Israel said to expect US to prepare credible military option

Iran gearing up to enrich uranium to weapons-grade soon, Israel reportedly warns US

Tehran is capable of producing 90% enriched uranium within weeks, Israeli defense figures quoted saying; in 2nd report, officials say Biden needs to assemble anti-Iran coalition

Various centrifuge machines line a hall at the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility, on April 17, 2021. (screenshot, Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting - IRIB, via AP)
Various centrifuge machines line a hall at the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility, on April 17, 2021. (screenshot, Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting - IRIB, via AP)

Israel has been sharing intelligence with the United States showing that Iran is “taking technical steps to prepare to enrich uranium” to weapons-grade 90 percent purity, according to a report Monday.

The preparations could enable Tehran to reach weapons-grade level within just a few weeks, Axios reported, citing two US sources briefed on the matter. Israeli analysts have reportedly warned the US that Iran could make such a decision soon, in order to influence the nuclear talks with world powers, which restarted in Vienna on Monday months after they were suspended.

Iran is currently enriching uranium to 60% purity, already far exceeding the cap set in the 2015 nuclear deal. There is no civilian use for 90% enriched uranium.

In public comments on Monday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that Israeli defense officials were sharing intelligence with allies “indicating Iran is continuing to rush toward a nuclear” bomb ahead of the resumption of the nuclear talks. He called on world powers to exact a “price” from Iran for its continued uranium enrichment in violation of the 2015 nuclear deal.

“There needs to be a price that is expressed in economic sanctions and military activities so that the Iranians halt their nuclear race and their regional aggression,” Gantz added.

Israel also reportedly shared intelligence indicating that the Islamic Republic could intensify its attacks on US forces in the Middle East, via proxies in various countries, in a bid to gain leverage in the talks.

The Coburg Palais, the venue of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) revival talks, in Vienna on November 29, 2021. (VLADIMIR SIMICEK / AFP)

In a separate report Monday, Channel 13 news quoted two Israeli officials as saying they had advised the US to begin building up military forces in the Middle East in case the nuclear negotiations fail.

The unnamed officials said that Israel expects US President Joe Biden to prepare a credible military option against Iran. They also said Biden should begin to assemble an international coalition to enhance such an option.

The network also reported that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett would like to speak with Biden to explain Israel’s concerns about the nuclear talks.

International talks on Iran’s nuclear program restarted on Monday in Vienna, after a five-month hiatus, with Tehran demanding the removal of American sanctions as a condition for restoring the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran said on Monday that it had “a firm determination to reach an agreement and is looking forward to fruitful talks.”

“If the other side shows the same willingness, we will be on the right track to reach an agreement,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Said Khatibzadeh said.

But later Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said that “the return of the US to the nuclear deal would be meaningless without guarantees to prevent the recurrence of the bitter experience of the past.”

In a statement ahead of the resumption of talks, Bennett urged world powers not to “give in to Iran’s nuclear blackmail.”

Bennett said Tehran is seeking “to end sanctions in exchange for almost nothing,” and keep its nuclear program intact while receiving hundreds of billions of dollars, once sanctions are lifted.

If the world powers capitulate, “Iran won’t just keep its nuclear program; from today, they’ll be getting paid for it,” he warned.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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