Wednesday , March 22 2023

‘Iran can make nuclear bomb in about 12 days’


WASHINGTON: Iran could make enough fissile for one nuclear bomb in “about 12 days,” a top US Defense Department official said on Tuesday, down from the estimated one year it would have taken while the 2015 Iran nuclear deal was in effect.

Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl made the comment to a House of Representatives hearing when pressed by a Republican lawmaker why the Biden administration had sought to revive the deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) “because Iran’s nuclear progress since we left the JCPOA has been remarkable. Back in 2018, when the previous administration decided to leave the JCPOA it would have taken Iran about 12 months to produce one bomb’s worth of fissile material. Now it would take about 12 days,” Kahl, the third ranking Defense Department official, told lawmakers “and so I think there is still the view that if you could resolve this issue diplomatically and put constraints back on their nuclear program, it is better than the other options but right now, the JCPOA is on ice,” Kahl added.

US officials have repeatedly estimated Iran’s breakout time – how long it would take to acquire the fissile material for one bomb if it decided to – at weeks but have not been as specific as Kahl was.

While US officials say Iran has grown closer to producing fissile material they do not believe it has mastered the technology to actually build a bomb.

Under the 2015 deal, which then-US President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018, Iran had reined in its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions.

Trump re-imposed US sanctions on Iran, leading Tehran to resume previously banned nuclear work and reviving US, European and Israeli fears that Iran may seek an atomic bomb. Iran denies any such ambition.

The Biden administration has tried but failed to revive the pact over the last two years.

Earlier, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi demanded US “guarantees” it will not withdraw again from a nuclear deal if it is revived ahead of his debut visit to the United Nations.

With Western hopes fading for restoration of the landmark 2015 agreement with world powers, the hardline cleric said in a US television interview that he would still back a “good deal and a fair deal” but he said: “It needs to be lasting. There needs to be guarantees.”

“We cannot trust the Americans because of the behavior that we have already seen from them. That is why if there is no guarantee, there is no trust,” he told CBS News’ “60 Minutes” program.

Former president Barack Obama negotiated the agreement under which Iran drastically scaled back nuclear work in return for promises of sanctions relief.

Three years later, Donald Trump pulled out and re-imposed sweeping sanctions. President Joe Biden supports a return but Iran’s call for guarantees has become a sticking point, with the Democratic administration saying it is impossible in the US system to say what a future president would do but Raisi said Trump’s pullout showed that US promises are “meaningless.”

The parties to the 2015 deal which also included Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia saw it as the best way to stop the Islamic republic from building a nuclear bomb, a goal Tehran has always denied.

Raisi last year succeeded Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate who spoke to Obama by telephone while visiting New York for the United Nations.

EU foreign policy Chief Josep Borrell told AFP last week that negotiations to bring Iran back into the deal are stalemated after proposals from the parties “were converging”. (Int’l News Desk)

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