With all eyes on the big question of whether Iran and the United States will actually sit down at the same table in EU-sponsored talks to restore the terms of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal (JCPOA), Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has just upped the ante with statements that surely also raised the alarm in Tel Aviv.
Khamenei declared on Monday that Tehran might continue enriching uranium up to 60% - which would blow far past the current 20% and put the country on the cusp of being able to produce a nuclear weapon. He further vowed the Islamic Republic will "never" yield to US pressure over what Iran has long claimed is actually a peaceful nuclear energy program.
"Iran's uranium enrichment level will not be limited to 20%. We will increase it to whatever level the country needs... We may increase it to 60%," state media quoted Ayatollah Khamenei as saying. He added that if Iran "wanted to" pursue a nuke, then "no one could stop Tehran from acquiring it."
He still stressed his longtime position that Iran is not in fact pursuing nukes, which he's previously said violates "Islamic principles", but that neither the US nor "Zionist clown" - a reference to Israel - to do anything about it if Tehran wanted to.
If indeed Iran does eventually pull the trigger on 60% enrichment, this would likely provoke Israel into mounting some kind of preemptive attack.
Islamic Revolution Leader Ali Khamenei:— Lebanese News and Updates (@LebanonaME) February 22, 2021
"If the Islamic Republic decides to possess nuclear weapons, then neither the Zionist clown or anyone can stop us. What prevents us from this matter is Islamic principles" pic.twitter.com/11nOhfa35E
Over the past year Israel was believed behind multiple 'mysterious' and unexplained explosions and fires and Iranian nuclear facilities.
In the recent past Israeli military leaders have threated to take action militarily if intelligence believed Iran was close to obtaining a nuke. Likely the Biden administration would intervene to warn against such action, however, especially given Washington now appears ready to engage in EU-brokered talks toward restoring the nuclear deal.