Iran’s top negotiator tells Press TV from Vienna that Iran has informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of its plan to start 60-percent uranium enrichment as of Wednesday.
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said on Tuesday that not only will Iran soon replace the centrifuges that were damaged in a recent act of sabotage at Natanz, but will also install an additional 1000 centrifuges of 50 percent higher enrichment capacity at the nuclear facility.
Araghchi is in the Austrian city for another round of talks aimed at finding a way for the United States to rejoin the 2015 nuclear agreement, which it abandoned in 2018 and re-imposed the sanctions on Iran that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) had lifted.
Tehran maintains that it will only reverse its remedial measures—the phased reduction of its nuclear commitments under the JCPOA—if the US removes all sanctions in one step and in a verifiable manner.
SN/Moscow: The news comes as Tehran’s intends to increase its nuclear activity in the wake of a reported sabotage attack on its Natanz nuclear plant.
Iran will introduce 1,000 more centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear site, Chief Iranian Nuclear Negotiator Abbas Araghchi has said.
Iran also started raising uranium enrichment to 60 percent on Tuesday, the IRNA news agency reported, citing Iran’s deputy foreign minister, who also said Tehran had informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about the move, Press TV said.
The Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI) reported that the Natanz facility had suffered an incident involving its electricity distribution network last Sunday. AEOI Chief Ali Akbar Salehi described the incident as “nuclear terrorism.” The Iranian authorities later said all damaged centrifuges will be replaced with better ones.
Israel’s Kan channel reported, citing intelligence sources, that Natanz was targeted by a cyberattack involving Israel’s foreign intelligence service Mossad.
It happened during the Vienna talks dedicated to returning the US, which withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), to the pact.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif recently vowed revenge on Israel but noted that the act of “nuclear terrorism and a war crime,” as he described the incident, would not prompt Tehran to pull out of the talks.
“The Zionists want to take revenge because of our progress in the way to lift sanctions.… We will not fall into their trap… We will not allow this act of sabotage to affect the nuclear talks.… But we will take our revenge against the Zionists,” Zarif was quoted as saying by Iranian media.
Iran has been stepping up its uranium enrichment beyond the limits set as part of the 2015 JCPOA, which were set after the Trump administration unilaterally pulled the US out of the pact and re-imposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic in 2018. Iran said it was ready to recommit to the deal if Washington scrapped the restrictions but refused to renegotiate its terms.
The JCPOA was signed by Iran with China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK, US, and EU. It required Tehran to curb its nuclear programme and downgrade its uranium reserves in exchange for sanctions relief.
Ex IDF Chief says Netanyahu has staged the whole thing to save himself
Tehran has accused Tel Aviv of being behind the apparent sabotage attack on the Natanz nuclear fuel enrichment plant, while Israel has not formally commented on the matter.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should not have had the authority to approve the sabotage attack against Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility, former Israeli Defence Force Head of Military Intelligence Amos Yadlin has said.
“Sensitive operational actions with political and security implications involving potential escalation must be approved by the government. The cabinet can authorise the security cabinet to decide, and the security cabinet can authorise the prime minister and the defence minister. These processes did not happen, and the decisions were made while excluding all the decision-making bodies. Knesset oversight has not existed for a long time,” Yadlin wrote in a multi-part Twitter thread on Tuesday.
According to the retired military officer, the Natanz attack served to carelessly stoke tensions with the Islamic Republic, without coordinating with Tel Aviv’s American allies, and without actually improving Israel’s national security situation.
“Over the years that I have participated in discussions…on the approval of Israeli actions in an enemy country, we have been faced with three main considerations: the expected achievement, the enemy’s response and the potential for escalation, as well as implications for Israel’s relations with its vital ally,” Yadlin explained.
“48 hours after the explosion at Natanz, it has become clear that the attack did not result in the end of Iran’s nuclear programme,” the former official continued, adding that in the wake of media reporting on Israeli involvement in the sabotage, including “irresponsible leaks” from inside Israel, Tel Aviv should brace for Iranian retaliation. He added, however, that this response would be “measured,” out of a desire on Tehran’s part to avoid further escalation.
Of greater concern, Yadlin said, is that the Islamic Republic can now be expected to “take defiant measures” in the nuclear field, expanding enrichment with advanced centrifuges and reducing international supervision of its nuclear programme. “In the context of the negotiations, it is likely that Iran will harden its positions or even strengthen the hand of the Revolutionary Guards who have called on Iran not to return to the 2015 nuclear deal.”
The officer also warned that even if Israel informed the US ahead of time about its plans to sabotage Natanz, the timing was “not conducive to building trust” with the Biden administration, trust which he said is “essential to coordinating positions and safeguarding Israel’s interests.”
Netanyahu, Yadlin alleged, probably does not have an up-to-date strategy for conducting its Iran sabotage campaign in the Biden era, “and without a doubt, in the shadow of the political crisis [facing Israel], the essential discussions have not taken place.”
“Even taking a cautious view, it is doubtful whether we are not witnessing a political timing that influences the initiation of a security crisis with the goal of making it easier for Netanyahu to form another government. These are not the considerations that should inform such fateful decisions,” the officer concluded.
Yadlin served as head of the IDF military intelligence between 2006 and 2010 under Prime Ministers Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu. Before that, he served as IDF attache to the United States, as a deputy commander of the Israel Air Force, and as chief of IAFs’ planning department. He is a veteran of the Yom Kippur War, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and Operation Tamuz – the 1981 operation which saw Israel bomb Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor. He now acts as executive director of Tel Aviv University’s institute for national security studies.
On Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif lashed out at Israel over its suspected role in causing the recent power outage at the Natanz nuclear facility, suggesting that “the Zionist regime” had gambled and lost with its decision to sabotage the plant. He stressed that the attack would strengthen its position at the ongoing nuclear talks in Vienna, and promised that “if it becomes known that the Zionist regime is responsible…they will be held accountable.”
Zarif also assured that Iran would be upgrading the Natanz facility with even more advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges.
Also Tuesday, Iranian officials confirmed to Iran’s Press TV that the country would begin 60 percent enrichment on Wednesday, tripling the 20 percent enrichment carried out before that time. Uranium with a purity of 80-90 percent is considered weapons grade.
Despite the enrichment activities, Iran maintains that it has no intention of pursuing nuclear weapons. The country eliminated its stocks of other weapons of mass destruction in the 1990s, and its religious leaders formally banned the pursuit of nukes shortly after the Iranian Revolution of 1979.