Interior of Bushehr nuclear plant 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Stringer Iran)
Iran has installed many more uranium enrichment machines in an underground
bunker, diplomatic sources said on Thursday, potentially paving the way for a
significant expansion of work the West fears is ultimately aimed at making
Several sources said Iran had put in place additional
enrichment centrifuges in its Fordow facility, buried deep inside a mountain to
protect it against any enemy strikes.
One source suggested it involved
hundreds of machines.
“Our basic understanding is that they were
continuing to install,” a Vienna-based diplomat said, adding the new centrifuges
were not yet operating.
If confirmed in a report expected next week from
the UN atomic watchdog, the development is likely to be seen as a sign of Iran’s
continued defiance of international demands to curb its nuclear program, which
Tehran says is entirely peaceful.
At Fordow, near the holy Shi’ite city
of Qom, Iran is enriching uranium to a fissile concentration of 20 percent,
activity which the West wants it to stop immediately as it brings it closer to
the level required for nuclear weapons.
In a possible sign of further
Iranian defiance in the face of such pressure, several sources said Iran had put in place additional
enrichment centrifuges in the Fordow facility, buried deep inside a mountain to
protect it against enemy strikes.
One source suggested hundreds of
machines had been installed.
The most recently retired IDF chief of
staff, Lt.-Col (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, has added his voice to the chorus of
former defense officials saying that there was no need for a military strike on
Iran’s nuclear program at this time.
One Western envoy said that the
suspected clean-up at Parchin
was “intensifying” and that this made it doubtful
that inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would uncover
any hard evidence there, even if they were allowed to go.
extent of the cleanup, it is indeed unlikely the agency, if it ever gets access,
would find anything at Parchin,” the diplomat said.
There was no
immediate comment from Iran's mission to the Vienna-based UN atomic agency. It
has previously dismissed the allegations about Parchin, which it says is a
conventional military facility, as “ridiculous.”
In video footage taken
by a Makor Rishon journalist and aired on Channel 2 on Thursday evening,
Ashkenazi said that “we’re still not there,” adding that a metaphorical nuclear
suitcase was not about to be sent in Israel’s direction from
Instead of a strike, Ashkenazi said, a “combination of strategies”
should be employed at this time, listing a covert war and economic sanctions
coupled with diplomacy as some of the required steps.
“These should be
supported by a third strategy, and that is keeping a military option that is
realistic and credible,” Ashkenazi added. “That is what I think has to be
The former army chief said he hoped a combination of all the
measures would be enough to get Iran to suspend its nuclear
Turning his attention to the civil war raging in Syria,
Ashkenazi said the toppling of the Assad regime would “at the end of the day
improve our strategic situation... even if Assad is replaced by a Sunni regime
Ashkenazi said that he did not believe Egypt would turn
into a violent Islamist regime hellbent on using force against Israel anytime
“I don’t think they can commit a serious act even if they get [the
capabilities],” he said.