Simply devastating. Remember, Obama gave up on trying to pressure Iran into dismantling its nuclear program long ago. The goal of the current negotiations is containment in the form of lengthening the nuclear “breakout” period, the amount of time it would take for Iran to highly enrich the amount of uranium needed to make a bomb. Currently that period stands at two months: If Iran decided to go to war with the west, they could walk away from the bargaining table, put the UN’s nuclear inspectors on a plane home from Tehran, and have the core of an atomic bomb ready by the end of August or so. The chief selling point of the deal to Americans, according to the White House, is that it’ll extend that breakout period from two months to one year. If Iran sticks to the terms of the final agreement, there’ll be so many centrifuges taken offline and so much uranium diluted that it would take them 12 whole months to produce the same sort of highly enriched core. That would give the U.S. and Israel plenty of time to seek a UN resolution and/or send in the bombers to stop the program if need be.
It’s all a lie, says Alan Kuperman, coordinator of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project at U-T.
Most important, in the event of an overt attempt by Iran to build a bomb, Mr. Obama’s argument assumes that Iran would employ only the 5,060 centrifuges that the deal would allow for uranium enrichment, not the roughly 14,000 additional centrifuges that Iran would be permitted to keep mainly for spare parts. Such an assumption is laughable. In a real-world breakout, Iran would race, not crawl, to the bomb…
Second, since the deal would permit Iran to keep only a small amount of enriched uranium in the gaseous form used in centrifuges, Mr. Obama assumes that a dash for the bomb would start mainly from unenriched uranium, thereby lengthening the breakout time. But the deal would appear to also permit Iran to keep large amounts of enriched uranium in solid form (as opposed to gas), which could be reconverted to gas within weeks, thus providing a substantial head-start to producing weapons-grade uranium.
Third, Mr. Obama’s argument assumes that Iran would require 59 pounds of weapons-grade uranium to make an atomic bomb. In reality, nuclear weapons can be made from much smaller amounts of uranium (as experts assume North Korea does in its rudimentary arsenal). A 1995 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council concluded that even a “low technical capability” nuclear weapon could produce an explosion with a force approaching that of the Hiroshima bomb — using just 29 pounds of weapons-grade uranium.
Can’t do much about that third part but the first two could be dealt with by driving a harder bargain, insisting that Iran hands over its extra centrifuges and its surplus uranium. But Iran won’t do that, partly because it would lose face at home and partly because it understands the math here as well as Kuperman does. By his calculations, under the terms of the deal as it’s shaping up, the “breakout period” would be extended … to three months, just one more month than where it stands currently. We’re about to release billions in money that’s been bottled up by sanctions, some of which will itself be used to further expand Iran’s nuclear program, reducing the breakout period from three months to a few days, in return for a victory so thin it can’t even properly be described as symbolic. And why are we doing that? An Iranian diplomat told Reuters the truth a few days ago: “There will be a deal, Americans need it more than we do.” If by “Americans” he means “the White House,” then yeah, that’s accurate. Obama prefers a catastrophic policy failure that gives him a political victory to a catastrophic political failure that would leave us with a better policy. The entire Iranian bargaining strategy resides in that one line. “Americans need it more than we do.” If you felt that way about your negotiating partner, why would you concede anything important, like inspections of military sites? No wonder Iran refuses.
Exit question one: Can it really be true, per Josh Rogin and Eli Lake, that U.S. troops are now stationed at the same base in Iraq as some of Iran’s Shiite militiamen? I realize O has this weird fantasy of rapprochement with Team Death To America but asking Marines to shack up with the people who bombed their barracks in Lebanon 32 years ago seems like a high ask. Exit question two: Are we sure the deadline for a final nuclear agreement is June 30th? Under a sane negotiating policy in which we were determined to show our resolve by walking away at the deadline if need be, that would be an easy question to answer. Under our actual negotiating policy, in which a deal must be secured at all costs, the timetable operates at Iran’s leisure. Go figure that Josh Earnest and the State Department are already mumbling about negotiations continuing on into July (or beyond?) if need be. We’ve already signaled that a bad deal is no deal. Giving Iran a “June 30th or bust” ultimatum now won’t fool anyone.