Can Israel destroy the Iranian nuclear programme?

Irans nuclear programme (Photo by Shutterstock)

Tel Aviv, Israel's capital, stands behind exposing Iran's supply of drones in Ukraine, in addition to revealing that Iran exceeded uranium enrichment levels. Ahmad Abdul-Rahman explains.

Recently, the Iranian nuclear issue has reappeared in media and news reports after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Monitors revealed traces of uranium enrichment of 84 per cent.

While the Iranian nuclear deal limited the degree of purity to which Iran could enrich uranium to 3.67 per cent by April 2021, Iran was enriching uranium at 60 per cent. Finally the Monitors learned that Iran's enrichment rate was 84 per cent, which is slightly less than the 90 per cent required to obtain a nuclear weapon.

Although the recent development regarding the Iranian nuclear programme has not yet jumped to the top of the agenda of the international community, given the West's preoccupation with the Ukrainian-Russian war, this development will certainly be top of the Israeli agenda. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu,  stated that there must be an effective and necessary weapon to prevent rogue states from acquiring nuclear weapons. Netanyahu recalled the Israeli strike on the Iraqi and Syrian programmes, respectively, which raises the question of whether Tel Aviv could launch a direct military strike to destroy the Iranian nuclear programme, similar to what happened in Syria and Iraq?

The answer depends on the likely repercussions of an Israeli military strike and the Iranian reaction. While Israel launched a number of secret, undeclared attacks on vital military, nuclear or economic installations inside Iran through spy networks and agents it recruited, it did not announce it was doing this. This was done within the framework of the so-called shadow war between the two countries, that is, each of them directs its blows at the other, without announcing it explicitly.

Is Israel safe?

While Tel Aviv, Israel's capital, is running the nuclear programme, it will always be known which party carries out any possible attack. Iran could, through ballistic missiles and drones, whether by the Revolutionary Guards or through its proxies in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and Gaza, pose a direct threat to Israel, whose security is still the only concern of its leaders and citizens.

This does not mean that there are no options for Tehran's persistence in violating its nuclear obligations or its regional behaviour in general. This is because Tel Aviv was behind inciting Washington and European countries against Iran after telling them that the latter had supplied Russia with drones during the war in Ukraine. This development has caused American-European alienation, diplomatic divergence from Iran, and the imposition of more sanctions on it. Israel also revealed the undeclared places where traces of uranium enrichment were found.

There is also the "snapback" option, which is in the hands of the European parties that signed the nuclear agreement with Iran in 2015. According to United Nations Security Council Resolution No. 2231 that enshrined the nuclear agreement, the return of sanctions that were lifted by the European parties and the United Nations is an issue that is yet to be resolved.

The IAEA has acknowledged Iran's failure to implement commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). But Iran allowed international observers to visit Tehran to take a decision on what was found of the effects of enrichment of 84 per cent. Iranian behaviour seems to be modified when there is an international consensus against it, and when carrot and stick options appear. Hence, the threat of sanctions and international pressure may work with Tehran, especially in conjunction with the internal pressures of the disaffected citizens of the Iranian regime. The military tool provokes it to pursue a more aggressive policy aimed at showing power.

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Saturday, 30 September 2023