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Iran Starts 20% Uranium Enrichment, Netanyahu: “This Proves Iran Is Seeking Nuclear Power”

Following an announcement by Iran on Monday that it began enriching uranium up to 20% at an underground facility, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stated that the move proves that the Islamic Republic is seeking nuclear weapons.

“Iran’s decision to continue violating its obligations, raise enrichment and promote industrial uranium enrichment capabilities underground cannot be explained in any way, other than a desire to continue realizing its goal of developing a military nuclear program,” the prime minister wrote on Twitter.

“Israel will not allow Iran to manufacture nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu decisively concluded.

Iranian state television quoted spokesman Ali Rabiei as saying that President Hassan Rouhani had given the order for the move at the Fordo facility.

Iran’s decision to begin enriching to 20% purity a decade ago nearly triggered an Israeli strike targeting its nuclear facilities, tensions that only abated with the 2015 atomic deal. A resumption of 20% enrichment could see that brinksmanship return as that level of purity is only a technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%.

Iran’s move comes after its parliament passed a bill, later approved by a constitutional watchdog, aimed at hiking enrichment to pressure Europe into providing sanctions relief. It also serves as pressure ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, who has said he is willing to re-enter the nuclear deal.

Iran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency last week that it planned to take the step. The IAEA said Monday that “agency inspectors have been monitoring activities” at Fordo and that its director-general Rafael Mariano Grossi planned to issue a report to member nations of the U.N. organization later in the day.

Iran’s announcement coincides with the anniversary of the U.S. drone strike killing Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad last year. Iran responded by launching ballistic missiles at U.S. bases in Iraq, injuring dozens of U.S. troops. Tehran also accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet that night, killing all 176 people on board.

As the anniversary approached and fears grew of possible Iranian retaliation, the U.S. dispatched B-52 bombers over the region and ordered a nuclear-powered submarine into the Persian Gulf.

Last week, sailors discovered a limpet mine stuck on a tanker in the Persian Gulf off Iraq near the Iranian border as it prepared to transfer fuel to another tanker owned by a company traded on the New York Stock Exchange. No one has claimed responsibility for the mining, though it comes after a series of similar attacks in 2019 near the Strait of Hormuz that the U.S. Navy blamed on Iran. Tehran denied being involved.

In November, an Iranian scientist who founded the country’s military nuclear program two decades earlier was killed in an attack that Tehran blames on Israel.

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem & AP)

2 Responses

  1. Making Iran’s enriched uranium the focus of the world’s attention is a ploy by Iran to distract the world from the real issue, and that is their ongoing nuclear program. Iran is currently still doing research and development into how to establish a state of the art nuclear weapons arsenal, which requires the ability to make nuclear warheads and the ability to produce weapons grade nuclear material in bulk. And only once they can produce nuclear missiles will they put their nuclear material to use. It is not their intention to explode a single nuclear bomb that they will smuggle into their target country in a suitcase. So the focus on Iran’s nuclear material is completely misguided.

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