Israel Warns Iran Would Be 'Hit Hard' in War After Uranium Stockpile Breach, Says It Will Act Alone If Need Be

Israel has threatened to launch unilateral military action against Iran in response to news that Tehran has breached the enriched uranium stockpile limit agreed in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—aka the Iran nuclear deal.

Iranian officials said Monday they had surpassed the 300 kilogram limit agreed in the multilateral Obama-era deal, from which President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. last summer.

According to The Times of Israel, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz has now claimed that the development translates to an imminent threat to his country.

"Israel will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, even if it has to act alone on that," Katz told Army Radio. He added that Tehran's "mistakes in the gray area will lead it to the red zone—a war in which it will be hit hard."

Israel—itself part of the nuclear club since 1966—has long been a critic of the JCPOA, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu applied intense pressure to Trump to withdraw from the agreement last year.

The other signatories—the U.K., France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union—have been working to keep the deal alive and protect business with Iran. But under the pressure of new American sanctions, their efforts are faltering.

The agreement limited Iran to 300 kilograms of uranium enriched to 3.67 percent for 15 years. This cut the country's enriched uranium stockpile by around 98 percent.

The material must be enriched to between 3 and 4 percent for use in civilian power plants, and to around 90 percent for use in nuclear weapons. Iranian officials have threatened to increase enrichment to achieve 5 and 20 percent purity to fuel other power plants. Once 20 percent is achieved, it is a relatively short step to weapons-grade material.

Experts have noted that although the stockpile limit has been breached, this does not mean Iran is on the verge of a nuclear weapon. Indeed, dire warnings of Tehran's proximity to nuclear bombs have been made in the past and proven incorrect.

Regardless, Katz said the stockpile landmark was a "wake-up call" to Europe. "Feeding the Iranian tiger will not help; only an aggressive policy and sanctions and support for the U.S. policy will quickly show that it is a paper tiger," Katz said.

On Monday, Netanyahu described Iran's uranium enrichment progress as a "significant step" toward building nuclear weapons. He also vowed to provide evidence that Iran has been cheating on the nuclear deal for some time.

Before Trump withdrew from the JCPOA last year, Netanyahu revealed a trove of intelligence he said proved Iran was non-compliant with the agreement. U.S. intelligence officials and experts dismissed the information as irrelevant.

A State Department statement published Monday called on Iran to reverse its latest steps. "The Iranian regime, armed with nuclear weapons, would pose an even greater danger to the region and to the world," it read. "As long as Iran continues to reject diplomacy and expand its nuclear program, the economic pressure and diplomatic isolation will intensify."

Israel, warns, Iran, war
This file photo shows an Israeli F-15 I fighter jet at the Hatzerim base in the Negev desert, near the southern Israeli city of Beer Sheva, on June 27, 2019. JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty