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While the U.S. and Iran have so far failed to agree on terms for a new nuclear agreement, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned that the Islamic nation is just weeks away from having the necessary materials for a nuclear weapon.
Gantz tweeted the claim in Hebrew when posting about remarks he delivered at Israel‘s Reichman University. The Jerusalem Post reported on the speech, relaying that Iran currently produces uranium at an enrichment level of 20% while already having 60 kilograms of 60% enriched material. Uranium enriched at a 90% level is needed for a weapon.
“Iran continues to accumulate irreversible knowledge and experience in the development, research, production and operation of advanced centrifuges,” Gantz said during his address, stating that Iran is working on 1,000 new advanced centrifuges, including at an underground facility near Natanz.
Gantz also said that Iran has been keeping inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency from accessing their systems.
Gantz said a “multidimensional” international response is needed to prevent all out war with Iran.
“Today, the prices for tackling the Iranian challenge on the global and regional levels are higher than they were a year ago and lower than they will be within a year,” Gantz said.
The defense minister noted that Iran has been making a number of other improvements to their military capabilities, “including cruise missiles, surface-to-surface missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles that have a range of thousands of kilometers.”
A nuclear Iran could pose an existential threat to Israel as Iran’s leadership has threatened to destroy the Jewish state.
Meanwhile. the Biden administration has been trying to enter into a new nuclear deal with Tehran, years after then-President Donald Trump withdrew from the international Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that critics said did not do enough to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon in the long term or properly address their ballistic missile program.
Iran has been calling for the U.S. to remove their Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations as part of any agreement. So far, the administration has resisted, as veterans, Gold Star families, and lawmakers in Washington, D.C. have warned not to do this.
At the same time, Iranian leadership faces pressure from its own people, who have been protesting in response to a floundering economy.
The protests began last week when the government slashed food subsidies on eggs, milk, chicken, and cooking oil leading to price rises of some 300%. Since then, protests have spread to many areas of the country and according to observers have taken on a much more anti-government current.
Protesters, showing no fear of retribution by the state security services have been heard shouting, “Death to Khamenei! Death to Raisi!” referring to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who has promised to create jobs, lift sanctions, and rescue the economy.
Over the weekend ,reports said up to five people were killed following a crackdown by authorities. A semi-official government news agency put the number of dead from the protests at one according to the Associated Press.
Fox News’ Ben Evansky and The Associated Press contributed to this report.