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Business News/ News / World/  Iran Says Israeli Threats May Spark Shift in Nuclear Policy
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Iran Says Israeli Threats May Spark Shift in Nuclear Policy

A top Iranian general said his country may reconsider its nuclear policies if Israel threatens to attack its atomic sites, an implicit warning that Tehran might race toward a nuclear weapon as rhetoric continued to escalate in the wake of its April 13 drone and missile attack.

Iran Says Israeli Threats May Spark Shift in Nuclear PolicyPremium
Iran Says Israeli Threats May Spark Shift in Nuclear Policy

(Bloomberg) -- A top Iranian general said his country may reconsider its nuclear policies if Israel threatens to attack its atomic sites, an implicit warning that Tehran might race toward a nuclear weapon as rhetoric continued to escalate in the wake of its April 13 drone and missile attack.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Commander Ahmad Haghtalab didn’t specify what the change might be, but Tehran has long said its nuclear program, which has prompted concern from the US, Israel and the United Nations for years, is solely for peaceful purposes. Haghtalab also said such an attack would prompt a tit-for-tat attack on Israel’s nuclear facilities.

“It’s possible and conceivable to revise the nuclear doctrine and policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran and deviate from the considerations of previous declarations" if Israel uses the threat of an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities to pressure Tehran, he said, in comments reported by the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency. 

The comments fanned tensions that the US and its allies have been seeking to tamp down in the days since Iran launched a barrage of some 300 drones and missiles on Israel in response to a strike in Syria that killed several Iranian officers on April 1. Israel, the US and UK shot down almost all of the incoming weapons, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials have said the country has no choice but to respond.

Speculation has mounted that Israel might use a retaliatory strike to target Iranian nuclear facilities. Iran has continued to enrich its uranium to 60% purity, part of work it’s pressed ahead with in the years since the Trump administration backed out of a nonproliferation deal that was meant to halt its nuclear advances.

“The nuclear centers of the Zionist enemy have been identified, and the necessary intelligence about all targets is at our disposal," Haghtalab said. Israel has a nuclear-research center near the desert town of Dimona and is widely believed to have nuclear weapons though it’s never confirmed their existence.

Read More: What Are Israel’s Options for Retaliating Against Iran’s Strike?

Later in the day, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian reiterated Iran’s stance toward Israel when he addressed the United Nations Security Council. The council was discussing tensions sparked in the wake of Hamas fighters’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel and Israel’s subsequent ground campaign in the Gaza Strip to root out the militant group that’s backed by Iran.

“Iran’s legitimate defense and countermeasures have been concluded," Amirabdollahian said. Israel “must be compelled to stop any further military adventurism against our interests." If not, he said, Iran will “give a decisive and proper response" that will make Israel “regret its actions."

President Joe Biden has urged Netanyahu to “take the win" after the success of Israel’s air defenses in repelling the attack and not respond. Israel’s government and public are torn about what to do next, with a Hebrew University poll saying about half of Israelis believe their country should respond even if it means extending the conflict.

But there’s also the question of how to do it, and whether to do it alone. Brigadier General Zvika Haimovich, a former head of aerial defense, said there’s no way Israel will do nothing, but “I think it is very important for Israel not to stand alone against Iran."

In the meantime, Biden has sought to show the US has Israel’s back and squeeze Iran’s economy even more. The US imposed fresh sanctions Thursday on 16 people and entities including a company that helped make engines for the type of drones launched in the barrage on Israel.

“I’ve directed my team, including the Department of the Treasury, to continue to impose sanctions that further degrade Iran’s military industries," Biden said in a statement. “Let it be clear to all those who enable or support Iran’s attacks: The United States is committed to Israel’s security."

Read more: US Imposes Fresh Sanctions on Iran Over Israel Drone Barrage

Israel welcomed the statement. Foreign Minister Israel Katz wrote a post on X saying now was the time “to form a global front and a regional coalition against Iran, together with the US, the EU, and moderate Arab states, to stop the serpent’s head that threatens global stability."

(Updates with Iran foreign minister’s statement in 7th paragraph.)

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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Published: 19 Apr 2024, 02:43 AM IST
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