newsIsrael at War

Israel restarts working groups on Iran nuclear threat

The six groups, in the Mossad, Israel Security Agency and other intelligence and cyber agencies, were restarted after a year and a half break.

The inside of an uranium conversion facility just outside the city of Isfahan, about 254 miles south of Tehran, Iran, in 2005. Photo by Getty Images.
The inside of an uranium conversion facility just outside the city of Isfahan, about 254 miles south of Tehran, Iran, in 2005. Photo by Getty Images.

Israel is reestablishing working groups in various government bodies to discuss the Iran nuclear threat, after they were frozen some 18 months ago, Axios reported on Wednesday.

The initiative, overseen by Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi, restarts six groups in the Mossad, the Israel Security Agency and in the intelligence and cyber fields, according to the report. The Mossad groups will focus on the nuclear program and weaponization, while the ISA will focus on combating Iranian influence campaigns in Israel. The other teams will combat cyber threats vis-a-vis Hezbollah and the Houthis, according to Axios.

The same report, citing Israeli and American officials, said that Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant had discussed the Iranian nuclear threat in his meetings with U.S. officials in Washington this week.

The news comes as developments regarding Tehran’s nuclear program continue to cause concern in Jerusalem and Washington.

It was reported on Tuesday that Israel and the United States had agreed to reschedule a high-level meeting on the Iranian threat that was canceled after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the Biden administration of withholding arms from Jerusalem.

The U.S.-Israel Strategic Consultative Group (SCG), which was formed during the Obama administration, has not convened since March of last year.

The “strategic dialogue” is led by U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and his Israeli counterpart Hanegbi, and includes officials from the U.S. State Department, Pentagon and intelligence agencies.

The United Kingdom’s ambassador to the United Nations said on Monday that London and other European parties are prepared to reinstate sanctions on Iran should it continue to advance its nuclear program.

“Given Iran’s dangerous advances which have brought it to the brink of being able to develop a weapon, this situation should be of grave concern for this council,” Ambassador Barbara Woodward told a U.N. Security Council meeting focusing on implementation of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal.

The JCPOA, given the force of international law by a Security Council resolution, included what’s known as a “snap back” mechanism, whereby any signatory to the accord can claim Iran is in violation of its terms, almost inevitably leading to the restoration of the sanctions in place before the pact’s signing.

Tehran is reportedly set to triple or possibly quadruple its uranium enrichment capacity at Fordow, one of the country’s most secretive nuclear facilities, where it is installing some 1,400 advanced IR-6 centrifuges. Under the terms of the JCPOA, Iran had committed not to install or operate those centrifuges, and not to use Fordow for enrichment purposes. 

Tehran’s decision to do so is potentially an answer to a censure of the Islamic Republic on June 5 by the International Atomic Energy Agency board of governors, which demanded it comply with the IAEA and reinstate inspections. The effort was led by the so-called E3 of the United Kingdom, Germany and France.

A statement on Monday from the E3 said that Iran’s recent nuclear activity “has no credible civilian justification.”

Iran’s top nuclear official said on Sunday that the IAEA’s mandate is limited to the legal boundaries of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), suggesting Iran’s new position is that it does not need to comply with the IAEA demand.

Iran has accused the E3 of failing to live up to the terms of the JCPOA, to which all of them are signatories, and claims that its own actions are “to restore a balance in reciprocal commitments and benefits under the JCPOA.”

The IAEA also confirmed that, for the first time, Iran has commenced the process of feeding uranium gas into three cascades of advanced IR-4 and IR-6 centrifuges at its Natanz enrichment facility.

In a speech to the Knesset on Monday, Netanyahu highlighted this threat, saying Iran is working to destroy Israel and that Jerusalem would act to deter this threat.

“At any cost and in any way, we will thwart Iran’s intentions to destroy us,” he pledged.

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