Iran's 20% enrichment is its biggest step toward nukes - analysis

This is a major step forward to a nuclear bomb, the most significant step the Islamic Republic has taken since the 2015 nuclear deal.

PEOPLE GATHER around the water nuclear reactor at Arak, Iran, in December 2019. (photo credit: WANA NEWS AGENCY/REUTERS)
PEOPLE GATHER around the water nuclear reactor at Arak, Iran, in December 2019.
(photo credit: WANA NEWS AGENCY/REUTERS)
Most of the noise surrounding the anniversary of the death of Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani and the end of the Trump administration’s term is focused on whether there will be a last-minute war.
Shockingly, Israel, the Trump administration and the incoming Biden administration are not commenting on the likely more significant news that Iran has decided to start enriching uranium up to 20% purity.
This is a major step forward to a nuclear bomb, the most significant one the Islamic Republic has taken since the 2015 nuclear deal.
It has had numerous violations since mid-2019 but had stopped any escalation of new violations near the start of 2020.
Yet, after the November assassination of Iran military nuclear program chief Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran’s parliament passed a law requiring it to enrich to 20% uranium by early February.
Although 90% uranium enrichment is required for a nuclear weapon, both Israeli intelligence officials and nuclear-weapons experts have told The Jerusalem Post the jump from around 5% enrichment to 20% is much more significant. That is because it is harder to get from 5% to 20% than it is to get from 20% to 90%.
Tehran did not say when it will start the 20% enrichment, and its law allows it to wait until February, giving the Biden administration at least a couple of weeks to convince it not to do so.
This may be the ayatollahs’ game: Pressure Biden into a more favorable nuclear deal and threaten or even start 20% enrichment as a way to present stopping its efforts as a concession. Or it may not be a game at all.
If it is not a game, Iran must keep in mind that the last time it was enriching at 20%, Israel started talking louder and more seriously about a preemptive strike on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear facilities.
The quiet from Israel, Trump and Biden could be misleading.
No one wants a crisis in Trump’s last few weeks in office or in Biden’s first few weeks. But everyone continues to maneuver for leverage.
Will Iran follow through with the threat in a serious way? Is 20% just a bluff? Or is it a temporary move designed to be given up as a concession in the near future?
The answer could be the difference between whether there will be a larger conflict with Iran in 2021.


Tags Nuclear