Israel is preparing a potential military response to Iran should the Islamic Republic move much closer to becoming a nuclear power.
Iran has “blown through” limits imposed on its nuclear program through the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement negotiated by former President Barack Obama’s administration, U.S. special envoy to Iran Rob Malley told The New Yorker. Iran is now potentially within three weeks of enriching enough weapons grade uranium to fill a nuclear bomb.
Iran is pushing forward with its nuclear program as a group of countries led by the U.S. attempt to renegotiate the JCPOA, which former President Donald Trump pulled out of in 2018. Trump withdrew from the “one-sided” agreement, arguing that Iran had already violated the agreement.
Prior to Trump’s decision to withdraw, U.S. allies Israel and Saudi Arabia had voiced concerns that the JCPOA did not allow for sufficient oversight of Iran’s nuclear program. The Islamic Republic had repeatedly denied inspectors access to Iranian military sites to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program was not progressing toward nuclear armament, which was banned in perpetuity under the agreement. Trump’s decision to withdraw triggered the reimplementation of numerous sanctions on Iran and its top officials, business leaders, and partners.
President Joe Biden has sought to rejoin the JCPOA as Iran has continued to enrich uranium far beyond the limit agreed to in the JCPOA toward the 90% threshold that marks weapons grade. Top Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, have warned the Biden administration against agreeing to the same deal, voicing the same concerns that clouded the deal several years ago.
“We don’t want to reach a point where we will have to ask ourselves how Iran was allowed to enrich to ninety percent,” Zohar Palti, former intelligence chief for Israel’s Mossad and current Israeli defense official, told The New Yorker.
Israel has begun prepping military training for a potential response to Iran’s nuclear program. Gantz pushed the Biden administration to conduct joint military exercises with Israel during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier this month.
“The problem with Iran’s nuclear program is that, for the time being, there is no diplomatic mechanism to make them stop,” Palti added. “There is no deterrent. Iran is no longer afraid. We need to give them the stop sign.”
Bennett warned in September that Israel would take military action against Iran rather than allow the Islamic Republic to build a nuclear weapon.
“Over the past few years, Iran has made a major leap forward … Iran’s nuclear weapon program is at a critical point,” he said. “All red lines have been crossed. Inspections — ignored. All wishful thinking — proven false.”
“Iran is violating the IAEAs safeguard agreements — and it’s getting away with it. They harass inspectors and sabotage their investigations — and they’re getting away with it. They enrich Uranium to the level of 60 percent, which is one step short of weapons-grade material — and they’re getting away with it,” he continued. “Iran’s nuclear program has hit a watershed moment, and so has our tolerance. Words do not stop centrifuges from spinning.”