Iran may seek nuclear breakout ahead of US elections, analyst warns

Iran has enriched its uranium stockpile by 60% and possibly higher, a degree of purity that no country without an atomic weapon has ever pursued.

By Pesach Benson, TPS

As the International Atomic Energy Agency condemned Iran one analyst told The Press Service of Israel that the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog’s resolution was “too little too late,” and warned that with the world distracted by fighting in Gaza and Ukraine, Tehran might seek a nuclear breakout before the possible election of Donald Trump in November.

At the IAEA’s Board of Governors meeting in Vienna on Wednesday, members approved the resolution by a vote of 20-2 with 12 abstentions. Russia and China opposed the resolution. The Biden administration, which initially urged Europe to abstain, voted in favor.

Praising the resolution on X, formerly known as Twitter, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz wrote, “I welcome the decision made today by the @iaeaorg Board of Governors, demanding that Iran comply with its international obligations and cease advancing its dangerous nuclear program.”

The resolution, which is not legally binding, followed up on a November 2022 resolution calling on Iran to cooperate with the IAEA’s investigation into traces of uranium that inspectors discovered at undeclared nuclear sites.

‘Too Little, Too Late’

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Israeli Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, former head of the research division in the Israel Defense Force’s Military Intelligence told TPS-IL the resolution was “a step in the right direction,” but also “too little, too late.” Kuperwasser is currently a researcher at the Jerusalem-based Misgav Institute.

Asked about the timing of the resolution, Kuperwasser said that the monitors lost contact with many Iranian activities once they were barred from various nuclear sites, and the IAEA still has unanswered questions dating back to 2003.

According to Kupperwasser, the Europeans “Woke up when they lost control of what’s really happening inside the Iranian nuclear project.”

While uranium needs to be only 3.67% pure to generate nuclear power, Iran has enriched its uranium stockpile by 60% and possibly higher, a degree of purity that no country without an atomic weapon has ever pursued.

A nuclear bomb requires uranium to be enriched to 90% purity. Purifying the remaining 30% is regarded as a technical matter.

Meanwhile, American reluctance to support the resolution is being perceived as a sign of weakness by the Iranians, and may embolden Tehran to push for a nuclear breakout before Donald Trump’s possible return to the White House, he added.

“The Biden administration wants to avoid any confrontation with Iran. They are afraid that if they move into confrontation, confrontational Iran may actually move towards having a bomb. But maybe [Iran’s leaders] believe that Trump is going to become the next president. They might actually try to break out a bomb now,” Kuperwasswer warned. “They have enough material to produce the fissile material that is necessary for three bombs within a month.”

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If allowed to successfully break out a nuclear weapon, Iranian hegemony in the Middle East “is going to materialize very fast,” Kuperwasser insisted. “We saw how dangerous Iran was in their attempts to attack Israel with 350 projectiles immediately, right?”

However, said Kuperwasser, the world is distracted by wars in Gaza and Ukraine, and escalating tensions between China and Taiwan. “Look, when Biden gave his recent State of the Union address, he didn’t mention the nuclear project of Iran,” he noted.

Snapback sanctions could be triggered against Iran, but Europe would have to step up, because the US withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear deal.

With Iran’s allies, Russia and China, holding veto power in the UN Security Council, Kuperwasser suggested that “The best way to act is bypassing the Security Council and snapping back the sanctions that were when the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] came into effect. That’s the best way to handle it because if the Europeans don’t need the Security Council, they can do it directly.”