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Iran admits its nuclear programme is capable of building a bomb

What happened: A senior adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei spoke out yesterday relating to progress made in Iran’s nuclear programme.

  • Kamal Kharazi said in an interview on Al Jazeera, “In a few days we were able to enrich uranium up to 60 per cent and we can easily produce 90 per cent enriched uranium … Iran has the technical means to produce a nuclear bomb but there has been no decision by Iran to build one.”
  • Kharazi, who is also the head of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, further claimed that Iran has conducted training exercises to strike deep into Israel, were the latter to “target our sensitive facilities”.
  • He also said that Iran would never negotiate over its missile programme and regional policy.

Israel’s positioning: At the beginning of yesterday’s weekly Cabinet Meeting, Prime Minister Lapid reflected on President Joe Biden’s visit last week and the Iranian threat. Lapid said: “Throughout the visit, I made it clear to the President and his team that Israel opposes the nuclear agreement and reserves its right to full freedom of diplomatic and operational action against the Iranian nuclear programme.”

  • He also restated the importance of the Jerusalem Declaration that he and President Biden co-signed, “which ensures the Israeli security establishment’s qualitative edge”.
  • However, they did not reach agreement over the need to present Iran with a credible military threat for diplomacy to work in curtailing Iran’s nuclear programme.
  • Last night IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi spoke at a ceremony of the Home Front Command. He said that “preparing the military option against the Iranian nuclear programme is a moral duty and a national security imperative”.
  • Kochavi added: “Preparing the home front for war is a task that is going to have to be expedited in the coming years, especially given the possibility that we may be obliged to operate against the nuclear threat.”
  • “The IDF has continued to prepare energetically for an attack on Iran and must prepare for any development and any scenario. Readying for a military operation against the nuclear programme is at the focus of the IDF’s preparations, and that includes a range of operational plans, allocating large resources, acquiring suitable weapons systems, intelligence and training.”

US perspective: On the plane from Israel to Saudi Arabia on Friday, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told journalists the US is still waiting on Iran to respond to its offer of “compliance-for-compliance” for returning to the JCPOA nuclear deal.

  • Sullivan clarified: “We’re also not waiting to continue to impose economic pressure on Iran, further economic pressure on Iran is to include two rounds of sanctions designations that we have done to enforce the sanctions and crack down on smuggling and deprive Iran of sources of revenue.”
  • He added that talks “will not stay open indefinitely and we’re not circling a date on the calendar”.

Context: Kamal Kharazi could be the first senior Iranian official to publicly admitted that their nuclear programme could be used for military purposes.

  • Kharazi, a former Iranian Foreign Minister, is likely to have been specifically chosen to deliver the message as a negotiating tactic over the stalled JCPOA talks. He is high-ranking enough to have credibility, whist no longer holding any senior office.
  • Iran has the technological ability to move from 60 per cent uranium enrichment to 90 per cent, which Israeli analysts suggest would take around two months.
  • According to the latest reporting from the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran had a stockpile of 43.1 kilograms of 60 per cent enriched uranium. Iran has moved 90 per cent of this stock to its site in Esfahan, where it maintains a capability to make enriched uranium metal.
  • Iran’s work on enriched uranium metal and knowledge of how to produce it is a serious concern for the international community as the metal is needed in order to make the core of a nuclear bomb.
  • It is still unclear, how advanced Iran has moved on to the weaponisation stage of building a nuclear bomb, with some estimates suggesting this could take another year and half.

Looking ahead: In a perceived response to President Biden’s visit to the region, Iran is hosting Russian President Putin and Turkish President Erdogan this week.

  • Israel is today hosting General Michael E. Kurilla, the commander of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM). They will discuss the importance of an integrated air and missile defence system, as well as the continued need for strong regional security cooperation.

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