Iran underground lab helps produce more low-enriched uranium

Iran is now producing at least 5.5 kilograms daily due in part to restarting enrichment at Iran’s underground Fordo nuclear facility, above. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran/AFP)
Updated 11 November 2019

Iran underground lab helps produce more low-enriched uranium

  • The country is now producing at least 5.5 kilograms of low-enriched uranium daily
  • Iran maintains its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes

TEHRAN, Iran: The head of Iran’s nuclear program said on Monday that the country is now producing more low-enriched uranium daily, after restarting an underground lab.
Ali Akbar Salehi of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran made the comments as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also called on hard-liners to support the country’s troubled nuclear deal, saying it could open up international arms sales for the Islamic Republic next year.
Iran has broken out of the accord’s limits since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord between Tehran and world powers over a year ago.
Salehi said in Tehran that the country is now producing at least 5.5 kilograms daily. That’s compared to what Tehran had been producing — about 450 grams of low-enriched uranium per day.
Salehi said that’s due in part to restarting enrichment at Iran’s underground Fordo nuclear facility.
“I believe (that) in total, 5.5 kilograms is the daily volume of uranium enrichment in Natanz and Fordo,” Salehi told the AP, mentioning Iran’s other nuclear facility at Natanz.
Iran currently enriches uranium to up to 4.5 percent, far below weapons-grade levels of 90 percent.
However, the more uranium it enriches over time will begin to narrow the so-called “breakout period” Iran would need to have enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb — should it choose to build one. Analysts had put that time at a year, under the restrictions of the 2015 nuclear deal.
Iran maintains its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. However, Western nations pushed for the nuclear deal over its concerns about the program.
Rouhani spoke on Monday in the city of Rafsanjan in Iran’s southwest Kerman province, as part of a provincial tour ahead of planned parliamentary elections in February. The day before, in Yazd, he faced some heckling from a crowd of hard-liners, despite announcing the discovery of a 53-billion-barrel oil field in the country.
On Monday, he made a point to stress that “by continuing the nuclear deal, we will reach a huge political, defensive and security goal.”
“If we save the nuclear deal, Iran’s arms embargo will be lifted and we can buy weapons or sell our weapons to the world. This is one of the deal’s significant impacts,” Rouhani said.
The end of the weapons embargo, imposed by the United Nations, already worries the Trump administration.
Under the terms of the deal, a United Nations-imposed arms embargo on Iran is slated to be lifted in October 2020, five years after the accord’s adoption.
However, it remains unclear whether the UN would allow the ban to be lifted, given the circumstances the crumbling deal finds itself in today.


Vandals damage cars in Arab neighborhood of east Jerusalem

Updated 09 December 2019

Vandals damage cars in Arab neighborhood of east Jerusalem

  • Masked suspects operated under the cover of darkness to vandalize the cars in east Jerusalem’s Shuafat neighborhood
  • The graffiti included the phrases “When Jews are stabbed, we aren’t silent”

JERUSALEM: Vandals slashed the tires of over 160 vehicles and sprayed slogans such as “Arabs=enemies” in a Palestinian neighborhood of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, Israeli police said Monday. Elsewhere, Palestinian residents of the volatile West Bank city of Hebron staged a general strike to protest the construction of a new Jewish settlement there.
Masked suspects operated under the cover of darkness to vandalize the cars in east Jerusalem’s Shuafat neighborhood and spray-painted Hebrew graffiti on a nearby wall, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. He said the authorities were treating the incident as criminal with “nationalistic motives.”
Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion condemned the “hate crime” and called upon the police “to find the criminals as fast as possible and bring them to justice.”
The graffiti included the phrases “When Jews are stabbed, we aren’t silent,” and “There is no place in the land for enemies.”
Hard-line nationalist Israelis have been known to execute so-called “price tag” attacks against Palestinians in response to Palestinian militant attacks or perceived efforts by Israeli authorities to limit settlement expansion.
It was unclear what motivated Monday’s incident.
In Hebron, the West Bank’s largest city, Palestinian shops, schools and businesses were shuttered for the one-day strike. Some youngsters hurled stones at Israeli military patrols, and soldiers fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds.
Israel’s new defense minister, Naftali Bennett, presented his plan for a new settlement there early this month. Bennett, a longtime supporter of the West Bank settlement movement, said his plan will double the Jewish population of Hebron.
Hebron is frequent flashpoint of violence. Hundreds of hard-line Jewish settlers guarded by thousands of soldiers live in the heart of the city, which has a population of over 200,000 Palestinians.
Palestinian Mayor Tayseer Abu Sneineh said the city has formed a legal team to challenge the decision in Israeli courts.
Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and quickly began settling the newly conquered territory.
Over the past five decades, Israel, citing security needs, has established a military bureaucracy in the West Bank that enforces movement restrictions on Palestinians through a complex permit system. Some 600,000 Israelis now live in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
The US announced a new American doctrine last month that does not consider Israeli settlements a violation of international law. It was the latest in a string of diplomatic gifts by the Trump administration to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.