Iran responds to death of nuclear expert with blackmail threats

 Tom Rogan:

On Sunday, Iran responded aggressively to Israel's assassination on Friday of its top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

The Iranian parliament passed legislation designed to blackmail Europe and threaten the incoming Biden administration with Iran's near-term rush to a nuclear weapons capability. Indicating Tehran's desire to avoid precipitating Trump administration military action, however, the legislation gives Iran's nuclear energy agency two months, or a timeline reaching past Jan. 20, 2021, to enact the mandated actions. Still, what's on the table is highly significant. The parliament says that Tehran's nuclear agency must enrich uranium to a concentration level of 20%, produce at least 500 kg of enriched material per month, and restrict international inspector access. It also requires further deviations from the 2015 nuclear accord if Europe does not restore full economic engagement with Tehran within three months.

This is a clear signal from Tehran to Europe and Joe Biden that it expects their economic beneficence and constraint of Israeli security strategy as a price tag for renewed conformity with the 2015 accord. Iran's move toward 20% concentration is particularly noteworthy. Twenty-percent concentration is the qualifying point for "highly enriched uranium," or that which is required to produce nuclear weapons. And while Iran would have to enrich any 20% concentration stockpile to 90% concentration in order to effectively stockpile weapons-grade material, the centrifuge activity needed to transition from 20% to 90% concentration is far less intensive than that required for the development of low enriched material. If carried out, these mandated actions would shorten to a matter of a few months Iran's so-called breakout window to build a nuclear weapon. It is clear, considering that this legislation has been enacted just two days after Fakhrizadeh's demise, that Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is reacting emotionally to what has happened. Fearful that the assassination presents him as unstable and insecure, Khamenei wants to restore global fears toward his regime.

The Biden administration thus faces its first major foreign policy challenge. Iran is telling the president-elect and his national security team that they will have a short matter of weeks to choose between one of two options. Those options being either their overt economic, diplomatic, and intelligence activity related appeasement of Tehran, or Iran's rush to a nuclear weapons capability. It seems obvious that Khamenei is banking, here, on Biden's hesitation about entering an escalation curve that might end up with a military conflict.


Iran is already in breach of its agreement.  The wise response would be to tell them to pound sand and up sanctions against the terrorist regime. 


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