The Iranian nuclear threat gets louder

IAEA's report shows uranium at 4.5% purity, more than the agreement ceiling.The mullahs are showing us that they can go higher. Op-ed.

Dr. Salem Al Ketbi  ,

warehouse where IAEA found traces of uranium, September 9, 2019
warehouse where IAEA found traces of uranium, September 9, 2019
I24 News

While the world is watching the political controversy in the United States over President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede defeat in the recent presidential election, and the investigations of voter fraud allegations, a serious report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) points to a rising threat from Iran’s mullahs.

The reckless regime now has more than 12 times the amount of enriched uranium allowed under the 2015 nuclear deal between the mullahs and the P5+1 group. Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium hit 2,443 kg this month, according to the report. According to the report, the Iranian regime’s interpretation of the existence of nuclear material in an undeclared location is “not credible.”

Not only have the violations of the mullahs’ regime concern the enriched uranium stockpile, but they have also included enrichment rates. The IAEA report notes that the regime maintains enriched uranium at purity levels of up to 4.5%, in violation of the 3.67% ceiling set in the nuclear agreement.

“Any hasty comments should be avoided,” Kazem Gharibabadi, Iran’s representative to the IAEA, wrote back in a tweet. Communications are underway to address this issue, he said.

The truth for us observers is that the findings of this report are not at all surprising. Its importance, however, lies in the timing.

The White House, which will change come January 20, is turning the world’s attention to President-Elect Joe Biden as he takes over - or as some think, if he takes over - from outgoing President Donald Trump. Many expect the new president to find a way to get back to the flawed nuclear deal.

In any case, the US position on the nuclear agreement signed with the Iranian mullahs should not be the subject of a political row between two administrations, Republican and Democrat. The issue carries more risks than a simple political contrast. There are many signs this deal has failed to check Iran’s run to military nuclear weapons.

The testimony given in this recent report by an international body concerned with the transparency of Iran’s nuclear capabilities is enough. This body has long been misled by the mullahs’ regime which hid stocks of enriched uranium and enrichment systems in secret military facilities that are not subject to IAEA inspections.

But the mullahs have not hidden their plan to violate the terms of the nuclear agreement since mid-2017, in order to pressure the Trump administration to lift sanctions against Iran. These threats are part of the reasons why President Trump decided to pull out of the accord in 2018.

It could be argued that producing nuclear weapons requires increasing enrichment to 90% and that what the IAEA has observed is a slight rise in this rate. This is a statistical truth. But scientifically it may tell a different story.

The mullahs are striving to overcome the so-called technical challenges of enriching uranium to 20%; then the road will be easy to get to nuclear-grade enrichment. It seems more likely to me that this small hike is not due to a technical obstacle.

In fact, the mullahs found a happy medium, as going too far could trigger a pre-emptive military strike. They are simply sending a sign of their ability to hit the high-level enrichment target.

The mullahs’ regime had initially reached a 20% enrichment level in 2010—obviously, they have the needed technology and can overcome all the technical obstacles to reach the critical level. The Iranian president said at the time that “our enrichment rate is [...] going to be as much as we want it to be” in a forthright message whose political content cannot go unnoticed by an observer.


In truth, I doubt all the figures sent to the IAEA, knowing that this is a regime gifted in conning, manipulation and lies.
Prior to signing a nuclear deal, some pundits were sure that it would take about three months for the mullahs to produce enough highly enriched uranium to design a nuclear weapon. They suggested that it is rather a political decision of the mullahs to determine the possibility of producing a nuclear weapon.

The technical and temporal aspects have to do with stepping up the number and quality of centrifuges. What happened is that the nuclear accord required the mullahs to scrap two-thirds of the centrifuges.

Some signatories said that Iran had renounced possession of the enriched uranium needed to make a bomb, given the prohibition on keeping more than 300 kg of low-enriched uranium. This was absurd. After the first dispute, the mullahs announced that they had exceeded the stockpiling cap.

In truth, I doubt all the figures sent to the IAEA, knowing that this is a regime gifted in conning, manipulation and lies. Before the Iran deal, the mullahs had more than 10,000 kg of low-enriched uranium (less than 5%); now they have a quarter of this amount, even though they are theoretically still in the agreement.

Summing up this wrong-headed debate, the so-called main achievement of the nuclear agreement, namely to put some distance between the mullahs and the nuclear weapons possession, is an untrue achievement that can be manipulated and vanish within a few months. That’s already happening.

All the so-called restrictions imposed on the regime are there to buy time and not to wipe out the source of regional and global danger. The so-called achievement only meant longer time for the mullahs to produce enough fissile isotopes to make a nuclear bomb - from three months to a year at least.

Is this accomplishment worth the effort of international partners to uphold the deal? Is this agreement really worth all the disagreement between Washington and its Atlantic allies? The answer should come from the next US administration, which may not want to rush back to a flawed, almost expired nuclear deal.

Dr. Salem AlKetbi is a UAE political analyst and former Federal National Council candidate



top