Iran’s Rouhani: 60% Enrichment Is Response to Israel’s ‘Nuclear Terrorism’

In this September 2019 file photo, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a joint press conference with Turkish and Russian counterparts. (Adem Altan/AFP via Getty Images)
Adem Altan/AFP via Getty Images

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday said his country’s decision to hike uranium enrichment to 60 percent purity — dangerously close to weapons-grade —was a direct response to Israel’s “nuclear terrorism” with its attack a few days earlier on the Natanz nuclear facility.

“Enabling IR-6 [centrifuges] at Natanz today, or bringing enrichment to 60 percent: this is the response to your malice,” Rouhani said in televised remarks. “What you did was nuclear terrorism. What we do is legal.”

Rouhani said the first-generation IR-1 centrifuges at Natanz, which were destroyed in the cyberattack, would be replaced by advanced IR-6 centrifuges that can enrich uranium at much greater speeds.

“You wanted to make our hands empty during the talks but our hands are full,” Rouhani said. “We cut both of your hands, one with IR-6 centrifuges and another one with 60%.”

The cyberattack, on which Israel has not commented officially, reportedly set back the country’s nuclear program by nine months.

Sixty percent enrichment leaves a short technical step for centrifuges to obtain weapons-grade 90 percent enrichment or higher.

The 2015 nuclear deal allows for enriched uranium up to 3.67 percent.

A former U.S. intelligence official told NBC News on Tuesday the recent Natanz attack, together with others attributed to Israel, such as the July 2020 explosion at the same plant, as well as the assassination of the country’s nuclear weapons mastermind, are part of a pattern aimed at sabotaging the nuclear program.

“Someone has the capability to reach out and put the finger of God on someone’s forehead without hurting civilians,” the former official said. “The Iranians are thinking, ‘Can we get away with anything secret that these guys aren’t going to blow up and kill?’ They can find your most secret people, places and toys and touch them, and do it surgically in a way that doesn’t hurt civilians and doesn’t leave fingerprints.”

 

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