Iran's strategic response

December 1, 2020 - 11:0

TEHRAN – In a calibrated policy that was accelerated following the assassination of prominent nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iranian lawmakers have moved to respond to the assassination by finalizing a bill that would rekindle the all-but-dormant Iranian nuclear program.

Fakhrizadeh was assassinated in an attack that was widely attributed to Israel. The attack took place on Friday at 14:30 in the small city of Absard in Damavand County, about 40 kilometers northeast of the capital Tehran. Iranian officials were quick to point the finger at Israel, which has carried out many assassination operations against Iranian nuclear scientists over the past decade. They vowed take revenge against it in due time. While Israeli officials kept silent about the assassination, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tel Aviv was behind the assassination of Fakhrizadeh.

 But at the same time Rouhani described the terror attack as a trap set by Israel for Iran. “All think tanks and all enemies of Iran should know well that the Iranian nation and the country’s authorities are more courageous and Zealous than to let this criminal act go unanswered. The relevant authorities will respond to this crime at the proper time,” Rouhani was quoted by state news agency IRNA as saying on Saturday morning, a day after the assassination.

He added, “The Iranian nation is wiser and smarter than to fall in the trap of the Zionists (Israel). They are after chaos and sedition. They should understand that we know their plans and they will not achieve their ominous goals.”

With Iranian lawmakers putting forward a bill to lift sanctions against the country, Iran seems to be moving in the direction of giving a strategic response to Israel by using non-military tools in its toolbox. Since early November, the lawmakers have moved to review a step-by-step strategy to respond to the measures that the Trump administration has adopted against Iran over the past few years. The assassination of the nuclear scientist has only accelerated this strategy which aims to lift the United States sanctions on Iran.

The strategy is being pursued through a bill called “strategic action to lift sanctions.” The bill is part of a broader strategy that aims to lift the United States sanctions on Iran and was put forward by the lawmakers in early November. It aims to force the United States into lifting sanctions on Iran by doubling down on nuclear activities.

If passed, the bill would compel the government to considerably increase nuclear activities such as increasing uranium enrichment level to 20% and installing more advanced centrifuges.

The bill also requires the government to suspend the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) three months after the ratification of it if the parties to the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers failed to uphold their obligations under the JCPOA.

Over the last few weeks, the lawmakers have been regularly holding meetings to discuss the details of the bill. The assassination of Fakhrizadeh has only intensified these meetings, especially after the Leader of the Islamic Revolution of Iran, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei called on all authorities to continue the scientific works of the late scientist.
The Parliament is expected to hold intensive sessions on the bill on Wednesday, according to Hossein Ali Haji Deligani, a member of the Parliament’s presiding board, who said that the bill amounts to an ultimatum to the West. “With this bill, the Islamic Consultative Assembly seeks to act in such a way as to issue an ultimatum to Western countries to lift sanctions and to materialize what is the right of the Iranian people in the Iranian nuclear industry,” Haji Deligani told Tasnim news agency.

The lawmaker also said that the Parliament will hold an extraordinary session on Wednesday to discuss the bill in detail.
Earlier on Sunday, Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said the lawmakers have discussed the bill and that it will be finalized this week.

“This plan will strengthen the industry and the practical achievements of nuclear scientists and pave the way for Iran to overcome sanctions. This law, along with the reactions of other relevant agencies, in addition to reviving Iran's nuclear industry, creates deterrence against the enemy and security for the people,” Ghalibaf said.

Pundits believe that resuming nuclear activities within this bill can be one of Iran’s options to give an effective response to the assassination of Fakhrizadeh, because increasing uranium enrichment to 20% really terrifies Israel, according to Amir Mousavi, an expert on the West Asia region.

“Being hit with missiles is more tolerable to Israel than to have Iran increase uranium enrichment level to 20%. Israel would accept Haifa being hit with missiles but the implementation of the Additional Protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) does not stop,” Amir Mousavi told the Tehran Times.

It is because the Additional Protocol has imposed strict commitments on Iran that are unique and serve Israel’s interest, he added.

Israelis, for their part, seem to be worried about Iran’s self-restraint whose meaning they know better than anyone else. This concerns are obvious among Israeli political and military circles. Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, the former Israeli army intelligence chief, said on Sunday that Iran’s move to accelerate the nuclear program is a “strategic reaction”.

Speaking at a Media Central virtual press event, Yadlin, who is the executive director of the Institute for National Security Studies, claimed that Iran may wait to react to the assassination of Fakhrizadeh with any kind of military force until the end of the Trump era, according to the Jerusalem Post. However, Yadlin said that Iran may respond by resuming its nuclear program. The former intelligence chief pointed out that Iran might just as likely “react in accelerating the nuclear program. The overt one. They have already done it since May 2019. They can enrich more [uranium], they can enrich [it] to a higher level, they can install advanced centrifuges. This would be a strategic reaction or step.”

Iran has long waited to calibrate its response to Israeli-American policies against it. This patience seems to have yielded a response that would considerably change the country’s nuclear policy. Mousavi said the Iranians took a courageous step toward resuming Iran’s nuclear program.

The expert also praised the Parliament’s move, calling it a “crushing” response to the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
“The Parliament’s move is courageous, strong, and crushing. I think the bill, if passed and finalized, would come over the Zionists like a lightning strike,” Mousavi remarked.

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