functioning nuclear warhead. This campaign, however, is perceived in Teheran as yet another strategic threat.
Israel is the only country to have successfully defused emerging nuclear threats by deploying military force – destroying Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in June 1981, and Syria’s secret Al Kibar reactor in September 2007. But the military option in Iran’s case is much more complex, making the efficacy of any potential attack questionable. The Iranian weapons project is very advanced, facilities are spread across the country, often dug in deep underground, and well protected. Moreover, the relevant nuclear knowledge accumulated by Iran’s scientists cannot be erased militarily. Teheran’s response to any such operation is expected to be fierce, causing major damage to Israel and possibly other Middle Eastern countries.
A US-led attack on the nuclear program might have greater prospects of success, but this looks extremely unlikely any time soon.
The dire conclusion must be that without regime change, or at least the serious threat of regime change, in Teheran – both also appearing unlikely – the world can soon expect to witness the emergence of Iran as the newest addition to the club of nuclear powers (or at least a threshold nuclear state).
This conclusion requires a shift in the discourse among international policy makers. Unless they are prepared to discuss coercive measures so fierce that Iran’s ruling clerics are forced to concede that they must make major nuclear concessions to preserve the regime’s existence, the world will have to stop thinking about “how to stop Iran from going nuclear” and focus instead on “how to contain and deal with nuclear Iran.”
Dr. Ran Porat is an AIJAC research associate. He is also a research associate at the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation at Monash University, a research fellow at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Centre in Herzliya and a research associate at the Future Directions International Research Institute, Western Australia.
The Iranian Defense Ministry said on Saturday that it was expanding its defense efforts beyond the borders of the country, in an apparent message of deterrence to Israel and the West, as hopes for a return to the 2015 nuclear deal continue to fade.
“Our country has an important role to play in strengthening the resistance front and expanding the radius of defense of national security beyond the borders of the country,” the ministry said in a message for Defense Industries Day, the Moj News Agency reported.
“We will not hesitate to strengthen our military capabilities, including the missile program designed solely for defense purposes,” it added.
The statement came as the foreign ministries of Germany, France, and Britain expressed “grave concern” over Iran’s growing violations of the moribund 2015 nuclear accord.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna confirmed last week that Iran has produced uranium metal enriched up to 20 percent for the first time, and has significantly increased its production capacity of uranium enriched up to 60%.
The production of uranium metal is prohibited by the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, which promised Iran economic incentives in exchange for limits on its nuclear program, and is meant to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb.
On Thursday, Germany, France and Britain — the western European members of the JCPOA — called the moves by Iran “serious violations” of its commitment under the JCPOA. They said that “both are key steps in the development of a nuclear weapon and Iran has no credible civilian need for either measure.”Advertisement
Iran insists that it is not interested in developing a bomb, and that the uranium metal is for its civilian nuclear program.
Since then, Tehran has been steadily increasing its violations of the deal to put pressure on the other signatories to provide more incentives to Iran to offset crippling American sanctions reimposed after the US pullout.
The western Europeans, as well as Russia and China, have been working to try to preserve the accord.
US President Joe Biden has said that he is open to rejoining the pact, but that Iran needs to return to its restrictions, while Iran has insisted that the US must drop all sanctions.
Months of talks have been held in Vienna with the remaining parties of the JCPOA shuttling between delegations from Iran and the US.Advertisement
The last round of talks ended in June with no date set for their resumption.
Hopes for an Iranian return to the accord have dwindled significantly following the ascension of Iran’s new president, hardliner Ebrahim Raisi.
ReutersAugust 18, 20216:43 AM MDTLast Updated a day ago
BERLIN, Aug 18 (Reuters) – Iran’s acceleration of its enrichment of uranium to near weapons-grade breaches restrictions imposed in a 2015 nuclear deal, Germany said on Wednesday, urging Tehran to return to negotiations with a constructive approach.
“Iran has no plausible civilian justification for these steps, and instead gains military knowledge and skills,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman told a news conference. “We urge Iran to return to the negotiating table with a constructive stance.”
The U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a new report that Iran has accelerated its uranium enrichment to near weapons-grade levels.
According to the IAEA report seen by Reuters, Iran has increased its uranium purity to 60 percent, compared with 20 percent in April. Weapons grade purity is around 90 percent.
Iran has maintained that its goals for uranium enrichment are peaceful and that it is seeking to develop reactor fuel. Western countries have cast doubt on those claims, arguing there is no credible civilian use for such development.
The IAEA’s report may endanger stalled negotiations in Vienna to have Iran return to the 2015 nuclear deal.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the U.S. of being “stubborn” in the nuclear talks, The Associated Press reported in late July. Newly elected Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has signaled he would like to return to the Obama-era nuclear deal, though Khamenei has appeared less enthusiastic.
“Westerners do not help us, they hit wherever they can,” Khamenei said in remarks on Iranian state television last month.
RmOn Friday, the man US Treasury Department levied sanctions on an international oil smuggling network that supports Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force. It charged that senior Quds Force officials use proceeds from their involvement in Iranian oil exports to help fund Iran’s destabilizing regional activities. The sanctions targeted Mahmood Rashid Amur Al-Habsi, an Omani national, who has entered into partnerships with senior Quds Force officials, as well as Oman-based, Liberian-registered, and Romania-based entities.
These sanctions designations are noteworthy for several reasons. First, they come amid stalled nuclear negotiations in Vienna between Iran and world powers. The Biden administration has been signalling in the media its growing impatience with the prolonged gap between the sixth and seventh rounds of nuclear negotiations over reviving the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). US officials have recently suggested to media outlets that they are prepared to crack down on enforcement of sanctions, which have been lacking given China’s importation of large quantities of Iranian oil in recent months. The inclusion in Friday’s announcement that Al-Habsi facilitated shipments of Iranian oil to foreign customers, including buyers in East Asia, was thus likely a signal of the Biden administration’s readiness to more aggressively enforce US sanctions.
Second, the sanctions designation, while meant to send a message to Tehran, was also narrowly-tailored in the authorities it employed to sanction these individuals and entities. The measures were levied pursuant to Executive Order 13224—which is a counterterrorism authority—and the Quds Force’s subsequent sanctioning in 2007 pursuant to this authority. Even if the United States and Iran manage to find their way back into compliance with the JCPOA, Executive Order 13224 and the Quds Force’s terrorism designation will likely remain on the books.
Third, in today’s announcement, Rostam Ghasemi, a former Iranian oil minister and Quds Force official, made a cameo appearance. The Biden administration reported that Al-Habsi worked in partnership with Ghasemi in this scheme and highlighted that Ghasemi was sanctioned in 2019 pursuant to Executive Order 13224—a Trump era designation. Iran’s new President Ebrahim Raisi has just nominated Ghasemi as roads and urban development minister in his cabinet. This could also be a signal of US readiness to maintain these counterterrorism designations even on incoming members of Raisi’s cabinet. In a separate statement issued on Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned “the United States will continue to expose and disrupt those supporting such efforts.”