Iran’s Deputy Atomic Energy Organization Director Ali Asghar Zarean posted a surprising report on Saturday stating that it had passed 1,200 kg. of low level enriched uranium. The IAEA and a number of Iran-watch groups regard 1,000 kg.’s of low-enriched uranium as enough for a nuclear bomb, which means that if the announcement is not disinformation, it could be a major turning point.
If true, the news could substantially accelerate the point at which Israel and the US might need to decide if they will intervene militarily before Iran develops a nuclear weapon.
There is still time for Israel and the US to deliberate, as to fire a nuclear missile, Iran would still need to decide to enrich the 1,200 kg. to 90% weaponized uranium and would need to develop a method to deliver the nuclear material – something IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi has said could take another year.
The announcement was shocking as the last update about the Islamic Republic’s uranium stock set it at under 400 kg. and less than two weeks ago Kochavi predicted that Tehran would not reach 1,300 kg. until the end of 2020.
Other top officials like former IDF intelligence chief Amos Yadlin had predicted Iran would not reach this threshold until the summer or early fall. Even former IAEA official Olli Heinonen (now at the Stimson Center) had not predicted Iran would get to this point as fast, suggesting April might be the earliest.
Prior to the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran had roughly ten times as much uranium – enough for 10 nuclear bombs – but never enriched any uranium above the 20% level – a medium level that it has not yet reached this time.
Two sources The Jerusalem Post spoke to were unsure whether the announcement was accurate or a disinformation campaign.
Neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor Blue and White leader Benny Gantz had responded by press time and the IDF would not address such a foreign report.
In the announcement, Zarean said Iran has the capacity to enrich uranium at any percentage if Iranian authorities decide to do so.
“At the moment, if [Iranian authorities] make the decision, the Atomic Energy Organization, as the executor, will be able to enrich uranium at any percentage,” Ali Asghar Zarean said.
Iran said earlier this month it would scrap limitations on enriching uranium, taking a further step back from commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal with six major powers, but pledged to continue cooperating with the UN nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal in May 2018 and reimposed sanctions to throttle Iran’s oil exports as part of a “maximum pressure” policy.
The United States says it aims to force Tehran to agree to a broader deal that puts stricter limits on its nuclear work, curbs a ballistic missile program and ends regional proxy wars. Iran says it will not negotiate while sanctions remain in place.
Tehran has steadily been reducing its compliance with the deal, which prompted Britain, France and Germany to formally accuse it in mid-January of violating the terms and activating a dispute mechanism in the deal, which could eventually lead to the reimposition of UN sanctions.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said last week that if Iran’s nuclear file is sent to the Security Council, the country will withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), according to the official IRNA news agency.
Source » JPOST