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Nuclear Agreement Misleads About Iranian Breakout Time

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A number of significant factors have emerged based on the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran that would significantly effect and reduce the time it would take for Islamic Republic to acquire a nuclear weapon once the agreement ends.

Under the current proposed agreement, the U.S. administration has touted the figure of a one-year breakout time, saying that 12 months will give the world enough lead time to detect Iranian noncompliance of the agreement and take diplomatic or military action, if necessary, before Iran could  build a bomb.

Yet, taking into consideration aspects of the Iranian nuclear program that are either unknown, under research and development, or equipment that will be left in place (with the potential of being re-activated), a different picture of Iranian breakout time emerges.

  • Of the more than 6,000 centrifuges used to enrich uranium that Iran will be allowed to keep, 1,000-plus will be designated for non-nuclear enrichment. The Washington Institute notes that these centrifuges could easily “be reconverted back to enriching uranium in a short time regardless of technical or monitoring arrangements.”
  • The centrifuges that the agreement allows Iran to keep enrich uranium at a much slower rate that the more advanced centrifuges. The world has been left in the dark regarding the agreement’s specifications on curbing the development of these advanced centrifuges. Faster enrichment with these advanced centrifuges would cut breakout time down significantly.
  • Iran is being allowed to keep uranium stockpiles that have already been enriched to a low level. These stockpiles, taken in combination with advanced centrifuges, could be enriched to a high level at a significantly quicker pace, shortening the breakout time.
  • The latest IAEA report repeatedly stresses that its conclusion are based on “declared facilities,” a heavily veiled hint that more secret sites, like the Fordow enrichment facility hidden by Iran inside a mountain, exist. Fordow was only discovered by intelligence agencies in 2009. Construction on the facility began at least three years previously.

In addition, recent remarks made by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry regarding abdicating the U.S. position that Iran must reveal its past military nuclear history, may significantly reduce Iranian breakout time.

Speaking to the State Department press corps on Tuesday, Kerry said that Iran’s nuclear program in the military was not a secret to the world and that current negotiators were not “fixated” on requiring Iran to reveal that program.

“Coming clean” on their military nuclear program has always been a red line for a final agreement with Iran by both U.S. President Barack Obama as well as Kerry.

Kerry’s current remarks may have been a trial balloon leading up to another concession America is willing to make to Iran regarding their military nuclear program.

In response to Kerry’s statements, State Department spokesman, John Kirby , said, "The [International Atomic Energy Agency]'s concerns about possible military dimensions, past and present, have to be resolved before there is a deal.”

Kirby denied that the U.S. was ready to concede on this matter.

In practical terms, Iran has historically refused inspections of its military installations by the IAEA and categorically refuses any inspection of that program as part of the current deal.

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org

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