The Iranian Horn Never Halted Its Nuclear Program : Daniel 8

Signs Iran’s nuclear weapons program never halted

Traces of radioactivity were found recently at two Iranian sites where Tehran has reported no nuclear activity.

Raphael Ofek

(February 21, 2021 / BESA Center)

Samples collected by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at two Iranian sites where Tehran has not reported any nuclear activity showed traces of radioactivity. Although the IAEA refrained from naming the sites in its quarterly report of June 5, 2020, they were identified last year by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) in Washington. The identification was based on information extracted from the Iranian nuclear archive smuggled out of Tehran and into Israel in January 2018.

The first site visited by IAEA inspectors in August 2020 was a pilot plant for uranium conversion, with an emphasis on the production of UF6 (uranium hexafluoride, a uranium compound which, in its gaseous phase, enables the enrichment of uranium by centrifuges). This site, located about 47 miles southeast of Tehran, operated under the aegis of the Amad military nuclear program. In documents from the Iranian nuclear archive, this location is referred to as the “Tehran Site.” The facility was dismantled in 2004.

The other site was Marivan, located near the town of Abadeh in central Iran. This facility, also part of the Amad program, was designed to conduct “cold tests” of nuclear weapons (that is, to simulate the activation of a nuclear explosive device using natural uranium rather than weapons-grade uranium). This included operating a multipoint explosive system for the activation of a nuclear weapon, as well as the development of its neutron initiator.

According to satellite imagery published by ISIS, Iran razed part of the Marivan facility in July 2019, more than a year before they allowed IAEA inspectors access to it. It is likely that this was done to prevent exposure to nuclear activities that had taken place there in the past. (This was not the first time the Islamic regime had razed nuclear sites: it did so at the Lavizan-Shian facility in Tehran in 2004 and the Parchin facility in 2012.) It is possible that the traces of radioactive materials found in samples taken by IAEA inspectors in August 2020 indicate renewed efforts to develop a neutron initiator for nuclear weapons previously conducted at the Marivan site.

The IAEA report of June 5, 2020, referred to a third location as well. Though its name was not revealed in the report, it was implied that it was the facility the regime had previously operated in Lavizan-Shian. This suspicion was based on the fact that between 2002 and 2003, a metallic natural uranium disc was found at the site that had been processed by drilling and hydriding (compressing hydrogen atoms inside uranium), an activity Iran neither reported to the IAEA nor provided an explanation for. This finding suggests that the regime had attempted to develop a UD3 neutron initiator at the site.

In addition to all of the above, Iran periodically intensifies its confrontation with the IAEA, causing great concern to the United States and the West. The following are examples:

• Iran began enriching uranium to 20 percent, a level that can serve as a springboard to 90 percent (weapons-grade). The regime announced on Jan. 28 that it had accumulated 17 kg of 20 percent enriched uranium and intends to reach an annual production capacity of 120 kg. Note that 150-200 kg of 20 percent enriched uranium are required to reach 15-20 kg of 90 percent enriched uranium. (According to other calculations, Iran could accumulate 90 percent enriched uranium for its first bomb within a matter of a few months.)

Iran recently installed three cascades at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, each containing 174 advanced IR-2m centrifuges. They were scheduled to go into operation as early as Jan. 30, with the aim of reaching 1,000 operational centrifuges of this type at Natanz within three months. Iran also began installing two cascades, each with about 170 of the more advanced IR-6 centrifuges, at the Fordow enrichment facility.

• On Jan. 13, Iran informed the IAEA that it was researching the production of metallic uranium—an activity which, if true, is another violation of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear agreement. Britain, France and Germany have expressed concern that the metallic uranium produced by Iran will be used for nuclear weapons development.

• Iran has not yet provided the IAEA with a plausible explanation for the low-enriched uranium particles found by agency inspectors in 2019 in samples taken from a warehouse at the Turquzabad site in Tehran. An IAEA report from last November said the particulate compounds were similar to particulates found in Iran in the past that turned out to have been from imported centrifuge components (purchased from Pakistan, according to earlier publications). This theory was backed up by the fact that the particles included (among other things) the uranium-236 isotope, which does not exist in nature but is formed as a result of neutron capture by the uranium-235 nucleus—a process that takes place inside a nuclear reactor. As far as is known, it is unlikely that the process of manufacturing the particulates containing uranium-236 took place in Iran.

The problem of Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is now largely in the hands of Joe Biden, though he is not enthusiastic about taking it on. Biden stated during his election campaign that he intends to return the United States to the JCPOA, albeit with amendments, and remove the sanctions imposed on Iran by the Trump administration, but it is doubtful that he has formulated a clear policy on this issue so far. He did, however, announce on Feb. 8 that the United States will not lift sanctions until Iran fulfills its obligations under the JCPOA.

U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken said on Feb. 1 that the breakout time in which Iran might ramp up enrichment of uranium to weapons-grade “has gone from beyond a year [under the deal] to about three or four months.” He also said an agreement with Iran should be “longer and stronger.” However, many of Biden’s newly appointed officials (including Blinken) are former members of Barack Obama’s administration who were deeply involved in negotiating the JCPOA. The appointment of Robert Malley as the U.S. special envoy to Iran raises particular concerns. If the United States does return to a courtship of Tehran, the task of dealing with the Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons may be left primarily to Israel.

IDF Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Raphael Ofek, a BESA Center Research Associate, is an expert in the field of nuclear physics and technology who served as a senior analyst in the Israeli intelligence community.

Iran Repeats The Obama Tactics With Biden

Iran learning it can threaten Biden to get its way on nuclear talks: Ric Grenell

When Tehran makes threats, Biden ‘is going to hop to it and respond to them,’ ex-DNI tells ‘Your World’

David Rutz

Iran has already shown it can pressure the Biden administration into granting concessions related to its nuclear weapons program, former Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell told “Your World” Friday.

The Trump administration withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in 2018, but Biden campaigned on reentering it and rescinded Trump’s efforts to reimpose United Nations sanctions against Iran.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Thursday that the Biden administration would “accept an invitation from the European Union High Representative to attend a meeting of the P5+1 and Iran to discuss a diplomatic way forward on Iran’s nuclear program.”

The announcement came days after a rocket attack on a U.S. airbase in northern Iraq that was claimed by an Iranian-linked Iraqi Shiite militia. However, the Biden administration has yet to formally blame any group for the attack.

We’ve seen with the Iranians over the last two days a threat,” Grenell told host Neil Cavuto. “They said that if we didn’t drop all the sanctions … that they would not allow the inspectors back in. We already have a very weak inspection regime there.”

Grenell noted that Europe’s foreign ministers have said Iran’s threatening rhetoric is not a good sign for the prospects of peace, but Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Biden have taken the opposite approach.

The lessons, I think, that the Iranians learn [is], when they use threats against the United States, the Biden administration is going to hop to it and respond to them,” he said. “I think it’s a really slippery slope.”

David Rutz is a senior editor at Fox News. Follow him on Twitter at @davidrutz.

The Iranian Nuclear Horn Continues to Grow: Daniel 8

Satellite images reveal Israel quietly expanding secretive Dimona nuclear site

Friday, 19 February 2021 2:30 PM  [ Last Update: Saturday, 20 February 2021 6:17 AM ]

Newly-released satellite images have revealed that the Israeli regime — the sole possessor of nuclear arms in the Middle East — is conducting “significant” constructive activities at the highly-secretive Dimona nuclear facility in the Negev Desert.

Citing commercial satellite imagery of the facility, the International Panel on Fissile Material (IPFM), a group of independent nuclear experts from 17 countries, reported Thursday that “significant new construction” had been underway at the Dimona complex.

The construction site sits “in the immediate vicinity of the buildings that house the nuclear reactor and the reprocessing plant,” the report said.

The IPFM’s website said the construction had “expanded and appears to be actively underway with multiple construction vehicles present,” adding, however, that the purpose was not known.

It was unclear when the construction work began, but Pavel Podvig, a researcher with the program on science and global security at Princeton University, told The Guardian that the project had apparently been launched in late 2018 and 2019.

“But that’s all we can say at this point,” he added.

Israel has tightly withheld information about its nuclear weapons program, but the regime is estimated to be keeping at least 90 nuclear warheads in its arsenal, according to the non-profit organization Federation of American Scientists (FAS).

The warheads, FAS said, had been produced from plutonium obtained at the Dimona facility’s heavy water reactor.

Israel in possession of close to 100 nuclear warheads: SIPRI

A new report reveals that the Israeli regime, which has a long-standing policy of not commenting on its nuclear arsenal, is in possession of approximately 100 nuclear warheads.

Dimona, which is widely believed to be key to Israel’s nuclear arms manufacturing program, was built with covert assistance from the French government and activated sometime between 1962–1964, according to reports.

Israel has acknowledged the existence of the Dimona nuclear reactor, but neither confirms nor denies the purpose of the facility, which is assumed to be the manufacturing of nukes.

Meanwhile, environmentalists have warned that Dimona — one of the world’s oldest nuclear facilities — could pose enormous environmental and security threats those living in the area and to the entire Middle East, calling on the regime to shut down the complex.

Turning a deaf ear to international calls for nuclear transparency, the regime has so far refused, with the US’s invariable support, to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that is aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

North Korea is not a nuclear threat

Observers should not mistake the absence of direct engagement between Washington and Pyongyang for disinterest in the fate of US-North Korea relations, State Department representative Ned Price said in a recent press briefing.

Price stressed that the administration’s “strategic goals” with the Kim Jong Un regime will be “focus[ed] on reducing the threat to the United States and to our allies as well as to improving the lives of the North and South Korean people. And, again, the central premise is that we remain committed to denuclearization of North Korea.”

The Biden team’s workmanlike approach is an expedient change from their predecessors’ photo-op diplomacy. But this continued insistence on denuclearization as the primary goal in US-North Korea engagement is incredibly counterproductive.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reviews a Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile in an undated photo released by the Korean Central News Agency, November 30, 2017. Reuters

If Biden and his team are serious about making headway on their first two strategic goals — threat reduction and humanitarian gains on the Korean Peninsula — they must drop the third. For progress with North Korea, forget denuclearization.

We can do that safely for three reasons. First, as Price himself noted, “the United States, of course, remains the most powerful and strongest country in the world.” Even with nuclear weapons, North Korea’s military might is miniscule by comparison. In nuclear and conventional weaponry alike, the US advantage is overwhelming, as the Kim regime well knows.

This is not to say Pyongyang couldn’t do real damage. It could — the South Korean capital of Seoul, a city of 10 million, is only 30 miles from the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas, well within North Korea’s strike range.

But Kim is unquestionably aware of the consequences unprovoked aggression against a US ally (let alone the United States proper or our military, which has an extensive South Korean presence) would bring. He would not finish the resultant conflict in power; he might not finish it alive.

That glaringly obvious truth creates a powerful deterrence for the United States, and it is a deterrence which maintaining the nuclear status quo indefinitely will not obviate.

Kim at what was said to be a missile test site at an undisclosed location in North Korea, May 15, 2017. KRT via AP Video

Second, Price repeats the longstanding claim that denuclearization is itself a goal. This is not — or, at least, should not be — quite correct. The proper goal is avoidance of horrific, world-changing, history-altering nuclear war.

Denuclearization is one means of accomplishing that avoidance. But it is not the only way, and the mere existence of North Korea’s nuclear weapons does not mean they will be used.

The United States is already securely coexisting with a nuclear North Korea. We are stably coexisting with other nuclear powers, too, including several (chiefly China and Russia, but also Pakistan, if conventional wisdom is correct) that are hardly reliably friendly to America.

Russia’s nuclear arsenal is of a similar strength to our own, and China boasts a far more powerful military and economy than North Korea ever could. Yet complete denuclearization of these countries is not standard US policy, not only because it is an unachievable aim for Washington but because it is not necessary to avoid nuclear war.

We can likewise avoid nuclear conflict involving North Korea without attaining denuclearization — indeed, we have done it for decades.

Finally, forgetting denuclearization for now may ultimately get us to denuclearization, and it will certainly help us toward the administration’s other two goals of de-escalation and improved quality of life for the Korean people.

Biden, then vice president, with Joint Joint Security Area soldiers in Panmunjom, December 7, 2013. Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

If we set aside denuclearization — a concession Pyongyang will not make so long as it perceives any risk of forcible, US-orchestrated regime change like that in Iraq and Libya — a multitude of more practical and feasible goals become accessible to us.

Working-level diplomacy by the Biden administration could accomplish a nuclear freeze, regular inspections of Kim’s arsenal, or even some reduction of his nuclear stockpile or missile systems. It could produce, seven decades late, a peace treaty to officially end the Korean War. It could bargain for concessions from Pyongyang by offering cessation of US sanctions that harm ordinary North Koreans. It could permit expanded, Korean-directed engagement between North and South Korea, including trade and reconnection of divided families.

It could take steps toward making North Korea a far more normal country, opening the “hermit kingdom” to the global culture and economy and giving its people a shot at deprograming themselves from their government’s sadistic brainwashing. And it could ultimately lay the groundwork for a new era in North Korean foreign relations, one which might mature someday, probably long after this administration is over, into a denuclearized and even democratic Pyongyang.

None of that is possible, however, if the Biden administration insists on denuclearization now. A shortsighted demand for Kim to concede what he views as his sole guarantee against American invasion will ensure Biden leaves office just like former President Donald Trump, having moved the needle on US-North Korean relations not an inch.

Bonnie Kristian is a fellow at Defense Priorities, contributing editor at The Week, and columnist at Christianity Today. Her writing has also appeared at CNN, NBC, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and Defense One, among other outlets.

Iran Has Been Spinning Away: Daniel 8

Exclusive: IAEA found uranium traces at two sites Iran barred it from, sources say

VIENNA/PARIS (Reuters) – The U.N. nuclear watchdog found uranium particles at two Iranian sites it inspected after months of stonewalling, diplomats say, and it is preparing to rebuke Tehran for failing to explain, possibly complicating U.S. efforts to revive nuclear diplomacy.

The find and Iran’s response risk hurting efforts by the new U.S. administration to restore Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, which President Joe Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump abandoned.

Although the sites where the material was found are believed to have been inactive for nearly two decades, opponents of the nuclear deal, such as Israel, say evidence of undeclared nuclear activities shows that Iran has not been acting in good faith.

Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Kazem Gharibabadi, declined to comment, as did the IAEA itself.

A senior Iranian official said: “We have nothing to hide. That is why we allowed the inspectors to visit those sites.”

Iran has set a deadline of next week for Biden to lift sanctions reimposed by Trump, or it will halt snap IAEA inspections under the deal, which lifted sanctions in return for curbs on Iran’s nuclear programme. Next week is also when the IAEA is expected to issue a quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear activities.

Seven diplomats told Reuters the agency will use that opportunity to rebuke Iran for failing to explain to its satisfaction how the uranium particles wound up at two undeclared sites. The rebuke could come either in the quarterly report or in an additional report released the same day.

OBLIGATION

U.S. intelligence agencies and the IAEA believe Iran had a secret, coordinated nuclear weapons programme that it halted in 2003, which Iran denies. The 2015 nuclear deal effectively drew a line under that past, but Iran is still required to explain evidence of undeclared past activities or material to the IAEA.

The material was found during snap IAEA inspections that were carried out at the two sites in August and September of last year, after Iran barred access for seven months.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that radioactive material was found in the samples taken by inspectors at the two sites, although the newspaper did not specify what the material was.

Four diplomats who follow the agency’s work closely told Reuters the material found in those samples was uranium.

Identifying the material as uranium creates a burden on Iran to explain it, as enriched uranium can be used in the core of a nuclear weapon. Iran is obliged to account for all uranium so the IAEA can verify it is not diverting any to a weapons programme.

Two of the sources said the uranium found last year was not enriched. But nevertheless, its presence suggests undisclosed nuclear material or activities at the sites, which Iran would have had to declare.

The IAEA’s full findings are a closely guarded secret within the agency and only a small number of countries have been informed of the specifics.

Five diplomats said that after the IAEA confronted Iran with the findings it gave unsatisfactory answers. Two of them said Iran told the agency the traces were the result of contamination by radioactive equipment moved there from another site, but the IAEA checked and the particles at the sites did not match.

One diplomat briefed on the exchanges but not the detailed findings said Iran had given “implausible answers”, describing Iran’s response as “typical delaying tactics”.

The agency has said it suspects one of the sites hosted uranium conversion work, a step in processing the material before enrichment, and the other was used for explosive testing.

The seven diplomats said they expect the agency to call Iran out for having failed to explain the traces found at the two sites, as well as over its continued failure to explain material found previously at another site in Tehran, Turqazabad.

Diplomats said it remained unclear whether the IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors, which meets the week after the quarterly report, would take action condemning Iran. Several said the focus was on efforts to salvage the 2015 deal by bringing Washington back into it.

“Everyone is waiting on the Americans,” one diplomat said.

Reporting by Francois Murphy and John Irish; Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi; Writing by Francois Murphy; Editing by Peter Graff

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The Hegemony of the Iranian Horn: Daniel 8

Iran’s use of Iraq as a missile base: Threats and logistics – analysis

Tensions with Iran appear underpinned by similar discussions about deterrence

Iran could move up to 200 long-range missiles to Iraq, a report noted earlier this week, a move that would be designed to put in place missiles that could reach Israel. The reason Iran might do this is to prevent a direct IDF retaliation against targets within Iranian territory if there is a confrontation with Iran or Hezbollah in Syria or Lebanon.

In a sense, Iran’s concept of using ballistic missiles based in Iraq is similar to the planning concepts that underpinned US-Soviet tensions over missile bases and strike capability during the Cold War. There was a question in the 1950s over the military logic of using preemption, according to a documentary on US strategic nuclear policy. There was pressure to preempt war through a first strike, which Curtis LeMay called anticipatory retaliation. The notion was that since war was unavoidable one must get the first blow in. Later the doctrine changed to examine how nuclear weapons might be used. Deterrence became a key word in the debate. The development of ballistic missile submarines ensured strategic stability because it was survivable in the case of war.

Tensions with Iran appear underpinned by similar discussions about deterrence. Iran’s use of Iraq provides the country not only with strike capabilities, but deterrence as well. However, this is not as simple as it may look on paper. Iran has been sending weapons for Iraq for years. In the 1980s, it mobilized Iraqi Shi’ites alongside its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps to fight Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The Badr corps and leaders – like Hadi al-Amiri and the late Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis – learned their trade in the 1980s. Later, Iran sent explosive device technology to Iraq. These were called “explosively formed penetrators,” which killed at least 196 Americans. In 2014, when Iran began advising the Iraqis to fight ISIS, they also sent weapons and know-how. Drones, missiles and other munitions followed.

IRAN USED the weakness of Iraq’s state structure to build a militia army in Iraq called the Hashd al-Shaabi, or PMU. This group includes the Badr Organization, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Harakat Hezbolah al-Nujaba, Kataib Hezbollah and other groups. In 2017, Qais Khazali, head of AAH, went to Lebanon to showcase Iraqi militia support for Hezbollah. By the summer of 2018 a Kataib Hezbollah headquarters, in a villa near Albukamal, was coordinating Iranian weapons trafficking from Iraq to Syria. This was part of the road to the sea network that links Iran to Lebanon: first through Iraq, then to Syria via Deir Ezzor and T-4 airbase and finally reaching Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran also moves weapons via Damascus airport and has tried to set up weapons factories. Iran has also sought to provide Hezbollah with precision guided munitions. Iran also moved drones to T-4 and, in April 2018, tried to move its 3rd Khordad air defense there as well. An airstrike destroyed the 3rd Khordad, according to Ynet. An airstrike also destroyed the KH villa in Albukamal in June 2018. Pro-Iran voices in Iraq have blamed the US-led coalition and Israel for some airstrikes. In July and August 2019, a series of airstrikes hit pro-Iranian militia warehouses in Iraq. These included Camp Falcon near Baghdad.

IN AUGUST 2018, Iran moved ballistic missiles to Iraq, according to Reuters. Iran secretly moved more missiles to Iraq in November 2019, reports indicate. Iran also constructed the Imam Ali base near Albukamal. In May 2020, it built new storage tunnels at the Imam Ali base. Iraqi-based militias linked to Iran have also vowed to support Hezbollah in a war with Israel. In February 2018, as the PMU was being incorporated into the Iraqi Security Forces, Akram al-Kaabi of Harakat Hezbollah vowed to support Hezbollah. After the US killed IRGC Quds Force head Qasem Soleimani, Hezbollah sent Sheikh Mohammed Kawtharani to Iraq to help coordinate the PMU in February 2020.

This is the complete picture of Iranian involvement in Iraq and potential Iraqi militia support for Hezbollah. This picture is also how the pro-Iranian militias in Iraq have helped festoon Syria with their networks and supporters. The ballistic missile issue has been raised in the past. Iran has moved 107 mm. short-range Katyusha rockets to Iraq to target American forces. It has also moved 122 mm. grad rockets and the Fajr 1 rocket, which have a range of nearly 60 km. The Fajr 5 has also been moved to Iraq, with a range of 75km. We also know the Fateh 110 was sent to Iraq in 2015. Iran has supplied Hamas in the past with technology such as the 240 mm. Fajr 3 rocket that has a 43km range. A CSIS report noted that Iran has shipped the Zelzal, Fateh 110 and Zolfagher to Iraq. These have ranges of 150 km. to 700 km. Iran has used precision rockets against Kurdish dissidents in Koya in 2018, against ISIS in Syria and against the US in Ayn al-Assad base in January 2020 in Iraq. Its latest attack was likely against 

IRAN’S ARSENAL of rockets is well known. It has a plethora of them and keeps increasing their abilities. A quick rundown, aside those mentioned above, include the solid-fueled Fateh 313, the liquid-fueled Shahab 1 and Qiam, as well as the Shahab 3, and the solid-fueled Sejjil. There are also the Ghadr, Khorramshahr and Emad missiles. Many of these can be mounted on trucks, making them mobile. The rockets that are solid fueled can be wheeled out and fired immediately, such as from a Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL). Iran has a large arsenal of missiles to choose from as it seeks to move some to Iraq.

The past indicates the threat the missiles in Iraq can pose to Israel. During the ‘Great Scud Hunt’ of 1991, US-led Coalition air power flew 2,493 missions trying to find Scud missiles that were supposedly out in Iraq’s western desert. 42 Scuds were launched at Israel from Iraq. At the time it was believed they were being moved on large trucks that require some time to disassemble before or after launch in order to be hidden from airstrikes. Overall the mission to find the Scuds was a disaster. Iraq’s fleet of TELs was able to disperse and the use of F-15s and U-2 spy planes, as well as A-10s, didn’t work in finding the launchers. That was back in 1991, and technology has improved since.

The Iranian base at Albukamal is around 540 km. from Israel. Missiles in Iran’s inventory with that range include the Fateh 313, the Zolfagher, Ghadr, Khorramshahr, Sejjil, the Shahab 3 and perhaps the Shahab 2 if its range can be extended. Iran has vastly increased the precision of its missiles over time, and it has added drones and other munitions to its arsenal. This makes the setup very different from 1991. Iran has shown sophisticated capabilities in the past, such as the drone and cruise missile swarm attack on Saudi Arabia in September 2019. However, it has also proved that in Syria the rockets it supplied to groups intended to be used against Israel – such as in the salvo in May 2018 or the four rockets fired in November 2019 – were not as sophisticated.

Iranian Horn Closes In To Nuclear Bomb: Daniel 8

US secretary of state: Iran ‘weeks away from having material to build nuclear bomb’

Updated 02 February 2021 Ruba Obaid February 01, 2021 15:36

JEDDAH: Iran will be weeks away from building a nuclear bomb if it stays on its current path, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned on Monday.

In his first TV interview since his appointment was confirmed last month, Blinken said Tehran was months away from being able to produce enough material for a weapon, but it would be “a matter of weeks” if it continued to breach the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal.

The future of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for an easing of economic sanctions, is an early foreign policy challenge for the new Biden administration.

Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and reimposed sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy, and Tehran has responded by gradually increasing its enrichment of uranium beyond what is permitted under the deal.

Blinken said on Monday the US was willing to return to compliance with the JCPOA if Iran did, and then work with US allies and partners on a “longer and stronger” agreement encompassing other issues.

Iran has rejected any new negotiations or changes to the participants in the JCPOA, after French President Emmanuel Macron said new talks should include Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom and its Gulf allies believe any enhanced agreement should address Iran’s ballistic missile program, and its regional meddling through proxy militias in Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.

Blinken’s reference to a timeframe for Iran’s development of a nuclear bomb means the issue must be resolved rapidly, because the US will never allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, political analyst Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News. “The US is giving Iran an ultimatum to solve the matter within weeks,” he said.

Al-Shehri said the international community was aware that if Iran obtained a nuclear weapon, it would not be alone in the region. “Other countries will not accept that Iran possesses nuclear weapons alone, and remain standing idly by,” he said.

“However, although the US is offering to open the door for Iran to return to a deal, entrance is subject to certain conditions,” Al-Shehri said. These included US follow-up to ensure Iran’s compliance, addressing other issues such as ballistic missiles, and involving other countries including Saudi Arabia, he said.

Iran would understand the threat and was unlikely to wholly reject the proposal, Al-Shehri said.

More Iranian Lies: Daniel 8

Iran Restates Pledge That It Does Not Seek Nuclear Weapons

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh restated on Monday that Tehran’s official policy prohibits the development of nuclear weapons. His comments came after Iran’s intelligence minister suggested pressure from the US could cause Iran to consider a different policy.

“Iran’s position remains unchanged. Iran’s nuclear activities have always been peaceful and will remain peaceful,” Khatibzadeh said. “The supreme leader’s fatwa banning weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons is still valid,” he said, referring to a religious edict from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Last week, Iran’s Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi made comments that were taken by Western and Israeli media as a “threat” that Iran is considering making a nuclear weapon. But even in his remarks, Alavi repeated that nuclear weapons were prohibited by Khamenei.

Our nuclear program is peaceful and the fatwa by the supreme leader has forbidden nuclear weapons, but if they push Iran in that direction, then it wouldn’t be Iran’s fault but those who pushed it,” Alavi said.

“But if a cat is caught in a corner, it may behave differently … If they are pushing Iran in that direction, then it is not Iran’s fault, but those who pushed it,” Alavi added. He also said that Tehran has no current plans to pursue a bomb.

While Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons, it has increased the activity of its civilian nuclear program as a direct result of Washington’s pressure and failure to uphold the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA. Iran is currently enriching some uranium at 20 percent and researching uranium metal. Iran hawks frame this as the Islamic Republic racing towards a bomb, but it has a civilian purpose.

Uranium enriched at 20 percent is needed to power the Tehran Research Reactor, a facility that was built by the US in the 1960s that can produce medical isotopes. To make fuel rods for the TRR, uranium metal is needed.

Since Iran is still under crippling economic sanctions, increasing enrichment to power the TRR and produce medical isotopes can help its medical sector and also gain leverage over the US. Iranian officials have made it clear that they are willing to scale back this nuclear activity to come within the limits of the JCPOA if the US lifts sanctions.

Iran Prepares to End the Nuclear Deal

Iran says it will end snap IAEA inspections if nuclear deal terms not met

Iran said on Monday it will block snap inspections by the UN nuclear watchdog this month if other parties to the 2015 nuclear deal fail to fulfil their obligations, a challenge to US President Joe Biden’s hope of reviving the accord.

“If others do not fulfil their obligations by February  21, the government is obliged to suspend the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said.

“It does not mean ending all inspections by the UN nuclear watchdog … All these steps are reversible if the other party changes its path and honours its obligations.”

The Biden administration aims to return the United States to the nuclear deal, which then-President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018. Under the deal, Iran agreed to curbs on its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of sanctions.

After Trump quit and reimposed sanctions, Iran began violating some limits in the deal. Washington and Tehran now disagree over how best to restore the accord, with both sides demanding the other side act first to return to compliance.

The nuclear deal granted wide-ranging access to the International Atomic Energy Agency to gather information on Iran’s nuclear activities. But under a law enacted last year, Iran’s government is obliged to revoke that access on February 21 if other parties are not complying with the nuclear deal.

Iran has long denied seeking nuclear weapons.

Iran’s intelligence minister said last week that persistent Western pressure could push Tehran to fight back like a “cornered cat” and seek nuclear weapons. But Khatibzadeh rejected this, citing a religious decree issued in the early 2000s by the Islamic Republic’s top authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, banning nuclear arms.

“Iran has not sought and will never seek nuclear weapons … The Supreme leader’s fatwa is valid,” said Khatibzadeh.

Iran Puts Pressure On the Obama Nuclear Deal

Iran says it will end snap IAEA inspections if nuclear deal terms not met

By Parisa Hafezi

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran said on Monday it will block snap inspections by the U.N. nuclear watchdog from next week if other parties to the 2015 nuclear deal do not uphold their obligations, a challenge to U.S. President Joe Biden’s hope of reviving the accord.

“If others do not fulfil their obligations by Feb. 21, the government is obliged to suspend the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said.

“It does not mean ending all inspections by the U.N. nuclear watchdog…All these steps are reversible if the other party changes its path and honours its obligations,” he said, alluding to the United States.

Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency wrote on Twitter on Monday that Tehran has informed U.N. watchdog about its plan next week to end sweeping inspection powers given to the agency under the nuclear pact.

Under legislation enacted by hardline Iranian lawmakers last year, the government is obliged on Feb. 21 to limit IAEA inspections to declared nuclear sites only, revoking its short-notice access to any location seen as relevant for information-gathering, if other parties did not fully comply with the deal.

The Biden administration aims to return the United States to the deal, which his predecessor Donald Trump abandoned in 2018. Under the deal, Iran agreed to curbs on its uranium enrichment programme in return for the lifting of sanctions.

After Trump quit and reimposed sanctions, Iran began violating some of the deal’s limits on sensitive uranium enrichment. Washington and Tehran now disagree over how best to restore the accord, with both sides demanding the other side act first to return to compliance.

Despite Iran’s public hard line that Washington must take the first step, however, several Iranian officials told Reuters last week that the mounting economic pain of U.S. sanctions may push Tehran to show flexibility on terms for restoring the nuclear deal.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said last week Doha was in consultations to help salvage the deal, and Iranian state media said he would meet Iran’s president and foreign minister in Tehran on Monday.

“We welcome efforts by friendly countries like Qatar … There have been consultations between Tehran and Doha at various levels,” Khatibzadeh said.

Iran has long denied striving to develop nuclear weapons through uranium enrichment, though its intelligence minister said last week persistent Western pressure could push Tehran to fight back like a “cornered cat” and seek nuclear weapons.

But Khatibzadeh rejected this, citing a religious decree issued in the early 2000s by the Islamic Republic’s top authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, banning the pursuit of nuclear arms.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Mark Heinrich)