On Thursday, diplomats told The Daily Telegraph that the International Atomic Energy Agency had now substantiated evidence that Iran was a running weapons programme alongside its known civilian nuclear programme.
The IAEA report due to be released later this month is likely to herald resolutions before the United Nations for more sanctions against Iranian institutions, possibly including the Central Bank of Iran, which would have a severe effect on the country’s already staggering economy (…)
The Israeli cabinet is split on whether the benefits of an pre-emptive strike on the programme outweigh the inevitable consequences of retaliation either directly or through Iran’s militant proxies Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbollah.
Analysts say the main danger is that Iran will stop short of actually building a nuclear weapon, but leave itself with sufficient “breakout capacity” – the ability to do so quickly – that it will become a de facto nuclear power with the strategic weight and deterrent effect that implies.
That would leave Israel in an ever more isolated position, unable to assert its own security but without a pretext for attacking its main regional enemy.
“This report will be a watershed in that it will confirm suspicions about Iranian work on weapons development,” said Mark Fitzpatrick, director of the non-proliferation and disarmament programme at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
“I don’t expect that this information will be a smoking gun in terms of developing nuclear weapons, but it will certainly confirm Iran’s interest in having that option ready.