Q1: How much time do we have for a negotiated agreement? Is Iran using negotiations as a delaying tactic so that it can get closer to a nuclear weapon? Are they on the edge of breakout?

Expectations for a quick agreement were unrealistic. Diplomacy is only beginning. More progress was made in 30 hours in Geneva of reaching a deal on limiting Iran’s nuclear program than in the past 30 years.

According to US intelligence, Iran has not made any decision to build a nuclear weapon. The current Iranian leadership clearly has concluded that a more normal relationship with the West and the rest of the world, rather than being an economically isolated pariah, is more in Iran’s interests than having a nuclear weapon. The best way to ensure that this stays Iranian policy is to keep the current negotiating process on track.

Even if Iran were to change its policy and try to build a bomb, it would be nowhere close to “breakout.” It has less that one bomb’s worth on 20% enriched uranium, and has been holding that number steady as it converts this material to reactor fuel. Any attempt to enrich this material further to bomb grade could take 1-3 months, and before that, international inspectors would quickly detect the effort. It would take at least 1-2 years beyond that to create and test a deliverable weapon.

 

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