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Exclusive diplomacy-As stuttering, US, Israel to discuss military exercises for Iran scenario-US official

FILE PHOTO: The Iranian flag beckons in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters, in Vienna
FILE PHOTO: The Iranian flag is raised in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters, amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, in Vienna, Austria May 23, 2021. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger / File Photo

December 9, 2021

By Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. and Israeli defense leaders are expected to discuss possible military exercises on Thursday to prepare for the worst-case scenario of destroying nuclear facilities. Iran if diplomacy fails and if its nation’s leaders demand it, a senior US official told Reuters.

US talks are expected with a visit by Israel Defense Minister Benny Gantz following an October 25 press conference by Pentagon leaders with White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan about A full set of military options are available to ensure that Iran will not be able to produce nuclear weapons, the official said on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity. Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons, saying it wants to master nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

US-Israel preparations, not previously reported, underscore Western concerns about difficult nuclear negotiations with Iran that President Joe Biden had hoped would revive a nuclear deal 2015 that his predecessor Donald Trump abandoned.

However, US and European officials voiced their dismay following talks last week over the profound demands of Iran’s new, tough government, raising suspicions in the country. the West that Iran is being obstinate while advancing its nuclear program.

The US official declined to provide details about potential military exercises.

“We’re in a tough spot because Iran’s nuclear program is approaching a point beyond the point where it has any conventional rationale,” the official said. , while still expressing hope for the discussion.

The European Union official leading the talks said they would resume on Thursday and the US special envoy for Iran is expected to join them later in the week.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last week said Iran had begun enriching uranium to a purity of up to 20% with a stage, or cluster, of 166 advanced IR-6 machines at the plant. Their fordow, dug into the mountain. , making it harder to attack.

The 2015 deal allowed Iran to ease sanctions but impose strict limits on its uranium enrichment activities, extending the time it takes to produce enough fissile material for its weapons. nuclear gas, if they want, up at least a year from about two to three months. Most nuclear experts say that period is now considerably shorter.

Underscoring how eroding the deal is, that deal does not allow Iran to enrich uranium at Fordow at all, let alone use advanced centrifuges.

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With the agreement’s nuclear benefits now severely damaged, some Western officials argue that there is little time left before the foundation of the agreement is irreparably damaged.

Such exercises by the United States and Israel could respond to calls by Dennis Ross, a former senior US official and Middle East expert, and others to publicly signal to Tehran that The United States and Israel are still serious about preventing it from acquiring nuclear weapons.

“Biden needs to get rid of Iran’s position that Washington will not take military action and will prevent Israel from doing so,” Ross wrote last month.

Ross even suggested that the United States should perhaps signal its readiness to supply Israel with the U.S. Army bunker-destroying Massive Armor-Piercing Aircraft, a 30,000-pound bomb.

When asked about such remarks about the potential for deterrence, the senior US official said: “When President Biden says Iran will never get a nuclear weapon, I mean he means it. there”. Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Bill Burns on Monday said the CIA does not believe Iran’s supreme leader has decided to take steps to weaponize a nuclear device but noted advances in its ability to operate nuclear weapons. uranium enrichment, a pathway to the fissile material for bombs.

Burns warned that, even if Iran decides to go ahead, it still needs to do a lot of work to weaponize that fissile material before attaching a nuclear weapon to a missile or other delivery system.

“But they’re going further in mastering the nuclear fuel cycle, and that’s the kind of knowledge that’s very difficult to process or disappear,” he said.

U.S. officials have also long worried about the United States’ ability to detect and destroy the dispersed components of Iran’s nuclear weapons program once enough fissile material for a bomb has been produced. .

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; additional reporting by Arshad Mohammad; editing by Mary Milliken and Grant McCool)

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DUSTIN JONES

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