Israel told the UN nuclear watchdog on Friday that it would prefer a diplomatic resolution to the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program but could take independent action, reiterating a long-standing veiled threat to launch preemptive war.
The warning to visiting International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi followed calls by Western powers on the IAEA Board of Governors to rebuke Tehran for failing to answer questions on uranium traces at undeclared sites.
That dispute has further clouded so-far fruitless attempts by negotiators to resurrect a 2015 Iran nuclear deal that former US President Donald Trump quit in 2018.
Since Washington’s walkout, Iran - which says its nuclear designs are peaceful - has stepped up uranium enrichment, a process that could produce fuel for bombs.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett “stressed (to Grossi) the importance of the IAEA Board of Governors delivering a clear and unequivocal message to Iran in its upcoming decision,” a statement from Bennett’s office said.
“While it prefers diplomacy in order to deny Iran the possibility of developing nuclear weapons, Israel reserves the right to self-defense and action against Iran to stop its nuclear program if the international community fails to do so within the relevant time-frame,” it added without elaborating.
There was no immediate comment from Grossi’s office.
On Thursday, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, told Norway’s NRK that Israel “can only attack Iran in its dreams.”
“And if they do have such a dream, they will never wake up from it,” Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency quoted Bagheri Kani, who is on an official visit to Norway, as saying
Israel’s advanced military, widely assumed to have nuclear weapons, this week signaled strategic reach by going public with an air force strike exercise over the Mediterranean Sea and the rare deployment of a naval submarine to the Red Sea.
But some security analysts question if Israel has the conventional clout to deliver lasting damage to Tehran’s distant, dispersed and well-defended nuclear facilities - or to contend with the multi-front fighting with Iranian forces and guerrilla allies that could follow.