A number of Iran’s new generation centrifuges are on display during Iran’s National Nuclear Energy Day in Tehran on April 10.


Photo:

Iranian presidential office / WANA / Reuters

The United States and Europe are still begging Iran to revert to the increasingly irrelevant 2015 nuclear deal. But a new report on Iran’s nuclear advances shows just how far Tehran’s program has come and why President Biden should rethink his strategy.

Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the official name for the nuclear deal, in 2018 and began his “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign. The economic restrictions weakened the regime and gave the United States more leverage. Yet Tehran waited for Mr. Trump, betting he would lose the election, as he did.

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Meanwhile, Tehran has activated advanced centrifuges, while blocking international nuclear inspectors, enriching uranium in higher concentrations and storing more of it. Perhaps most disturbing is how much a nuclear weapon’s “burst” time has decreased thanks to Iran’s better understanding of advanced centrifuges, which produce uranium. enriched more efficiently.

“Unless compensatory measures are taken, such as destroying rather than sleeping advanced centrifuges, a new [nuclear deal] will not maintain a 12 month deadline to produce enough military grade uranium for a nuclear weapon, ”wrote David Albright and his colleagues at the Institute for Science and International Security in a December 2 report. “If Iran cocoons its advanced centrifuges, delays of as little as five to six months are likely. ”

And these are conservative estimates: “Due to the risk that Iran has accumulated a stockpile of undeclared assembled centrifuges as well as sensitive centrifuge components, lead times could be further reduced.” The right stock of enriched uranium and advanced centrifuges could “be enough to break into a clandestine enrichment site and produce enough military-grade uranium for a nuclear explosive in about a month.”

The Biden crowd blames it all on Mr. Trump, but the ease and speed with which Iran has deployed its advanced centrifuge capability shows the flaw in the deal it left behind. The original deal gave Iran the flexibility to restart everything in no time and a limited ability for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to monitor its progress. This saved time on nuclear issues, but at the cost of strengthening Iran with money to promote jihadist militias and terrorism. Paying Tehran billions in sanctions relief, much of which was used to destabilize the region, was not worth the limited nuclear restrictions.

Iranian negotiators took maximalist positions in the last round of Vienna talks, demanding sanctions relief in exchange for minimal commitments. The IAEA recently said Iran has started enriching uranium with advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Under the terms of the 2015 deal, no enrichment is allowed at Fordow, but Tehran appears to have calculated that such provocations increase its leverage and may bring more concessions from the United States.

The White House knows how perilous Iran’s advances are, as does Israel. The difference is that Washington comes to terms with this nuclear blackmail while Jerusalem wonders whether preventive action, military or otherwise, is needed to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

Mr Biden’s negotiators should ask themselves what gave Tehran the confidence to continue to escalate. Rather than hope for an Iranian change of mind, Team Biden should prepare to prevent the rogue nation from obtaining the bomb if negotiations fail.

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