Iran claims it is on the brink of creating an atomic bomb, while the Biden administration laments the derailed nuclear talks. No grass has been growing under the feet of Iran’s engineers. Though short of the enriched uranium in quantities necessary, they have been busy developing the capability to build a nuclear weapon. Despite loose economic sanctions placed on Tehran by the West, the Iranian government has not stopped atomic bomb research and development. For his part, the US president has threatened to attack Iran “as a last resort” to prevent the country from having these weapons. Yet it appears Joe Biden’s threats may be a bit late.
According to Ned Price, US State Department spokesman, in a press briefing:
“[I]t’s no secret that Iran’s … fissile material has increased and its breakout time, that is to say the amount of time it would need to acquire enough fissile material to create a nuclear weapon if it chose to weaponize, that time has decreased significantly. It has gone from about a year at its height to a matter of a few weeks or less.”
For Americans who are skeptical, Price’s claims are similar to what the Iranians assert. “Iran is technically capable of making a nuclear bomb but has not decided whether to build one,” Kamal Kharrazi, a senior adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on Qatar’s Al Jazeera TV. Yet hope springs eternal that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), inked by the Obama administration in 2015 but never agreed to by the US Senate, can be resurrected.
Former President Donald Trump withdrew from the JCPOA because it was too narrow in focus and didn’t do much to prevent Iran from building an atomic bomb. Moreover, it did not insist Tehran reduce its nuclear-capable long-range missile development or stop its sponsorship of worldwide terrorist organizations.
Trump Blamed for Iran’s Proximity to Nuclear Bomb
In the latest round of negotiations, the Tehran government has demanded that talks must meet its conditions or they will be canceled. Despite such intransigence, the current White House lost no opportunity to blame the Trump administration for Biden’s failures at the negotiating table. With typical pass-the-buck logic, John Kirby, the new National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, told Fox News a JCPOA redux deal is just waiting to be signed. He rebuked the Trump administration for pulling out of the agreement, which allowed Iran to continue producing enriched uranium. “So, we are where we are,” Kirby concluded.
However, there is significant evidence Iran hasn’t lived up to the Obama deal on which the Biden team hangs its hopes. Iran has consistently kept nuclear bomb research hidden from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors charged with examining Iran’s nuclear facilities. In November 2021, the IAEA said it “made a deal in September where Tehran would allow access to all nuclear sites and restore surveillance equipment, but the agency later warned that it was denied access to the Karaj facility,” The Hill reported. Karaj is believed to be where significant development is taking place.
With Iran having a nuclear weapon in a “breakout time, which is now too short for comfort,” as Price put it, what is the danger to the United States, allies, and friends in the Middle East if Biden succeeds in breathing life into the JCPOA? Unfortunately, there is an excellent chance the White House will latch on to the same flawed terms, conditions, and dangers inherent in that agreement.
Retired US Army Vice Chief of Staff General Jack Keane asked rhetorically in a Fox News interview: “We’ve had this experience before. In 2015 when they got hundreds of billions of dollars, as a result of that nuclear deal, what did they do with it?” Keane explained the Iranians used the money to bring down the Yemeni government with the help of surrogate Houthi terrorists who attacked Saudi Arabia with hundreds of missiles. Additionally, Keane said that Iran used US dollars to supply Hezbollah and Hamas with “tens of thousands of missiles” to attack Israel.
Whether or not Iran is close to developing a nuclear weapon, succumbing to blackmail to get an agreement at any cost will not make America or its Middle East allies and partners safer. With the JCPOA, Iran will continue to have the upper hand and is unlikely to slow or stop its march to be a rogue and dangerous nation, but with an atomic bomb.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.