On Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). According to Bennett’s office, the Israeli leader told Grossi that Israel has the “right” to act against Iran’s nuclear program.
“Bennett made it clear that while Israel prefers diplomacy to deny Iran the possibility of developing nuclear weapons, it reserves the right to self-defense and action against Iran to block its nuclear program,” Bennett’s office wrote on Twitter.
Israel has a history of launching covert attacks on Iran’s civilian nuclear program but has lately been threatening a more overt operation, although it’s not clear if Israeli bombers are capable of such an attack. Earlier this week, Israeli warplanes simulated large-scale strikes on Iran over the Mediterranean Sea.
The IAEA rarely comments on Israel’s covert attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities. The nuclear watchdog agreed to condemn a drone strike that hit an Iranian centrifuge facility in Karaj, Iran, but only after being pressured by Iran in a deal to reinstall IAEA surveillance cameras that were damaged in the strike.
Grossi said after his meeting with Bennett, that he stressed the importance of IAEA “safeguards and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) for global peace and security.” Israel is not a signatory due to its secret nuclear weapons program and has never permitted IAEA inspectors to inspect its Dimona nuclear facility. Estimates put Israel’s nuclear stockpile somewhere between 90 and 300 warheads.
Bennett and Grossi’s meeting came after the IAEA issued a report accusing Iran of not being cooperative with the agency on alleged undeclared nuclear sites, which Iran said wasn’t “fair and balanced.” The IAEA also said recently that Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium is more than 18 times the limit of the nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA.
Since the US withdrew from the JCPOA, Iran is not bound by its limits. While the levels of Iran’s enriched uranium stockpiles make for an alarming headline, none of the uranium is enriched to the 90% needed for weapons-grade.
Talks between the US and Iran to revive the JCPOA have been stalled as the Biden administration refuses to lift the terror designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Israel has been pushing the US not to return to the deal even though it puts strict limits on Iran’s nuclear activities and makes its nuclear facilities subject to the most stringent inspections in the world.