Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said on Monday that Iran is increasing its production of enriched uranium as part of its quest to build nuclear weapons.
Amano’s statement is important because it marks the first time since the signing of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that the UN’s nuclear watchdog has indicated that Iran is violating its nuclear-related commitments.
Talking to reporters in the IAEA’s Vienna headquarters, Amano said that the Iran deal – known officially as the JCPOA – was “under tension,” adding that Tehran’s “production rate [of uranium] is increasing” – although he could not say by how much.
Amano added that he was “worried about” Iran’s nuclear program, and voiced the hope “that ways can be found to reduce current tensions through dialogue.”
Iran announced in May that it would suspend some commitments under the JCPOA in retaliation for economic sanctions reinstated by the US.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said later on Monday that reducing tensions is only possible by halting what he called the “economic war by America.”
“Those who wage such wars cannot expect to remain safe,” he told a news conference in Tehran alongside his visiting German counterpart, Heiko Maas.
Zarif threatened that Tehran would not remain passive in response to what he called threats from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to destroy Iran.
Netanyahu did not hesitate to lash back at Zarif.
“Zarif is lying again,” Netanyahu said. “Iran is the one that openly threatens, every day, to destroy the State of Israel. Iran continues to entrench itself militarily in Syria. And today, the IAEA reports that Iran is accelerating its nuclear program.
“I repeat: Israel will not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons that threaten our existence and endanger the entire world.”
How, then, does Israel plan to stop Iran from becoming nuclear? The answer, according to Israeli officials, is that the US – supported by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states – must make it clear to Tehran that if it doesn’t play ball, sanctions will be stepped up until it does.
And yes, if it continues to pursue a nuclear program that would threaten not just the US and Israel but the whole world, then military action must be considered to send Iran a more forceful message.
This is the time to remind the Islamic republic that during Operation Opera on June 7, 1981, Israel’s Air Force destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor under construction southeast of Baghdad.
Then in Operation Outside the Box on September 6, 2007, the IAF destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor under construction in the northeast of the country.
Is Israel capable of destroying Iran’s nuclear program, too? Israeli experts say yes, but most agree that it would be better for US President Donald Trump to take the leading role this time, if all diplomatic efforts and economic sanctions fail.
Let us make no mistake about it: Iran’s declared mission is to wipe Israel off the map via its proxies in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza, through terrorism, and, if necessary, a direct military confrontation.
Since first becoming prime minister in 1996, Netanyahu has made it his primary goal to protect Israel from a nuclear Iran. He defied international pressure to back the Iran deal, speaking out against it in Congress and at every available opportunity with world leaders.
Netanyahu is facing another tough election campaign amid charges of alleged corruption. But on one issue he deserves credit and support from all Israelis: he has not wavered from his mission to warn against the dangers posed by a nuclear Iran, and when necessary, he has taken action.
According to his associates, Netanyahu would like to go down in history as the leader who stopped Iran from becoming nuclear.
Israel has nothing against the Iranian people, who it is hoped will one day free themselves from the shackles of their radical regime. But in the meantime, Iran’s nuclear drive must be stopped, no matter what it takes – before it’s too late.