Skip to main content

The Middle East

Iran is on the cusp of becoming a nuclear power

An Iranian Saeqeh missile being launched in 2010. Mehdi Marizad/AFP/Getty

In the shadow of Ukraine, says Markus Kaim in Der Spiegel, the escalation of Iran’s nuclear programme is going “largely unnoticed”. Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Tehran had quietly changed its configuration of the centrifuges needed to enrich atomic elements. Inspectors have already detected uranium with a purity of 84% at Iranian plants – not much short of the 90% required for nuclear bombs. These findings leave little doubt that the Islamic Republic is “on the verge” of becoming a nuclear power.

This is a grave risk to global security. The voices calling for a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities “are getting louder in Israel” – Jerusalem has already launched a drone attack on the plant at Isfahan. Then there’s the fact that even rudimentary Iranian nukes will have a range of around 2,000 km, making not only Israel but also Nato states like Romania, Bulgaria and Greece potential targets. If Tehran does get the bomb, it will probably sound the death knell for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, implemented by most of the world back in 1970. That will likely result in a rapid increase in the number of nuclear states; officials in Riyadh have already made it clear that if Iran becomes a nuclear power, Saudi Arabia will immediately strive to follow suit. Western leaders can no longer “close their eyes” to this crisis, “the consequences of which will go far beyond the Middle East”.