Several sources are reporting that the Israeli government informed the Biden administration and its western allies that Iran “is taking technical steps to prepare to enrich uranium to 90% purity — the level needed to produce a nuclear weapon,” according to Axios.
The report comes as Iran and the six nations negotiating with Tehran to reestablish the 2015 nuclear deal are sitting down in Vienna, Austria to discuss ways that the agreement could be reactivated.
Israel has been a strong opponent of the nuclear deal from the start. But they’ve been very accurate in their reporting so far, including uncovering tens of thousands of pages of documents in a daring midnight raid on a warehouse in Tehran that revealed that the Iranian government was still working on the bomb despite their denials.
When it comes to Iran, Israel has impeccable intelligence sources. So would Iran really be so stupid as to invite an attack by the Israelis with U.S. support?
Enrichment alone will not produce a bomb. Estimates vary as to how long it would take Iran to master the additional technological requirements, but U.S. and Israeli intelligence sources have put the timeline at one to two years.
Iran is already enriching uranium to 60%, far beyond the levels allowed under the 2015 nuclear deal that Donald Trump abandoned and President Biden is now attempting to salvage.
There is no civilian use for 90%-enriched uranium.
Iran has been working on a bomb for at least 30 years, so it’s assumed that they already have a bomb design and have simulated an explosion hundreds of times. They know what they have, and they know it will work.
But developing a delivery system is another matter entirely. Fitting a nuclear warhead atop one of their unreliable long-range missiles could be beyond their technological expertise — at the moment.
The intelligence Israel shared with the Biden administration suggests the Iranian preparatory steps would allow Iran to move ahead with 90% enrichment within weeks if it chose to do so, according to one of the U.S. sources.
Israeli intelligence analysts assess that Iran could take that dramatic step soon in an attempt to gain leverage in the Vienna talks, the source said.
Israel also shared an intelligence assessment that Iran’s desire for leverage in Vienna could lead Tehran to further increase attacks against U.S. forces and interests in the region via proxies in Yemen, Syria and Iraq, the U.S. source said.
What kind of leverage? Iran is a failing state economically and needs the sanctions lifted immediately or there will be a revolution in the streets.
Any Iranian escalation to weapons-grade enrichment would have to be authorized by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But economic pressures inside Iran are now critical, limiting the regime’s ability even to pay off its most loyal supporters and fueling political instability . Khamenei wants economic relief that only the West can provide, but without providing much in return. He might see enrichment to 90% purity as a means to play hardball in that pursuit.
What would follow if Iran took that action?
Starting a war has been the final gambit of failing regimes for centuries. If Khamenei gives in to the west and halts uranium enrichment while also limiting his nuclear program, his own hardliners would have his head on a platter.
So Khamenei’s path is set. He will continue to escalate until someone stops him. And since Joe Biden is too busy trying to find ways to surrender to Iran, it will have to be Israel that takes on the thankless task of ridding the world of the Iranian nuclear threat.