Iran’s Nuclear Advances While U.S. Diplomacy Dithers

Iran has tiptoed to the very edge of a nuclear weapons capability: according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Tehran has now enriched uranium to 84 percent, its highest level ever and just shy of weapons-grade (90 percent). Meanwhile, the Biden administration is engaged in a months-long public debate with itself about whether to continue negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran, as shown in a new JINSA infographic. President Biden has admitted the deal is dead, while other officials repeatedly insist diplomacy must continue.

Yet, Iran’s nuclear advances continue to shorten and weaken what was already an unacceptable JCPOA nuclear deal to the point of insignificance. In the year since American officials first idly warned they would walk away from talks, Iran’s nuclear advances have cut the efficacy of a revived JCPOA roughly in half. If the terms of that 2015 nuclear deal were reimposed today, due to Iran’s installation of large numbers of advanced centrifuges, its estimated breakout time would be a mere 3.7 months, compared to 6.5 months if the deal had been restored a year ago and 12 months when the deal originally went into effect.

There should be no question at this point, however, of returning to the JCPOA. Nor can more time be wasted waiting for Iran to return to the negotiating table. Tehran will continue barreling toward nuclear weapons capability unless the administration both declares publicly that Tehran’s intransigence killed the talks and finally pivots to an overdue “Plan B” of comprehensive pressure to prevent a nuclear Iran.

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Jonathan Ruhe – Director of Foreign Policy