Jerusalem—Western sanctions have more than tripled the cost of Iran’s nuclear project to a total of $170 billion, according to Israeli security sources.
Direct investment by Iran in its nuclear program over the past 20 years totaled $40 billion, the sources told AFP, but sanctions imposed by the United States and other nations since 2012 in response to threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon have cost Tehran an additional $130 billion.
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Of this, $105 billion was lost in oil sales and $25 billion in banking, trade, and industry.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon yesterday called on the West to maintain its pressure on Teheran unrelentingly in order to prevent it from reaching nuclear weapons capability. Talk of concessions, he said, has already diluted the sanctions of some of their effectiveness.
The Iranian government should be put "in the dilemma of going on with the [nuclear] project or to survive as a regime. We were just about to reach that point with economic sanctions," Ya’alon said.
Talks in Geneva over the weekend between Iran and Western powers failed to achieve the interim agreement under discussion but further talks are planned. The West reportedly offered an easing of the tight sanctions if Iran softened its position. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sharply attacked the West’s offer, calling the mooted easing of sanctions "dangerous."
Ya’alon said that the mere prospect of easing sanctions has already restored a measure of economic buoyancy in Iran that undermines efforts to halt its nuclear drive.
"We see it happening in front of our eyes," he said during a talk in Jerusalem. "We have lost the momentum of sanctions. We already see the [Iranian] stock market is rising. The ratio of the Rial to the dollar has improved. The Chinese have also approached the Iranians to renew contracts that they lost [because of sanctions] in 2010."
Ya’alon said the proposal to permit Iran to enrich uranium only to 3.5 percent—well below the 90 percent needed for military use—had little merit since it would be possible with modern technology to upgrade enrichment to the 90 percent level needed for military use within "a couple of months."
Ya’alon said that if the Iranians agree to freeze the enrichment of uranium for a given period the current sanctions should be retained as they are.
"If we reach a comprehensive agreement in which they give up all the centrifuges and enrichment capability, this is the point at which sanctions might be eased—not a minute before," he said.