Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned Tuesday that Iran has made significant strides vis-à-vis its nuclear program, partly by installing advanced uranium centrifuges at new sites near its Natanz nuclear facility.
Speaking at a conference by the Institute for Policy and Strategy at Reichman University, the defense minister said that "Iran is making an effort to complete the manufacturing and installation of 1,000 additional advanced IR6 centrifuges in its nuclear facilities, including new facilities being built at underground sites near Natanz".
Gantz's statement echoed a March 3 report by the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which stated that Iran had installed or planned to install a total of three IR6 cascades, amounting to around 660 machines - as well as IAEA chief Rafael Grossi's April report, which stated that Iran had set up a new underground Natanz workshop for making centrifuge parts, an apparent precaution against attacks.
The defense minister further stated that "the cost of such a future war, which we hope will not happen, can be prevented or reduced [with tougher negotiations by world powers]."
Gantz added that the Iranian threat is not exclusively nuclear, but also regional: "[Tehran] is developing operational systems throughout the region with accurate capabilities of cruise missiles, surface-to-surface missiles and UAVs, all with a range of thousands of kilometers.
"The amount of strategic weapons in Iran's arsenal has increased significantly in the past year,” said Gantz, adding he intends to bring up all these challenges in his meeting with the U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin - scheduled to take place Wednesday at noon.
Gantz also referred to the recent flurry of terror attacks around Israel, saying that the attacks "are connected to each other and were inspired by terrorist organizations via incitement that does not receive sufficient condemnation from the world and the leaders of the region."
According to Gantz, a political initiative is crucial if Israel intends to address the situation and simmer the rising tension levels.
“We will continue our political effort to strengthen our relations with our neighbors in the region and our supporters around the world, out of willingness to make efforts to reduce the conflict, and strive for political arrangements between us and the Palestinians.”
Gantz further referred to the war in Ukraine, which taught Israel that "it’s right to exercise one’s economic and political power, and if needs be military force, as early as possible in order to maybe prevent a possible war.”
Reuters contributed to this story