(February 21, 2023 / JNS) Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen on Tuesday called on the United States to issue a credible military threat against Iran, after International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors found uranium enriched to near weapons-grade in the Islamic Republic.
“Iran is very close to 90% enrichment of uranium. The United States must put a credible military threat on the table immediately,” said Cohen at an event in Jerusalem hosted by the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. Cohen also slammed Iran for being the world’s “number one” financier of global terrorism.
The IAEA said on Monday it was in talks with Tehran after inspectors last week detected uranium enriched to 84% in the Islamic Republic.
Bloomberg reported on Sunday, citing two senior diplomats, that the IAEA was trying to clarify how Tehran accumulated the material, which is at the highest level of enrichment found by monitors in the country to date.
Iran has been enriching uranium to up to 60% since April 2021. Three months ago, it started enriching to 60% at a second site at Fordow.
Earlier this month, the IAEA chastised the Islamic Republic for modifying the connection between the two groups of high-tech machines at its Fordow plant. The change was discovered during an unannounced inspection on Jan. 21 at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP), a location built into a mountain where inspectors are beefing up checks after Iran said it would drastically increase enrichment.
A diplomat cited in a Reuters report implied that the 84% enriched uranium was found at the same site as the reconfigured cascades, or clusters, of centrifuges.
The spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization on Monday described the accusation as “slanderous.”
Prior to his visit to Israel earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that while Washington prefers a diplomatic path forward with Iran, all options remain on the table.
In an interview with Al Arabiya’s Nadia Bilbassy at the U.S. embassy in Cairo, the top American diplomat said Iran had turned its back on a diplomatic solution.
“Iran had an opportunity to get back into the [2015 nuclear deal] at the end of this past summer,” Blinken said.
“Unfortunately, they rejected what was on the table and had been agreed to by everybody. Now our focus is on the many things that have happened since, including the horrific repression of the Iranian people on the streets of Iran, as young people, women in particular, have been standing up for their basic rights, and very important communities across Iranian society are doing the same thing and are being repressed violently by the regime,” he added.
When asked by Bilbassy whether the United States would pursue a military option if necessary, Blinken replied, “Everything is on the table.”
On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Iran was constantly attempting to attack the Jewish state.
“On the Iranian front, our efforts are unceasing for the simple reason that Iran’s acts of aggression are unceasing. Last week, Iran again attacked an oil tanker in the Persian Gulf and struck at the international freedom of navigation,” said Netanyahu.
Iran rejected on Monday Jerusalem’s assertion that Tehran was behind the Feb. 10 attack on the Campo Square, whose owner is Zodiac Maritime, a shipping company led by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told the annual Munich Security Conference on Friday that Tehran was also currently engaged in negotiations to sell dozens of countries advanced weapons ahead of the upcoming expiration of a U.N. arms embargo on the Islamic Republic.
“Iran is no longer a ‘local supplier’ serving proxies in the Middle East. It is a ‘multinational corporation,’ a global exporter of advanced weapons,” said Gallant. “From Belarus in Eastern Europe to Venezuela in South America—we have seen Iran delivering UAVs with a range of up to 1,000 kilometers. In fact, Iran is currently holding discussions to sell advanced weapons … to no less than 50 different countries.”
Gallant called on world powers to take concrete steps to prevent the proliferation of Iranian arms once the U.N. arms embargo expires on Oct. 18 in accordance with the terms of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) from which the United States withdrew in May 2018.
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