President Trump recently called the 2015 agreement with the Islamic Republic “an embarrassment to the United States.” Agreeing, Ray Takeyh argues that the deal all but guarantees that Tehran will have a fully operational nuclear-weapons program within ten years:
The key architect of the [accord] was not Secretary of State John Kerry or his European counterparts but Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s most reliable bomb maker, the head of [Iran’s] Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, and his team of technicians and diplomats, for one simple reason: he knows more than we do about the program he has devoted his life to developing.
Salehi, a fluent English speaker with a PhD in nuclear engineering from MIT, realized the folly of his predecessors. He understood that merely adding primitive IR-1 centrifuges [used for enriching uranium] to Iran’s stock might marginally expand its nuclear capacity but could not be the foundation of a state-of-the-art atomic apparatus. For Iran to have a viable nuclear-energy program and a sneak-out weapons option, it had to phase out the clunky IR-1s and replace them with more advanced IR-8s. . . .
[As one] member of Iran’s negotiating team, Hamid Baidinezhad, [explained] on August 23, 2015, “we came to the conclusion that the transition period that would take us to the industrial stage would start at the beginning of eight years. . . After the completion of that transitional period, Iran’s nuclear program would witness an industrial leap and Iran would enter the state of complete industrial enrichment [of uranium].” And this was precisely the research-and-development plan Iran negotiated: the agreement stipulates that “Iran will continue to conduct enrichment [research and development] . . . including [of] IR-4, IR-6, and IR-8 centrifuges.” An American negotiating team that was so concerned about stages of sanctions relief and inspections seems to have conceded this point as part of the negotiating trade-offs.
Salehi [himself] has touted this achievement [in the Iranian press]. . . . In a clever move, he preserved Iran’s nuclear modernization efforts while trading away IR-1s that Iran would phase out even if the JCPOA had not come along.