Iran 'takes major step towards acquiring a nuclear weapon'
Iran has taken a major step towards acquiring a nuclear weapon, it emerged on Sunday, as diplomats revealed that it has enriched uranium to levels just short of the threshold for a bomb.
Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] found enrichment levels of 84 per cent at Iran's nuclear sites, the highest levels recorded so far and just six per cent shy of the threshold for acquiring a nuclear weapon.
The disclosure, which underlines how Iran could be on the brink of creating another major global crisis for the West, came from two diplomatic sources who spoke anonymously to Bloomberg news.
It also increases the risk of a major confrontation between Iran and Israel, its arch foe which regards the nuclear programme as an existential threat. Israel is suspected of carrying out a series of surgical strikes on Iranian nuclear sites in recent years to slow down the Iranian weapons programme.
Iran, which denies it is planning to build a nuclear weapon, has until now insisted that the centrifuges at its nuclear sites are only able to enrich uranium to a 60 per cent level of purity.
The regime, which is increasingly at odds with the West over crippling sanctions and its support for the Russian army in Ukraine, did not immediately respond to the report last night.
According to Bloomberg, IAEA inspectors are trying to confirm whether Iran enriched uranium at such a high level on purpose, or if it had accumulated by accident in pipes connecting centrifuges on nuclear sites.
Iran resumed work on its nuclear sites after the Trump administration withdrew from the Obama-era nuclear deal, which eased crippling sanctions in return for curbs on the nuclear programme.
Though Western allies and Iran began holding talks on restoring the deal in November 2021 they quickly stalled, in part due to suspicions that Tehran was not negotiating in good faith.
President Joe Biden admitted on camera that the deal was "dead" while speaking to voters at an election rally last November, apparently unaware that the exchange was being filmed.
Earlier on Sunday, Tom Nides, the US ambassador to Israel, said that President Biden would never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon and that Israel was free to do whatever it felt was necessary to prevent this.
“As President Biden has said, we will not stand by and watch Iran get a nuclear weapon, number one. Number two, he said, all options are on the table. Number three, Israel can and should do whatever they need to deal with and we’ve got their back,” Mr Nides said.
“The threat of a nuclear Iran is not just for Israel, it is for the Middle East and America. We are focused on this,” says the ambassador. “The cooperation between Israel and the US vis-a-vis Iran is lockstep. Every day.”