The Biden administration has delivered a “sharp rebuke” to Israel for undermining its position in talks with Iran by its “embarrassing chatter and bragging” about the bomb at the Natanz nuclear enrichment plant, Israel’s Channel 12 reported Friday.
Biden officials “sent a message to Israel that chatting and bragging about actions Israel is doing is dangerous, embarrassing and endangers the Americans in negotiations with Iran,” the Hebrew-language report said.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said that Iran had begun enriching uranium to 60 percent — dangerously close to weapons-grade — at an “aboveground facility” at the Natanz facility, confirming an earlier statement made by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani who said the move came as a direct response to Israel’s “nuclear terrorism” at the plant days earlier.
Sixty percent enrichment leaves a short technical step for centrifuges to obtain weapons-grade 90 percent enrichment or higher. Iran had previously produced 20 percent enrichment, which already violated the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal. The Obama-led agreement, which the Biden Administration is hoping to rejoin, allows for enriched uranium up to 3.67 percent.
An April 11 blast at the Natanz facility saw the power supply cut and thousands of centrifuges destroyed, reportedly setting back the country’s nuclear program by nine months.
Iran blamed Israel for the attack. He addressed Israel in televised remarks, saying, “this is the response to your malice. 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%.”
According to former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, who said he had no knowledge of the Natanz attack, the bomb was likely placed there more than a decade ago, waiting for the right time to be detonated.
Over the weekend, Iran state-run television identified Reza Karimi as a suspect in last week’s attack, adding he had since fled the country.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear to the Biden administration that Israel would not be bound by a renegotiated nuclear deal with Iran that would see the Islamic Republic obtaining a bomb in a few years.
“My policy as prime minister of Israel is clear — I will never allow Iran to obtain the nuclear capability to carry out its genocidal goal of eliminating Israel,” Netanyahu told visiting US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in Jerusalem last week.