Gen. Gard and I are over on War on the Rocks today talking about Iran’s breakout capacity and its relationship to ongoing negotiations.
Some snips below:
Why have we chosen breakout as the one defining metric of a good deal? The purpose of each constraint, taken as a whole, is to limit Iran’s nuclear program to the point that the international community could detect any attempt to build a nuclear weapon, and even more importantly, react. A good nuclear deal will include a combination of elements that address Iran’s past, present, and future nuclear activities, including monitoring and transparency, possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program, and former U.N. Security Council resolutions.
With thorough and unimpeded monitoring by IAEA, to include the ability under the “Additional Protocol” to inspect any suspicious location for nuclear activity, we would know almost instantaneously if and when Iran makes a decision to produce weapons-grade fissile material, convert it to metallic form, and construct an explosive device, a process that would require considerable time. But we would not have to wait until then to consider a response.
Iran’s nuclear capacity must be restrained — that’s the point of the negotiations — but agreement on a final deal shouldn’t be hampered by maximalist demands on either side. While Iran should not expect to leave the table without compromising on the size of its nuclear program, the P5+1 should also not focus so myopically on one element of Iran’s nuclear program to the extent that it might cloud the possibility of obtaining a solid deal.