IRAN/ISRAEL: Iran pledged its cooperation with U.N. nuclear watchdog on Monday, unveiling a military drone capable of demolishing major cities in Israel, which has previously threatened to debilitate Iranian nuclear sites if diplomatic talks failed to save a 2015 nuclear pact.
Following European frustration with Tehran’s intentions to salvage the agreement, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani urged the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) “not to yield to Israel’s pressure” over Tehran’s nuclear operations.
The IAEA’s Board of Governors convened on Monday, three months after adopting a resolution to seek answers from Iran over the agency’s probe into suspicious uranium traces at three sites in Iran. Iran counteracted the probe, saying it was politically motivated.
On Saturday, France, Britain and Germany expressed great concerns and said they had “serious doubts” about Iran’s intentions to revive a deal curbing its nuclear programme and prowess in exchange for a lifting of sanctions, comments that were rejected by Tehran and called “very untimely” by Moscow.
“Iran announces its constructive cooperation with the agency as its obligation … While Iran has obligations, it also has rights,” Kanaani told a televised news conference.
“Naturally Iran expects constructive actions from IAEA and the members of its governing board.”
After nearly 16 months of consistent talks between Tehran and Washington, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Aug. 8 the bloc had laid down a final offer to overcome an impasse for the revival of the agreement.
Earlier this month, Iran sent its latest response to the EU’s proposed text. Western diplomats said it was a step backwards, with Tehran seeking to link a revival of the deal with the termination of the IAEA probe into the uranium traces.
Kanaani called Saturday’s European statement “unconstructive”. “Both the U.S. and Europe should prove that they do not prioritize the interests of the Zionist regime (Israel) when taking political decisions,” he said.
Israel, the land of extremist Zionism, is widely believed to have the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal and is wary of Iran’s nuclear prowess, seeing it as an active existential threat. Israel has reiterated its intentions and explicitly mentioned that it will not surrender to Zionism and attack Iranian nuclear zones if global diplomatic talks fail to contain Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
Iran has vowed a “crushing” response to any Israeli aggression as a retaliatory threat.
Iran’s ground forces chief Brigadier General Kiomars Heidari said on Monday that Tehran has developed an advanced long-range suicide drone “designed to hit Israel’s Tel Aviv, Haifa“, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported.
The director of Israel’s Mossad spy service, David Barnea, warned Iran’s clerical rulers against “resorting to force against Israel or Israelis”.
“The top Iranian echelon must be aware that resorting to force against Israel or Israelis, directly from Iran or via proxies, will meet a painful response against those responsible – on Iranian soil,” Barnea said in a speech at Reichman University near Tel Aviv on Monday.
“This will happen in Tehran, in Kermanshah, in Isfahan,” he added, referring to several regions of Iran where authorities have reported sabotage operations against facilities or personnel connected to the country’s military or nuclear programmes.
In late August, Iran had threatened that Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal would no longer be restored if world powers did not cease the IAEA’s investigation into the supposedly man-made uranium particles found at undeclared sites in the country.
In a rare news conference, which marked the new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s first year in office, Iran issued threats against Israel and tried to sound upbeat amid its crumbling economy distressed by international sanctions.
Raisi said if Israel decides to carry out its threats to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, it “will see if anything from the Zionist regime will remain or not.”
For years, the IAEA has sought Iran to answer questions about man-made uranium particles found at undeclared sites.
US intelligence agencies, Western nations and the IAEA have said Iran ran an organized nuclear weapons program until 2003. Iran long has denied ever seeking nuclear weapons.
Being an active member of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Iran is obligated to explain the details of radioactive traces found on its soil and to provide assurances that they are not being used as part of a larger nuclear weapons program.
Iran garnered backlash from the IAEA’s Board of Governors in June over its failure to answer questions about the sites to the inspectors’ satisfaction.
Raisi mentioned the traces — referring to them as a “safeguard” issue using the IAEA’s language.
“Without settlement of safeguard issues, speaking about an agreement has no meaning,” Raisi said.
The 2015 nuclear deal entails that Tehran could enrich uranium to 3.7% while maintaining a stockpile of 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of uranium under the constant scrutiny of IAEA security guidelines.
Former US President Donald Trump’s unilateral exit from the deal in 2018 gave birth to rising tensions which have escalated to this point.
EU coordinated talks to revive the deal in April 2021 before reaching a standstill in March and picking up again in August. The Biden administration has repeatedly sought diplomacy as the best solution to resolve the crisis.
As of the last public IAEA count, Iran has a stockpile of some 3,800 kilograms (8,370 pounds) of enriched uranium. More worrying for nonproliferation experts, Iran now enriches uranium up to 60% purity, a level it never reached before that is a short, technical step away from 90%. Those experts warn Iran has enough 60%-enriched uranium to reprocess into fuel for at least one nuclear bomb.
Amid tensions, Israel is now suspected of revamping its nuclear arsenal programme and carrying out excessive attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites.