Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz revealed a map on Monday (Sept. 12) showing more than 10 different facilities producing advanced missiles and weapons for its proxies in the region, (including the underground “Masyaf” facility) including Hezbollah.
Speaking at the annual Jerusalem Post Conference in New York City, Gantz said Iran has transformed the CERS military industry into production facilities for missiles and weapons intended for Hezbollah and other proxy groups in the region.
“In other words, it became yet another Iranian front – a factory for advanced, strategic weapons,” Gantz said.
“Under the vision of Qassem Soleimani, Iran transformed CERS into production facilities for mid and long-range, precise missiles and weapons, provided to Hezbollah and Iranian proxies. In other words, it became yet another Iranian front – a factory for advanced, strategic weapons,” the defense minister said.
“These sites, particularly the underground facility at Masyaf, host significant threats to the region and to the State of Israel. Masyaf specifically, is used to produce advanced missiles.
“In addition to CERS, the Iranians are currently working to build missile and weapon industries in Lebanon and Yemen. If this trend will not be stopped, within a decade, there will be advanced Iranian industries across the region, producing weapons and spreading terror,” Gantz warned.
The presentation, “The Middle East in 2032: One Region – Two Realities” creates a critical crossroads for the international community which may lead to two distinct futures for the region by 2032, Israel’s defense ministry said.
The first is a scenario in which Iran achieves its hegemonic ambitions and spreads terror and radicalism which would only be further strengthened if Iran attains a nuclear umbrella.
The alternative, “should the international community take significant action,” is a Middle East that “builds on the achievements of the Abraham Accords,” he said.
“Our intelligence confirms international reports about Iran’s steady progress – including both its production capabilities and rate of enrichment,” Gantz emphasized.
“Iran is producing more and more advanced centrifuges – including at underground facilities where such activities are prohibited. According to our assessments, should Iran decide to do so, it can reach 3SQ (or enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon) at 90 percent within a matter of weeks.”
According to the defense ministry, Iran funds its proxy groups in the region to the tune of more than one billion US dollars per year. The figure includes a budget of more than $100 million provided to Gaza’s ruling Hamas terrorist organization and its local ally, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group.
More than $500 million is provided annually to Hezbollah in Lebanon, “tens of millions of dollars” funneled annually to pro-Iranian militias in Iraq, and “hundreds of millions of dollars” are given annually to Iran’s proxies – among them the Houthis – in Yemen.
Israel recommended four “pragmatic steps” that Gantz said could address the looming threat:
1. Expand regional cooperation
2. Reach a solid agreement while maintaining military deterrence
3. Build a robust intelligence coalition, and
4. Address the “open files” of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
As of September 2022, Iran possesses a stockpile of approximately 1SQ (“significant quantity” -1 ton) of 4 percent enriched uranium, 495 kilograms (over 2SQ, including 1 SQ of around 220 kg and 50 kg in fuel form) of 20 percent enriched uranium, and 83.3 kg of 60 percent enriched uranium (more than 1SQ; 1SQ is at around 65 kg plus several kg for uranium targets), Gantz said.
Creation of an atomic bomb requires uranium enriched to 90 percent — a very short hop from 60 percent enrichment.
Under the JCPOA, Iran was allowed to keep up to 300 kg of UF6 enriched up to just 3.67 percent. The 2015 nuclear deal allowed use of advanced centrifuges “for R&D purposes” – but instead, Iran has been producing and enriching uranium in “thousands of advanced centrifuges.”
Production of uranium metal was altogether prohibited under the 2015 nuclear deal – but Iran is producing uranium metal enriched at 20 percent.
Earlier this year, Iran began enriching uranium in a second IR6 cascade of advanced centrifuges at the underground Fordow nuclear plant; 27 IAEA cameras were removed by Tehran from several nuclear sites.
Iran has since accumulated 3SQ of 20 percent and 60 percent (combined) enriched uranium.
According to a report by The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a “significant quantity,” or “SQ” is the approximate minimum quantity of fissile material required for the manufacture of a nuclear explosive device.
For high-enriched uranium, SQ is defined as 25 kg of U-235.
Iran “could theoretically produce 338 kg of 90% product in a year, or 305 kg of actual U-235. This is equivalent to 12 SQ per year, implying a breakout time of just one month,” according to The Washington Institute.
Some experts have suggested that Iranian breakout will be possible once Tehran produces the necessary amount of 90 percent enriched uranium hexafluoride, converts it to uranium metal and casts and machines the uranium metal bomb parts, WI added.