Israel's concerns grow as Iran races towards nukes
Amir Chahaki and Sergei Auslender on Caliber.Az
INTERVIEWS 08 May 2023 - 15:53
Yoav Gallant, Israel's Defence Minister, announced that Iran is making rapid progress in its way to the production of nuclear weapons and has amassed enough enriched uranium to build five nuclear bombs. Gallant made the statement during his first official visit to Greece and Cyprus. The defence minister stated that Tehran is closer than ever to enriching uranium to weapons-grade levels.
"Make no mistake: Iran will not be satisfied with a single nuclear bomb. So far, Iran has gained material enriched to 20% and 60% for five nuclear weapons," the Israeli defence chief told his Greek counterpart Nikolas Panayiotopoulos.
At the same time, Gallant warned that "Tehran enriching uranium to 90% would be a big mistake and could ignite the region".
Iran continues to deny plans to militarily use its nuclear programme. In December last year, the IAEA announced that Iran had tripled its uranium enrichment capacity to 60% and was preventing international inspectors from entering suspicious nuclear sites. It also emerged that Iran had made major modifications to its uranium enrichment process without notifying the IAEA.
After the discovery of traces of highly enriched uranium at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant at almost weapons-grade (83.7%), Rafael Grossi, head of the IAEA, flew to Tehran to talk about expanding inspections at nuclear facilities.
Hardly anyone knows for sure what's really going on there now. This means that the Israeli Defence Minister may be right. The question is, how strong is the threat of using this alleged nuclear weapon against Iran's neighbours, e.g. if the mullahs' regime at some point strongly dislikes the behaviour of Azerbaijan or Israel? Is such a risk high?
Prominent foreign experts shared their views on the matter with Caliber.Az.
Iranian political scientist and expert on Russian-Iranian relations Amir Chahaki notes that today the two states, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Israel, consider each other the most important external threat.
"The words of the leaders of the two countries should be seen in a purely political way aimed at a particular audience. We should understand the words of the Israeli defence minister in this line, and we should note that Iranian companies are active in Greece and Cyprus, and such centres are of interest to the Israeli security forces.
The head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, believes that Iran 'can create nuclear weapons in a few months if it wants to'. At the same time, CIA chief William Burns has said they believe Iran's spiritual leader has not yet decided on a nuclear bomb," the expert said.
He said Iran is the only country that does not have nuclear weapons but has produced uranium with an enrichment level of up to 60%.
"And we must not forget that after signing the nuclear deal in 2015, Tehran complied with all the terms of that agreement, but Donald Trump withdrew from it in 2018.
In recent months, the People's Republic of China has played an active role in the battle for the East to end the political disputes between the IRI and Saudi Arabia, with positive results. Today, China plays a key role in Iran's economy, and it can be said that China's global opinion and position are also important to Tehran, and China's foreign policy is entirely peace-loving, with the exception of Taiwan. Therefore, Beijing will not support Iran's possible military nuclear programme. And this issue is quite clear for Tehran," the expert noted.
He gives the impression that Iran is seeking new concessions from Washington on the IRGC and ultimately sees no other way but an agreement with the US. Ayatollah Khamenei still insists on a fatwa banning nuclear weapons, and the IAEA has not provided definitive documentation on the possibility of Iran producing nuclear weapons, Chahaki said.
"Relations between Iran and Azerbaijan are going through the toughest period since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but this does not mean a military conflict between the two countries is possible, and we should expect relations between them to improve in the coming months. The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia is not a new issue, and Iran's position has no direct influence on it.
Türkiye is Azerbaijan's closest and most important partner and ally. Russia is also one of Baku's important foreign allies and partners.
Russia and Türkiye have close diplomatic, trade, and military relations with Iran, and the development of conflicts between Tehran and Baku is not in their interests," said the Iranian political analyst.
For his part, Israeli military expert and author of a military analysis channel on YouTube, Sergei Auslander, notes that this statement by Galant has caused a stir in Israel's military-political establishment.
"It is clear that the Mossad will make every effort to verify and double-check these reports, and it is clear that Israel will be forced to respond somehow. Because it is obvious that no amount of diplomacy will be able to stop Tehran. It is totally unrealistic. Tehran will continue to build a nuclear bomb seeing it as a deterrent factor. They say no one would dare attack Iran if they knew they had nuclear weapons," says the military observer.
But why is Israel treating the issue with such great trepidation?
"There is, for example, a country like Pakistan, which is also not the most stable country on the planet, which has part of its territory not controlled by the centre at all, the so-called 'tribal zone', and which has nuclear weapons. But Israel has never in its life said a word about Pakistan's nuclear programme for the simple reason that Islamabad has never threatened Israel with anything. Iran does; in fact, Tehran threatens to physically destroy Israel. Since the Holocaust, we have had this clear and comprehensible rule: if somebody promises to kill you, either run away (and we have nowhere to go) or kill him first. We are guided by this maxim.
So the next question is what decision will be made and how it will all happen. That is, there are different configurations. Who and how will solve the Iranian nuclear problem (I mean militarily)? On the one hand, it could be Israel, with the tacit consent or intelligence and information support of the US.
It could be Israel and the Gulf countries together, but they now seem to have some sort of rapprochement with Iran.
Maybe Israel together with the United States, with forces, for example, of the American 5th Fleet, its carrier aircraft, plus the Israeli Air Force, so super-powerful.
So, there is a hell of options, and we don't know how it will all happen, but the fact is that it will happen somehow. Because Iran will not stop itself. It is absolutely obvious, it is absolutely clear. By the way, if you think, for example, in the paradigm of the Ukrainian war, if Putin had not started the war, then everything would have been fine, Russia would have lived as it lived, the whole world would have lived as it lived, Russia would have gotten rich by selling off its natural resources, etc.
It's about the same with Iran - they could live in normal neighbourly relations with other countries, including us. No one here, by the way, is demanding that they publicly declare their love for us or even any kind of cooperation. Just don't threaten us, don't wage a hybrid war against us, and that's it, live quietly with your oil and gas, no one would say a word to them. But since they have chosen a different path, it means that this problem will have to be solved, and this so-called offensive option, that is, a military solution to the Iranian nuclear problem, apparently, is now becoming very, very likely," Sergei Auslander said.
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