Iranian Leaders Risk 'End of Their Regime' If They Pursue Nuclear Weapons, Retired U.S. General Says

A retired American general has suggested that any concerted Iranian effort to obtain nuclear weapons will result in the regime in Tehran being toppled by the U.S. and Israel.

Former four-star general Jack Keane told Fox News' Bill Hemmer Monday that Iran's increased enrichment of uranium is an attempt to try and force concessions from the international community, and that the crisis is still some way from breaking out into an open conflict.

Under the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—from which President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. last year—Iran was limited to stockpiling 300 kilograms of uranium enriched to 3.67 percent. This is pure enough to use in some nuclear power plants, but a long way from the 90 percent enrichment needed for nuclear weapons.

Last week, Iran's stockpile grew past the 300 kilograms allowed, prompting condemnation from the international community. This weekend, Tehran announced it is now enriching uranium to 5 percent for use in its Bushehr power plant.

Keane suggested that Tehran's brinkmanship is designed to try and force concessions from the European signatories of the JCPOA—the U.K., France and Germany—who remain committed to the deal.

He told Hemmer that U.S. diplomats will be working with their European counterparts to push back on Iranian pressure. Keane said it was vital that the Europeans "don't agree to the Iranians' nuclear blackmail here."

"The early indications, and this is good news, is that the Europeans appear to be doing just that—pushing back," he explained. "We'll know for certain within a day or two where they stand."

Trump told reporters Sunday that Iran had "better be careful" with expanding its enrichment of uranium. "Iran is doing a lot of bad things," he added. "The way they want it they would have automatic rights to have nuclear weapons. Iran will never have a nuclear weapon."

Despite months of tensions that at one point appeared close to war, Keane said military action is not an immediate threat. "We'll give them firm warnings of that," he said.

"We're not in the danger zone yet," Keane added, noting that Trump is currently maintaining his "strategic offensive with a maximum pressure campaign" of economic sanctions. This approach is "crippling the Iranians," he suggested, "they have never ever had this kind of pressure."

This desperation explains Tehran's very public increase in enriched uranium production. "They have another hand to play here with busting these restrictions to see if the Europeans will help them," Keane suggested.

"I don't believe that the Iranians will come to the negotiating table until they have run out of options," he added. "I also don't think they'll make a race to a nuclear weapon, because that will be the end of their regime."

"I think they recognize that the United States, under this administration, and certainly the Israelis are dead serious about not tolerating a nuclear weapon, which would force military action. We're a long way from something like that happening."

Iran, nuclear weapon, end of their regime
Iranian women walk past a mural painted with the Iranian flag in Tehran, Iran, on June 25, 2019. ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty