Iran is “dangerously close” to getting a nuclear bomb but can be stopped if the West “wakes up” to the threat, Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said.
Tensions between Iran and the West have increased in the last week after the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors found that officials had turned off inspection cameras at a nuclear plant.
Concerns over Tehran possessing a nuclear weapon, a step that would destabilise the Middle East, come after talks stalled to resurrect the nuclear agreement following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph on Saturday, Mr Bennett said that without intense pressure, Iran “will get its hands on a bomb very soon”.
“Iran is enriching uranium at an unprecedented rate and moving dangerously close to getting their hands on nuclear weapons,” he said.
Mr Bennett, who made his second official visit to Abu Dhabi on Thursday since the UAE and Israel normalised ties in 2020, urged western powers to prevent Iran building a nuclear bomb.
“The world must take a firm stance and tell the Islamic regime in Iran: no nukes, no sanctions. Iran’s nuclear programme won’t stop until it’s stopped.”
Mr Bennett made the surprise, day-long visit to the UAE to see the President, Sheikh Mohamed and other leading figures to discuss security issues.
Israeli officials have indicated that with Ukraine taking up considerable attention, the West is only now “waking up” to the threat of Iran becoming a nuclear power.
While Iran has denied it is making nuclear weapons, it is understood that it has begun enriching uranium to more than 60 per cent, enough for a bomb.
Israel is said to have asked Britain to consider introducing a “tripwire” mechanism of increasingly harsh sanctions to put greater pressure on Iran if it continues its work.
It is possible that the severe economic restrictions placed on Russia following its illegal invasion of Ukraine might affect Tehran’s thinking.
Iran resumed its nuclear bomb programme after former US president Donald Trump withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action deal in 2018.
President Joe Biden vowed he would revive the deal, but talks to be held in Vienna have been delayed, with Iran apparently believing it will gain the most leverage on lifting sanctions by completing its nuclear project.
This is a high-risk position, with Israel and the US likely to take military action to prevent the hard-line regime gaining a weapon of mass destruction.
Israel is said to have continued covert attacks on the nuclear programme with a series of military operations.
A top Iranian nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was mysteriously assassinated in Tehran in 2020. The following year, advanced centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear plant were hit in an unexplained explosion, setting back its enrichment capabilities by an estimated nine months.