On Iran Deal, It’s a ‘Yes’ Vote That Could Lead to War
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal reached between Iran and the international community has set off serious debate. Congress now has the opportunity to weigh in under the terms of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. The Obama Administration is claiming that a “no” vote by members of Congress is a vote for war. Actually the opposite is true. A “yes” vote to approve the deal is an invitation to disaster.
The White House claims that if Congress votes “no,” Iran will then decide to quit the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and move to enrich uranium to weapons-grade. But this scenario is not grounded in reality. Here’s why.
Iran’s current “breakout capacity” is about two months. (Breakout is defined as the time it would take a nation to develop enough highly enriched uranium for one nuclear weapon). If Iran were to begin enriching uranium to weapons-grade at declared facilities, inspectors would quickly detect this diversion and two months would be sufficient time for the U.S. or Israel to mount military action — something Iran is desperate to avoid.
It’s only logical, then, that Iran would want to be patient and wait to break out of the NPT when its capacity to do so would be reduced from months to days — insufficient time for inspectors to alert the international community to take action.
The White House is telling us that the JCPOA will critically set back Iran’s breakout capacity to one year. While that may be true for the next 10 years, things begin to change dramatically after 2025.
According to the terms of the JCPOA, between years 10 and 15, all restrictions on the size and scope of Iran’s nuclear program will be eliminated in what is commonly referred to as the deal’s “sunset.” After 15 years, Iran will be free to build as many centrifuges and enrich as much uranium as it wants, including at higher levels of purity closer to weapons-grade.
David Albright, one of America’s leading nuclear experts, predicts that by 2033, Iran’s uranium enrichment program could become so large and advanced that Iran’s breakout capacity would shrink to a period of days. At that point, if Iran decides to break its obligations under the NPT and build nuclear weapons, no amount of international inspectors will be able to detect and provide adequate warning to prevent that from happening.
In his recent analysis, Albright warned, “Supporters of the agreement have not offered answers regarding how to avoid a dire outcome after 10 to 15 years. Often, one hears that if Iran breaks out or otherwise seeks nuclear weapons, the United States can bomb Iran. However, this option appears unworkable as a prescriptive policy, given how close Iran can be to having nuclear weapons in 15 years, how much greater its conventional military capabilities will likely be…”
Albright is right. Iran is already finalizing the purchase of an advanced anti-aircraft missile system from Russia. After the lifting of the U.N. embargo on the sale of conventional weapons to Iran in year five of the deal, Iran will certainly want to buy advanced fighter jets from China or Russia. Tehran may then believe it will be able to deter or repulse an attack.
Another element that is troublesome comes in year eight of the deal, when the U.N. sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile program will also be lifted.
In testimony to Congress on June 10, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said, “Even today, their missiles cover most all of the Middle East, and the next generation will include ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles] capable of attacking the American homeland.”
All these factors combined together would embolden Iran to attempt breakout after 2030. A vote to approve this deal would be a vote for a nightmare scenario that would set the stage for a very destructive war.
By 2033, this deal would allow Iran to become a nuclear threshold state with a breakout capacity that is numbered in days. Military force will be unable to prevent Iran from crossing that threshold. Once Iran does that, we will be facing a nuclear-armed, state sponsor of terror armed with ICBMs.
A vote to reject the deal will keep the toughest sanctions in effect; our foreign friends will still be left with the choice of doing business in the unrivaled American market or Iran, and the P5+1 will still have the leverage to get a better deal.
For the sake of the security of the United States and its allies, we call upon members of Congress to reject this deal and demand a better one that will forever close the path to a nuclear-armed Iran.
Bob Feferman is Outreach Coordinator for the non-partisan advocacy group, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI).