Iran's Deputy Atomic Energy Organization Director Ali Asghar Zarean made a key, provocative announcement on Saturday, saying the Islamic Republic has now passed the low uranium enrichment threshold for a nuke.
“At the moment, if (Iranian authorities) make the decision, the Atomic Energy Organization, as the executor, will be able to enrich uranium at any percentage,” Ali Asghar Zarean said, according to Reuters.
Specifically he declared the agency had surpassed 1,200 kg. of low level enriched uranium, following early last month Iran's leaders declaring they consider the program under "no limitations" following the Qassem Soleimani assassination.
The Saturday announcement also comes nearly two weeks after European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal - Germany, France and Britain - said they are moving to trigger the JCPOA's dispute resolution mechanism formally declaring Tehran is in breach, which could bring UN sanctions.
A report in The Jerusalem Post underscores how dire the situation is after this latest threshold has been reached:
If true, the news could substantially accelerate the point at which Israel and the US might need to decide if they will intervene militarily before Iran develops a nuclear weapon.
However, none of this necessarily means Iran has moved to take the final step of weaponizing and delivering the material. Leadership in Tehran has continually emphasized its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes.
The 1,200kg would still have to be enriched to 90% weaponized uranium for a weapon. Combined with the challenges of a delivery method, Israeli defense officials say it could take up to a year to develop a nuke if the Iranians were to move on it now, according to The Jerusalem Post.
To compare to pre-2015 nuclear deal levels, Iran had much more uranium yet never enriched it past the 20% level. It remains to be seen whether Iran's newest announcement is a possible bluff, or an attempt at sowing disinformation to intimidate Washington — still a distinct possibility which awaits IAEA or other international scientific confirmation.