Iran now talks openly about enriched uranium and nuclear weapons

FILE - In this photo released by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, technicians work at the Arak heavy water reactor's secondary circuit, as officials and media visit the site, near Arak, 150 miles (250 kilometers) southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran, Dec. 23, 2019. Iranian officials now speak openly about something long denied by Tehran as it enriches uranium at its closest-ever levels to weapons-grade material: Iran is ready to build an atomic weapon at will. This could be put to the test Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, as Iran, the U.S. and the European Union prepare for a snap summit that appears to be a last-ditch effort in Vienna to revive Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Iranian officials now speak openly about something long denied by Tehran as it enriches uranium at its closest-ever levels to weapons-grade material: The Islamic Republic is ready to build an atomic weapon at will.

The remarks could be bluster to force more bargaining-table concessions from the U.S. without planning to seek the bomb. Or, as analysts warn, Iran could reach a point like North Korea did some 20 years ago where it decides having the ultimate weapon outweighs any further international sanctions.

All this could be put to the test Thursday as Iran, the U.S. and the European Union prepare for a snap summit that appears to be a last-ditch effort in Vienna to revive Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal amid the new pressure. That includes one Iranian video online suggesting the country’s ballistic missiles could “turn New York into a heap of rubble from hell.”

Hyperbole aside, the language taken as a whole marks a distinct verbal escalation from Tehran.

“In a few days we were able to enrich uranium up to 60% and we can easily produce 90% enriched uranium. … Iran has the technical means to produce a nuclear bomb but there has been no decision by Iran to build one,” Kamal Kharrazi, an adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told Al Jazeera in mid-July. Uranium enriched at 90% is considered weapons-grade.

Ataollah Mohajerani, a culture minister under reformist President Mohammad Khatami, then wrote in Iran’s Etemad daily newspaper that Kharrazi’s announcement that Iran could make a nuclear weapon provided a “moral lesson” for Israel and President Joe Biden.

And finally Mohammad Eslami, the head of Iran’s civilian nuclear agency, made his own reported comment about a potential military aspect to Iran’s program.

“As Mr. Kharrazi mentioned, Iran has the technical ability to make an atomic bomb, but there is no such plan on the agenda,” Eslami said Monday, according to the semiofficial Fars news agency.

Eslami’s agency later said he had been “misunderstood and misjudged” — likely a sign Iran’s theocracy didn’t want him to have been so specific. Eslami’s threat also carries more weight than others as he’s directly worked for Iranian defense agencies linked to Iran’s military nuclear program — including one that secretly built uranium-enriching centrifuges with Pakistani nuclear proliferator A.Q. Khan’s help.

But by 2003, Iran had abandoned its military nuclear program, according to U.S. intelligence agencies, America’s European allies and IAEA inspectors. The U.S. had just invaded Iraq, citing later-debunked claims of Saddam Hussein hiding weapons of mass destruction. America already was at war in Afghanistan, another nation neighboring Iran.

Libya under then-dictator Moammar Gadhafi gave up its own nascent military atomic program that relied on the same Pakistani-designed centrifuges that Tehran bought from Khan.

Ultimately, Iran reached its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which saw it receive economic sanctions relief while it drastically curtailed its program. Under the deal, Tehran could enrich uranium to 3.67%, while maintaining a stockpile of uranium of 300 kilograms (660 pounds) under constant scrutiny of IAEA surveillance cameras and inspectors.

The Yucatan Times
Newsroom



Comments

comments