Wednesday, 4 Aug 2021

WW3 fears? How Iran could be ‘hiding nuclear activities’ amid coronavirus crisis

Iran has recorded more than 50,000 cases of confirmed coronavirus as of April 2. It is currently in the top seven nations which have been hit the hardest with the deadly bug — yet the nation is still not on full lockdown. Some critics have even speculated that the numbers are much higher than the Iranian government has revealed.

However, the country has still rejected an offer from the US to help combat the coronavirus, and claims it will defeat covid-19 without humanitarian aid from President Donald Trump.

This decision followed years of ongoing tensions between the two countries, with one example being Mr Trump’s decision to pull out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal — officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — in 2018 and impose harsher sanctions instead.

While most of the other signatory nations are still persevering with the Iran nuclear deal, the trust in the agreement relies on regular inspections from the international community.

However, according to a journalist at Iran International, those opposed to the nation’s nuclear programme may suspect it to be “hiding its nuclear activities” while inspections cannot go ahead during the chaotic pandemic.

Dr Pupak Mohebali exclusively told “As almost all the flights are being cancelled because of the global pandemic, this is going to cause a lot of changes in the situation.

“The US and its allies including Israel and some of the Arab countries in the Persian Gulf do not really trust that Iran is abiding by the rules of the nuclear deal.

“If the inspections happen, they could go to Iran, travel through Iran, they are able to monitor all the nuclear activities — that would be very helpful, and that’s what has been happening in the last few years.

“But now, as the inspectors are not able to travel, it is a little tricky.”

The pandemic has caused countries around the globe to impose strict travel bans.

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office recently advised against “any but essential international travel” to Iran for British nationals.

As an article in The Bulletin pointed out last month, “suspending inspections, even temporarily, could potentially leave a multi-month gap that Iran could exploit if it chose to fully break out of the nuclear agreement”.

In the article, Scientist George M. Moore noted: “In early March, the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] reported that Iran had amassed over 1,000 kiograms of low-enriched uranium, nearly triple the amount allowed under the deal.”

He added that this shortened the amount of time Iran would need to create one nuclear weapon to just four to six months.

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Dr Moore continued: “Absent the IAEA inspections, there is a greater possibility of miscalculation regarding Iran and its nuclear potential and intentions.

“Without hard data, US policy makers could begin to fear the worst and assume that Iran was dashing toward a bomb, and it would be difficult to prove otherwise.”

Speaking to earlier this week, Dr Mohebali explained: “Anyone who is against Iran’s nuclear programme could say that Iran could hide some of its nuclear activities from the international community.

“This is a scenario, but it is very much possible because in the past month, the inspections did not happen as thoroughly and decidedly.

“This could lead to accusations, so I believe this could happen again. Iran and the US are in [that kind of] relationship.”

Tensions between Iran and the US came to a head when Mr Trump ordered a drone strike upon the military commander, Qassem Soleimani back in January.

He claimed the nation had been planning an attack on him, and countries around the globe held their breath in case the commander’s death escalated into a war

Iran hit back and attacked a US army base in Iran — as well as accidentally shooting down a Ukrainan passenger plane.

However, tensions appear to have simmered down over the past few months as the coronavirus has taken priority across the world.

The US has been particularly distracted with the pandemic, with some dubbing it the new epicentre of the virus.

Iran is deeply affected too, as even senior government officials have tested positive for coronavirus.

The Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, Minister of Culture Ali Asghar Mounesan and the Minister of Industry Reza Rahmani have all been infected with the disease.

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