By Arab News
By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh *
Since the Biden administration assumed office in January 2021, the Iranian regime appears to have decided to buy time in order to make major advancements when it comes to its controversial nuclear program.
Throughout several rounds of negotiations with the P5+1 world powers, the theocratic establishment has clearly succeeded in speeding up its nuclear program, increasing its uranium enrichment from 20 percent to 60 percent, conducting uranium metal research and development and production, and adding additional centrifuges.
The day after reaching an agreement to extend the monitoring mechanism of the International Atomic Energy Agency by reinstalling surveillance cameras inside some of its nuclear sites, the Iranian regime last June announced that it would not allow the agency to see images from the devices. And it currently has enough enriched uranium to build an atomic bomb, according to the IAEA.
The Iranian regime is also refusing to answer the IAEA’s questions about uranium particles found at three undeclared nuclear sites. The UN agency last month acknowledged that the Islamic Republic “has not provided explanations that are technically credible in relation to the agency’s findings at those locations… The agency remains ready to engage without delay with Iran to resolve all of these matters.”
The Institute for Science and International Security also warned last November: “Iran has enough enriched uranium hexafluoride (UF6) in the form of near 20 and 60 percent-enriched uranium to produce enough weapon-grade uranium, taken here as 25 kg, for a single nuclear weapon in as little as three weeks. It could do so without using any of its stock of uranium enriched up to 5 percent as feedstock. The growth of Iran’s stocks of near 20 and 60 percent-enriched uranium has dangerously reduced breakout timelines.”
Nevertheless, the international community has yet to take any tangible action to prevent the Iranian regime from becoming a nuclear state. This is in spite of these critical reports and even though a joint statement issued by the UK, France and Germany last July acknowledged the fact that Tehran “has no credible civilian need for uranium metal R&D and production, which are a key step in the development of a nuclear weapon.”
The P5+1 ought to understand that, if the Islamic Republic becomes a nuclear-armed state, it is likely nuclear weapons will fall into the hands of its proxy and militia groups or that the Iranian regime will share its nuclear technology with them. It has already set up weapons factories abroad and manufactured advanced ballistic missiles and weapons in foreign countries, including Syria. These include precision-guided missiles with advanced technology to strike specific targets.
Since the theocratic establishment is already supplying advanced weapons to its proxies, what would stop it from sharing its nuclear technology to empower these groups, undermine its perceived adversaries’ national security interests and expand its reach? The 2021 UN annual report revealed: “An increasing body of evidence suggests that individuals or entities in the Islamic Republic of Iran supply significant volumes of weapons and components to the Houthis.”
In addition, this is a regime that has been designated by the US as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1984. For example, one of the regime’s diplomats, Assadollah Assadi, was last year jailed for 20 years by a Belgian court for his role in a failed terrorist bombing plot in Paris.
The Tehran regime also uses undercover agents in foreign countries. Several nations, including Kuwait, have detained Iranians for spying. The regime has been found to have used its embassies and diplomats in foreign countries for such purposes.
The world’s leading powers should not treat the Islamic Republic as a rational and modern state actor that will act responsibly if it possesses nuclear weapons. Rather, this is a revolutionary regime that prioritizes the pursuit of its revolutionary ideals, including exporting its ideology and system of governance to other countries around the world. This is even written into its constitution, which states that the document “provides the necessary basis for ensuring the continuation of the revolution at home and abroad.”
All this means that the international community is running out of time to stop the Iranian regime from obtaining nuclear weapons. It must act now before it is too late.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh