The New Iran Deal Exposes the Weaknesses of the Old One

The 2015 agreement to restrain the Islamic State’s nuclear program—formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—promised to keep the ayatollahs at least a year away from being able to produce a bomb for the subsequent fifteen years. While the JCPOA was deeply flawed, the new version currently being negotiated in Vienna is apt to achieve even less. In a clear explication of the technical details, Andrea Stricker writes:

Why can’t a revised JCPOA push Iran’s breakout time back up to twelve months? The answer revolves around gas centrifuges, the machines integral to the process of enriching uranium. Iran’s centrifuges have continually grown in number and capability. The JCPOA did not stop this advance, and the Iranian regime has ruled out additional restrictions.

Prior to the JCPOA, the breakout time was a matter of weeks. The JCPOA temporarily increased Iran’s breakout time by limiting the size of its stockpile of enriched uranium and constraining the purity level of uranium the regime could produce. The deal also put temporary restrictions on the regime’s use of faster centrifuges—initially, Tehran could only use its slowest model, the IR-1. Since the clerical regime began openly violating the accord in mid-2019, its breakout time has dropped back to a similar range.

Iran was able to reduce its breakout time so quickly because the JCPOA did not force it to discard or destroy its more advanced centrifuges, it required only that they be put in storage. The machines were kept under international monitoring but remained available for rapid deployment at a time of the regime’s choosing. Moreover, Iran could likely have redeployed these machines in only a few months. As part of any new deal, the Biden administration and its European allies will reportedly permit Tehran to retain in storage—not destroy—hundreds of new advanced centrifuges it produced in violation of the JCPOA.

By 2031, when all JCPOA restrictions on uranium enrichment terminate, the deal itself will have paved Iran’s pathway to the nuclear threshold. Thus, any “JCPOA-minus” that the Biden administration finalizes ultimately does little to address the Islamic Republic’s nuclear threat.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear program, Nuclear proliferation, U.S. Foreign policy

Israel Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security