Israel Made A "Very Bad Gamble": Iran Minister On Nuclear Site Incident

Lawrence Kim
April 14, 2021

On Tuesday, Tehran announced that it will further breach the deal and increase uranium enrichment in response to a suspected Israeli covert attack that caused a power outage at Natanz nuclear plant.

The White House said on Monday the United States was not involved in Sunday's attack and had no comment on speculation about the cause of the incident. Israel has not claimed responsibility, but is widely believed to have carried out the attack.

The renewal of indirect talks last week between the United States and Iran to revive the 2015 nuclear deal-the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)-appears to have escalated tensions in the Middle East, as Israel makes it clear to its ally that it will not accept Iranian nuclear capability.

But both the USA and Iran signaled full-steam ahead on Monday with their indirect negotiations, while Iran's foreign minister accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government of trying to derail those talks.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration has maintained there will be no sanctions relief until Iran complies with the deal again, though the State Department said last week that the USA is willing to lift sanctions "inconsistent" with the accord. "The United States and Iran mustn't let this attack derail the progress being made in Vienna".

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman said Monday that the centrifuges hit by the power blackout were first-generation ones, not more advanced models banned under the nuclear deal.

The talks in Vienna are aimed at reviving America's role in that agreement, which former President Donald Trump abandoned, and lifting the sanctions he imposed. One year later, Iran began taking steps in violation of its commitments - enriching more uranium at higher levels using more centrifuges and more advanced ones than what is allowed.

The United States called talks in Vienna with Iran "indirect".

Natanz has been at the heart of those restrictions.

Inc. shows Iran's Natanz nuclear facility on Wednesday
Inc. shows Iran's Natanz nuclear facility on Wednesday

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi in Vienna on Tuesday said that 1,000 centrifuges will be added to Natanz in addition to moving toward 60% enrichment.

Tuesday's statement, which was signed by key senators, including Bernie Sanders, Dianne Feinstein, and Elizabeth Warren, comes weeks after 15 Democrats joined Republicans in signing a letter supported by the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC that indirectly criticised the nuclear deal.

So far, there has been no change in plans for Wednesday's meetings.

But earlier Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif still issued a warning to Washington. "All sanctions should be lifted, we verify and then we go back to full compliance if we are satisfied with the verification process".

An annual USA intelligence report released Tuesday maintained the American assessment that "Iran is not now undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities that we judge would be necessary to produce a nuclear device".

But if talks continue, there could be an escalation in the region. "We engaged diplomatic across a broad spectrum and we brought these Gulf States together with the Israeli's for a security arrangement that benefits Americans all across the country".

President Biden is now contemplating the renegotiation of a nuclear deal with Iran and ending economic sanctions on the country which Pompeo said is just plain "bad" for security and Middle Eastern entities.

The New York Times, quoting unnamed USA and Israeli intelligence officials, also said there had been "an Israeli role" in the attack in which an explosion had "completely destroyed" the power system that fed the plant's "underground centrifuges".

While that may put him at odds with Biden and his push for nuclear diplomacy, Austin and Netanyahu tried to project close ties, with Austin offering his "personal pledge to strengthening Israel's security".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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