Netanyahu: Iran’s decision to enrich uranium at Fordow endangers the world
Iran’s decision to enrich uranium to 5% at its underground Fordow facility nuclear facility endangers Israel, the Middle East and the world, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
“Iran expands its aggression everywhere. It seeks to envelope Israel. It seeks to threaten Israel. It seeks to destroy Israel. We fight back,” Netanyahu said. “I also want to say, given Iran’s efforts to expand its nuclear weapons program, expand its enrichment of uranium for making atomic bombs, I repeat here once again: We will never let Iran develop nuclear weapons. This is not only for our security and our future; it’s for the future of the Middle East and the world.”
He spoke in Jerusalem at an event marking the dedication of the new visitor’s center at Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund Hula Lake Park.
Earlier in the day Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi promised that his country would violate a critical element of the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which Tehran had worked out with the six world powers. The US left the deal last year and has imposed crippling sanctions on Iran in an attempt to force it to renegotiate the document. Tehran in turn has began violating the deal in a counter attempt to pressure the US to rescind the sanctions.
“Tomorrow we will enrich uranium to 5% at Fordow... Right now, we have enough 20% enriched uranium, but we can produce it if needed,” the Students News Agency ISNA quoted Salehi as saying, a day before Iran takes its fourth step to further scale back its commitment to the 2015 nuclear deal.
Under the 2015 agreement between Iran and world powers, Iran agreed to turn Fordow into a “nuclear, physics and technology center” where 1,044 centrifuges are used for purposes other than enrichment, such as producing stable isotopes, which have a variety of civil uses.
The pact allows Iran only to spin the centrifuges at Fordow, located inside a mountain near the Shi’ite holy city of Qom, without injecting gas. Uranium gas injection could allow production of enriched uranium, banned at the facility under the pact.
Kazem Gharibabadi, Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Iran had informed the agency over “the start of injecting UF6 (uranium hexafluoride) into centrifuges at Fordow on Wednesday.”
The deal bans nuclear material from Fordow and by injecting UF6 into centrifuges, the facility will become an active nuclear site rather than a research plant as permitted under the pact.
“The IAEA was requested to send its inspectors to monitor the process,” Gharibabadi said, quoted by state television. The IAEA monitors Tehran’s compliance with the deal.
Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi HaNegbi told The Jerusalem Post that Iran’s decision marked a “very dangerous development” and called on Europe and the international community to take steps to pressure Iran to halt its resumed march toward the development of nuclear weapons.
Only the coordinated efforts of the international community can prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons, he said.
“The European countries can no longer stay neutral, because they will find themselves in a very problematic situation in the near future,” HaNegbi said.
He spoke in support of US President Donald Trump’s efforts against Iran, noting that if the deal were still in place, it would have allowed Iran to take the same steps, just four years from now and without international opposition.
HaNegbi said he hoped that the countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany and maybe even France – all of which were signatories to the deal – would now understand that Trump was right and that former US president Barack Obama’s approach was wrong.
If Iran continues to move forward with its nuclear program, “all options must be on the table,” he said.
“It is a global issue, not an Israeli issue,” HaNegbi said. “Israel should not be jumping ahead of everyone else, but we have the right and the obligation to say out loud and clear that we will expect the international community to take action.”
Immigration and Absorption Minister Yoav Galant said the resumption of the enrichment of uranium at Fordow would shortened the time by which Tehran could produce not just one bomb, but many bombs.
The choice to do this now after the attacks on the Saudi oil field shows they feel emboldened, he said.
Galant joined HaNegbi’s call to US and European actions, stating that Washington must continue to stiffen its sanctions against Iran.
KAN news on Tuesday night published a tape from a closed door meeting at the treasury about increased spending to help Israel protect itself from an Iranian attack.
In the tape, the head of IDF Operations, Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva can be heard warning that, “Anyone who thinks that a very high-quality attack like the Iranians have carried out against the oil facilities in Saudi Arabia can not also be launched against us - is not in this profession.”
He added that from a military perspective 2020 could potentially be “very negative for Israel” due to emerging threats.
British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab also warned against Tehran’s latest actions.
“Iran’s latest actions clearly contravene the deal and pose a risk to our national security,” Raab said. “We want to find a way forward through constructive international dialogue but Iran needs to stand by the commitments it made and urgently return to full compliance.”
A senior European diplomat said the deal has “become a no man’s land.”
“We’re controlling less and less as it crumbles around us,” a senior European diplomat said. “In terms of credibility it becomes harder and harder to not react.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gave another two-month deadline to Britain, France and Germany to salvage the deal by protecting Iran’s economy from crippling US sanctions reimposed in May after Washington’s withdrawal from the deal.
“We can’t unilaterally accept that we completely fulfill our commitments and they don’t follow up on their commitments,” Rouhani said in a televised speech on Tuesday.
Tehran says talks are possible if Washington lifts sanctions and returns to the deal.
“All these measures are reversible if other parties fulfill their commitments ... We should be able to sell our oil and to transfer its money into the country,” Rouhani said, referring to US sanctions on Iran’s oil and banking sectors.
Reuters contributed to this report.