Nov 21, 2022 - World

Israeli intel chief: Iran could soon "toy" with enriching uranium at 90% level

Iran flags.

The flag of Iran in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency headquarters. Photo: Michael Gruber/Getty Images

Iran could soon “toy” with enriching uranium to the level of 90%, which can be used to build a nuclear weapon, the head of the Israeli military intelligence General Aharon Haliva said Monday.

Why it matters: Such a move by Iran will be unprecedented, but Haliva said Tehran would still need a "few years or many, many months" to build a nuclear device.

Driving the news: The International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors last week passed a censure resolution against Iran for its lack of cooperation with UN investigations over its undeclared nuclear activity.

  • The U.S. and its European allies — France, Germany and the U.K. — pushed for the resolution.
  • Iran condemned the measure and the head of Iran’s atomic energy organization threatened to take retaliatory nuclear steps but didn’t give any details.

What they are saying: “We are getting closer to the point where Iran will toy with enriching uranium to 90%, even if it will only be symbolic and in very small quantities at the beginning," Haliva said at a conference in the institute for national security studies in Tel Aviv.

  • It is the first time a senior Israeli intelligence official said publicly that Iran could soon enrich to 90%.
  • He stressed that as in previous cases when Iran starts enriching uranium to 60%, it will test the international community’s response.
  • But Haliva added that “at this point in time, the Iranian supreme leader thinks that nuclear breakout will do more harm than good. But this could change quickly."

Kamal Kharrazi, an adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told Al Jazeera in mid-July that in a "few days we were able to enrich uranium up to 60% and we can easily produce 90% enriched uranium. ... Iran has the technical means to produce a nuclear bomb but there has been no decision by Iran to build one," per AP.

What to watch: Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, the chief of staff of the Israeli military, is visiting Washington this week for meetings with his counterpart Gen. Mark Milley and with White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

  • “The visit of the IDF chief of staff to the U.S. is no less than critical. We need to talk with decision-makers in Washington about the overall Iranian threat and to emphasize the nuclear issue," Haliva said.
  • Haliva stressed that there is a need to start discussing a military strike against Iran or a new nuclear deal with totally different parameters.

Go deeper: Israel has the capability to strike Iran, Gantz says

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