Parts of a shipment of uranium sent by Iran to its terror proxies in Yemen were seized by the international Al Qaeda terrorist organization, according to unnamed “Middle East sources” who spoke with Israel’s Ma’ariv newspaper.
According to the report published Monday (Dec. 12), Iran recently delivered a shipment of enriched uranium to Houthi rebels in Yemen.
However, parts of that shipment “actually fell into the hands of members of the Al Qaeda organization in the Al Bayda area,” the news outlet reported.
No information was offered on the level of enrichment the uranium had undergone, how much of that uranium fell into Al Qaeda hands, or how in fact the international terrorist group got its hands on the nuclear resource.
But the report highlights the danger of a nuclear Iran that shares its military resources with terrorist proxies throughout the Middle East.
The Houthis have been responsible for hundreds of attacks on important infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirate and present a credible threat to Israeli vessels sailing through the Red Sea.
Enough Enriched Uranium for 2 Nuclear Bombs
At present, Iran has two bombs’ worth of uranium enriched to 60 percent levels – a short hop from the 90 percent enrichment required to complete an atomic weapon.
Tehran is also continuing to install and operate advanced centrifuges that can enrich more uranium at a much faster rate than its first-generation IR-1 centrifuges.
“Only a credible threat of force will stop the regime from crossing the nuclear weapons threshold,” Dennis Ross, a fellow at The Washington Institute, warned this past September.
Israeli Warnings Date Back Decades
A parade of Israeli prime ministers stretching as far back as the early 1990s, during the first term of then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have warned of the nuclear danger Iran presents to the planet.
Ten years ago, said Ross, then-Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak – by no means a hawk – urged the Obama administration to takes steps to stop Iran’s race towards nuclear weapons.
Barak would regularly go to Washington and hold high-level meetings with senior officials in the Obama administration, Ross said.
“Iran’s nuclear program was the central focus of those meetings, and I recall his frequent admonition: ‘You say there is time to deal with it, but I fear we will be told this until we are told, ‘it is too late and there is nothing to be done but live with it.’’
“I was one of those in the US government reassuring him that we would not let this happen. However, with Rafael Grossi, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), now saying the Iranian nuclear program ‘is galloping ahead,’ I fear that Barak’s words may have been prophetic,” Ross wrote.
Iran Galloping Ahead
Iran had already acquired enough highly enriched uranium (HEU) by April of this year to create one nuclear bomb. The stockpile – about 40 to 42 kilograms of 60 percent enriched uranium – was produced at its Natanz nuclear plant, as confirmed subsequently by the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
“Iran can now produce 25 kilograms [of uranium] at 90 percent if they want to,” a senior diplomat warned by September in response to a report by the UN nuclear watchdog seen by Reuters.
The report said Iran had produced 55.6 kg of 60 percent enriched uranium, and in the form of uranium hexafluoride – the gas enriched by centrifuges to create the fuel, an increase of 12.5 kg from its previous quarterly report.
The diplomat added that it would take Iran just three to four weeks to produce enough material for a bomb, and would take the IAEA two to three days to detect the activity.
A second report also issued September 7 referenced Iran’s continued failure to explain the origin of uranium particles found at three undeclared sites. In that report, the IAEA noted Iran “has not engaged with the Agency on the outstanding safeguards issues during this reporting period and, therefore, that there has been no progress towards resolving them.”
In November, Iran announced it had also begun producing uranium enriched to 60 percent purity at a second facility, the underground Fordo nuclear plant. The move was condemned by the UK, France, and Germany but no one did anything about it.
Iran is Already a Threshold Nuclear Power
Although it is generally believed that uranium must be enriched to 90 percent for production of a nuclear weapon, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISS) contends this is not true.
“At the least, a device made from 60 percent HEU would be suitable for underground nuclear testing or delivery by a crude delivery system such as an aircraft, shipping container, or truck, sufficient to establish Iran as a nuclear power,” David Albright and Sarah Burkhard wrote in an April 11, 2022 article on the subject.
Iran has multiple pathways to production of nuclear weapons, including an accelerated program that could result in creation of its first nuclear weapon within six months, ISS subsequently warned in a report on December 5.
“A priority is ensuring that Iran is inhibited, or deterred, from deciding to build nuclear weapons,” David Albright wrote in the report.
Potential for Catastrophe
On November 15, Iran attacked an Israeli-owned oil tanker sailing through the Gulf of Oman, using one of its Shaheed-136 kamikaze drones, the same model UAV Iran has supplied to Russia for use in its war on Ukraine.
The combat drone, launched from an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) base, left a 30-inch (76 cm) wide hole in the side of the vessel, but none of the crew members were physically injured.
What might have happened, had the drone been equipped with nuclear explosives?
Last week, Iranian state television announced the start of construction on Karoon, a new 300-megawatt nuclear power plant to be established in the southwest of the country. The project, located in the oil-rich Khuzestan province near the western border with Iraq, will take eight years and cost around $2 billion, according to Iranian state media.
Although the purpose of this newest nuclear plant is not yet clear, it is abundantly clear that Iran has no intention of slowing down — let alone stopping — its drive toward nuclear weapons.
What will Al Qaeda do with its Iranian gift of uranium, the fuel most widely used by nuclear power plants for nuclear fission?