image Photo: Reuters

Iran resumes 20% uranium enrichment

Iran declared it is once again enriching uranium at 20% in its most major breach of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal it signed with six world powers.

“A few minutes ago, the process of producing 20% enriched uranium has started in Fordow enrichment complex,” Iranian Government Spokesman Ali Rabiei told state media.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed the development in a report to member states, reading: “Iran today began feeding uranium already enriched up to 4.1 percent U-235 into six centrifuge cascades at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant for further enrichment up to 20%.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the move is aimed at developing nuclear weapons, which his nation will not tolerate.

“Iran has announced that it will raise the uranium enrichment level and will advance the industrial ability to enrich uranium underground. This is a gross and total violation of its commitments. There is no other explanation except for the continued realization of Iran’s intention to manufacture nuclear weapons. I reiterate: Israel will not allow Iran to manufacture nuclear weapons,” Prime Minister Netanyahu stated at the start of his weekly Cabinet meeting on Monday.

Echoing those statements, Alternate Premier and Defense Minister Benny Gantz said, “Iran is a global and regional challenge, as well as a challenge for Israel. Our defense establishment and all of the relevant bodies need to keep monitoring this issue; Israel cannot agree to a nuclear Iran or let it move further toward achieving its goals.”

Gantz also underscored that “the entire world needs to step up the pressure, and we need to guarantee that we have all the resources we need to be fully prepared to contend with Iran across the different fronts,” and disclosed that Israel is “working in collaboration with multiple partners on all the different fronts and will continue to do so.”

Iran’s latest contravention of the JCPOA coincides with increasing tensions with the United States in the waning days of President Donald Trump’s administration. The deal’s primary goal was to extend the time Iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb to at least one year from roughly two to three months. It also lifted international sanctions against Tehran.

The Islamic Republic immediately began to violated terms of the pact in a step-by-step response to Trump’s withdrawal from the accord in 2018 and the U.S. re-imposition of harsh economic measures.

The enrichment decision was one of many mentioned in a law passed by Iran’s parliament last month in the wake of the assassination of the country’s top nuclear scientist, which Tehran has blamed on Israel.