Published On: Wed, Feb 7th, 2024
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Iran nuclear threat ‘reaching extreme danger’ as relations with West ‘at all-time low’ | World | News

Iran‘s nuclear threat level has reached the “extreme danger” mark in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war and Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping, security experts have said. The West now faces the “real possibility” of Iran building nuclear weapons for the first time in years, according to analysts.

The Institute for Science and International Security’s Iran Threat Geiger Counter measures the Middle East country’s hostile actions and intentions towards the US, UK and allies as well as its capability to turn hostile intent into nuclear weapons.

As with levels of radiation measured by a Geiger counter, any level above zero represents danger. The Institute’s latest reading of 151 out of 180 means the threat level is now in “extreme danger” territory. It is the first time the counter has hit that level.

News of the latest measure comes as two ships travelling in waters off Yemen were attacked by suspected Houthi rebel drones on Tuesday (February 6). The assaults are the latest in the Iranian-backed fighters’ targeting of vessels over Israel‘s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

A Barbados-flagged, UK-owned cargo ship sustained “minor damage” and no one on board was hurt, according to private security firm Ambrey. A second, Greek-owned ship came under attack later on Tuesday off Yemen’s southern port city of Aden.

Issued on Monday (February 5), the latest reading of the Iran Threat Geiger Counter says the threat posed by the country’s nuclear program has increased “dramatically” since its last edition in May 2023 when it registered 140.

The increased threat has in part been driven by Hamas’s terrorist attacks on Israel on October 7, 2023; Israel’s invasion of Gaza and attacks carried out by Iranian-backed proxy groups, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and the Houthis.

Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) analysts said the “volatile” situation in the region is providing Iran with a “unique” opportunity and has amplified domestic justifications for building nuclear weapons with the US and Israel’s resources to detect and deter Iran from succeeding “stretched thin”.

They added: “The ongoing conflicts are leading to the neglect of the Iranian nuclear threat at a time when Iran’s nuclear weapons capabilities have never been greater.

“Coupled with decreased transparency over its nuclear program, for the first time in years, we are facing the real possibility Iran may choose to weaponize its nuclear capabilities and build nuclear weapons.”

To justify the new threat level, ISIS points to a wide range of evidence, including its sending military hardware to Russia to support Vladimir Putin‘s widened invasion of Ukraine.

ISIS also notes hostile rhetoric from Iranian politicians, such as Iran’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. In a statement to the United Nations on October 26, 2023, after Hamas’ invasion of Israel and the beginning of the war, he threatened if Tel Aviv didn’t end its retaliation against Hamas, that the US would “not be spared from this fire”.

Iran also continues to deceive the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and violate monitoring agreements, according to analysts from ISIS, a non-profit which focuses on stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.

In their list of evidence, analysts quote IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi who stated at the World Economic Forum in Davos on January 18: “It’s a very frustrating situation. They are restricting cooperation in a very unprecedented way.”

ISIS also says Tehran has obstructed IAEA inspections by razing and sanitizing nuclear sites and reduced the monitoring of advanced centrifuge production. Centrifuges spin uranium gas at high speeds to produce fuel for nuclear reactors or weapons.

ISIS analysts say the IAEA has been unable to monitor where and how many centrifuges Iran has been producing and storing for the past three years.

A handful of IAEA inspectors considered to have the most experience with enrichment technology in Iran have also had their designations withdrawn, ISIS notes.

Analysts add if Iran wants to further enrich its 60 percent enriched uranium up to 90 percent weapon-grade uranium (WGU), as per the country’s known nuclear weapons designs, it could do so quickly.

They argue: “[Iran] can break out and produce enough weapon-grade enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon in a week.”

Iran has also continued to build up enriched uranium stocks and increase the quantity of WGU it can produce in a single month from enough to make five nuclear weapons to six since May 2023, according to ISIS.

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